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FIRST Step Program Delivers Solutions to Community Organizations

January 13, 2010
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     First Step
   From left: Andryk Guerro, freshman, Christian Perilla, freshman,
   Andrew Amato, freshman, Karen Egozi, Executive Director,
   Epilepsy Foundation of Florida, Patrick McIlveen, teaching
   assistant, and Torre Locascio, freshman

More than a dozen Miami-area community organizations benefited in 2009 from the School of Business Administration's groundbreaking course called FIRST Step. The program, mandatory for all freshmen, started last year as a way to expose students to business ethical principles, teamwork and the challenges that organizations face in the twenty-first century.

An acronym for Freshman Integrity, Responsibility and Success through Teamwork, FIRST Step partners students with local community organizations. The students work in teams throughout the semester on various projects for the organizations. Each project is designed to help service-oriented organizations better meet the needs of their constituents through activities such as branding, social entrepreneurship, and business plan development. At the end of the semester the teams present the results of their work to their clients.

"All of us were so proud of the freshmen teams and their accomplishments!" said Ellen McPhillip, assistant dean of undergraduate business programs. "Our students embraced this experience and delivered workable solutions that the clients could implement without spending a lot of money."

Lourdes Little, vice president of marketing at Goodwill Industries of South Florida, agreed, saying she was impressed by the team assigned to her organization. "They asked the right questions and they did a really nice job of understanding what the scope of the work was in terms of what they presented. It exceeded my expectations."

The program placed nearly 40 teams of freshmen with 15 Miami-area organizations in 2009.

A team working with Malaika for Life, an organization focused on ending malaria in Africa, presented several videos created to improve marketing on the organization's Web site. Another group, working with Goodwill Industries of South Florida, presented a marketing plan demonstrating possible uses of social networking sites like Facebook and YouTube.

James Spangler, an international finance and marketing major on the Malaika for Life team, said, "It was an introduction to a different world relating to business, as far as what goes into projects like this and the effect you can have through projects like Malaika for Life." Spangler said the best part of the project was "knowing that, through this process, we are effectively helping [to solve] the problem of malaria in Tanzania and Africa."

In addition to their work with the community organizations, students attend lectures, analyze case studies, and develop multi-media presentations on ethics and ethical decision-making in the business environment, as part of the FIRST Step course.

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