Students in UA’s Business Honors Program gain real-world experience by helping nonprofits improve operations and complete projects.
The Culverhouse College of Business ranks among the top business schools in the nation each year, and the students of the Business Honors Program are some of its most impressive representatives.
In addition to mastering advanced curriculum, the 35 students admitted annually to the highly competitive program volunteer with businesses and nonprofit organizations during their junior and senior years. The program draws students from all business majors, including accounting, marketing, management, finance and economics.
Through the GBA 481 Business Honors I & IV course, students work in groups of four to eight to assist their clients in improving operations and carrying out projects. They are required to dedicate at least one hour per week to their community partners, and most students work many more hours, says David Ford, director of the Business Honors Program and co-instructor of GBA 481. Each year, students in the program contribute approximately 1,500 volunteer hours to Tuscaloosa-area organizations.
Depending on their clients’ needs, BHP students complete a range of projects, from creating websites and developing marketing materials to assisting with budget research. Nonprofit organizations benefit from students’ knowledge and manpower, and students put their skills to use while exploring fields of interest.
“BHP has been a wonderful opportunity to network for my future career, gain hands-on experience through project work and make a difference in the Tuscaloosa community,” says Cameron Hudson, a senior from Lebanon, Indiana, majoring in finance.
In past semesters, students in the Business Honors Program worked with nonprofits including Junior Achievement of Tuscaloosa, Forza Financial, Culverhouse LIFT and the Tuscaloosa Parks and Recreation Authority.
Junior Achievement of Tuscaloosa
Hudson’s group worked with Junior Achievement of Tuscaloosa, which teaches kindergarten students through 12th graders about financial literacy, entrepreneurship and workforce readiness. Business Honors students who work with Junior Achievement serve as classroom volunteers, leading kids through five lessons using the nonprofit’s teaching kits.
A nonprofit founded by UA students in 2009, Forza Financial offers small loans and business coaching to Alabama entrepreneurs with little capital who are trying to start or grow a business. These business owners sometimes turn to payday lenders, which typically charge triple-digit annual interest along with finance fees. Through Forza, students provide uncollateralized loans, competitive interest rates and consultation using group lending.
Culverhouse LIFT (Learning Initiative and Financial Training), founded by a UA accounting instructor and a UA business graduate student in 2014, teaches basic computer, financial literacy, resume writing and professional development classes in the Tuscaloosa area with a goal of helping underrepresented and disadvantaged groups start or enhance their careers. BHP students teach many of these classes and launched a career fair for LIFT participants.
“It takes a lot of diplomatic skills, social skills, managerial and leadership skills,” Ford says of the students’ work. “And I’m hoping that they learn these things and see the value of all that from the two years they spend volunteering.”
In class each week, GBA 481 students learn from a variety of guest speakers representing companies such as Southwest Airlines and Regions Bank. Students also turn in weekly reports detailing their work with their community partners and explaining their project goals for the next week. They complete a mid-year project report and a final project report. The final report is delivered as a business presentation.
Tuscaloosa Parks and Recreation Authority
Students revamped the Tuscaloosa Parks and Recreation Authority’s website and social media platforms, built a media package for the organization and worked with the PARA Foundation to raise awareness and funding for an adaptive playground. The playground will be the largest in the Southeast to serve people of all ages and abilities.
Gabbi Oppenheimer, a junior from Chicago triple-majoring in finance, economics and telecommunication and film, worked with the PARA Foundation to organize numerous fundraising initiatives, including a golf tournament. “I am interested in a career in finance, and helping a municipal entity raise money to improve the community is helpful in providing perspective to a different side of finance,” Oppenheimer says.
For more articles like this about UA students and service-learning opportunities, visit the Center for Ethics and Social Responsibility.
The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.