At the ready were nearly 100 Carlson School undergraduate students with skills in such business areas as nonprofit management, accounting, and marketing, to name just a few. They had done their assignments, their minds packed with business knowledge. With the Twin Cities business landscape before them, they were ready to tackle another assignment: Giving back to the community what they've learned.
Donning "Carlson Goes to Work" emblazoned t-shirts, they streamed out by the busload to volunteer their business expertise to 13 nonprofit organizations. Alongside other professionals from various local businesses participating in the second-annual Carlson Goes to Work event, the students provided 300 hours worth of service imparting their business skills and knowledge in an effort to solidify long-term, mutually beneficial relationships between them and the local community.
"This is a relatively new concept for the local nonprofits as they typically don't have business students come in to help them with their business planning. I think their willingness to host us shows a real commitment on their part to giving back to the community," says Tommy DeMarco, founder and vice president of marketing, University of Minnesota Undergraduate Net Impact Chapter, which organized the event.
One such nonprofit assisted by a group of Carlson Goes to Work participants was the Latino Economic Development Center (LEDC) in Minneapolis, a provider of technical and financial assistance and training to current and aspiring small business owners in the Latino community.
"This is the second time we've hosted students and professionals from Carlson Goes to Work," says Mónica Romero, LEDC loan program coordinator and business consultant. "They're bringing us what they've learned, what is new, and innovative, [and] creative in the business world. I know last year the work and information they provided resulted in us getting some grants and I hope this year's work will help us achieve comparable or even better results."
During their visit to the LEDC, Carlson students from the accounting and finance association, along with professionals from Ernst & Young, made recommendations for improvements to the organization's loan policy and procedures manual, in addition to creating a cash flow projection document.
"As an accounting student, this was really up my alley," says LEDC participant and Carlson School undergraduate student, Meng Lean. "I just wanted to get out of the classroom to see how businesses really ran."
Fellow Carlson student and LEDC participant, Andrew Russo, says, "As a freshman, I think it's really good idea to get involved right away and just kind of explore all different kinds of areas of business to really see what will fit going forward. I'll definitely be participating again next year."
Other examples of Carlson Goes to Work efforts included participants researching e-commerce platforms for The A-list, and working on how to market the concept of hiring ex-offenders to potential employers for AMICUS.
"Our hope at NetImpact is that these projects helped students learn how they can give back to their communities in mutually beneficial ways and provided valuable learning experiences to develop their business skills," says DeMarco. "This year was a great success, and we anticipate next year to be bigger and better."
The nonprofit organizations for the 2010 event were:
AccoutAbility, Athlete Committed to Educating Students (ACES), AchieveMpls, African Development Center, Cookie Cart, The A-List; MS Society, AMICUS, Southeast Seniors, Minnesota Council of Churches: Refugee Services, Latino Economic Development Center, Segue Café, Students Today Leaders Forever (STLF), Outfront, and the English Learning Center.