Monthly Archives

October 2011

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Serving to Serve

One thing that some people don’t realize about Business 200 is that they can incorporate it into their study abroad experience. This coming January I am going to Guatemala through the University of St. Thomas. I will be earning credits towards my theology requirement while at the same time volunteering at San Lucas Mission in Guatemala.

Two friends of mine went to Guatemala for a mission trip a few years ago. Their stories inspired me and piqued my interest in the culture. They told me that it was life changing to see how the people that live there have so little but are so grateful for everything that they have. It was hard for my friends to see the intense poverty of the area but they said it was wonderful to see how these people turn to their faith for support.

I especially like this program in particular because I enjoy doing service. In fact, I live for it. I have been on two incredible week-long service trips within this past year and I’ve learned there is nothing more rewarding than knowing you are making a difference, no matter how small the tasks seem. By doing service abroad, I know I will become more versatile and adaptive to different situations. I have to be assertive, enthusiastic, and confident in order to succeed.

For example, over spring break this year, I took part in the Students Today Leaders Forever Pay it Forward Tour. Forty or so St. Thomas students and I spent nine days on a bus, traveling to different cities doing service across the United States. One day we walked dogs at the animal rescue shelter in St. Louis. Walking dogs doesn’t seem that important, but when there is a lack of volunteers and many dogs need exercise, fresh air, and socialization, it is extremely important. Many dogs came from the streets and had aggression issues. Having over forty volunteers there to give the dogs extra care and longer walks made the St. Louis rescue staff so grateful. It was touching to see how such a simple thing made such a difference!

The best part of the Pay it Forward experience was that we never knew where we were staying or what service we were doing. Not having expectations or plans helped me live in the moment and I hope to continue that attitude through the rest of my life. Part of group travel has to do with dealing with the unexpected, and the STLF group became closer because we had to accept what was dealt to us and take each moment head on.

My ideal cross-cultural service experience is one where I go somewhere different, experience a new way of life – new food, new customs, new ideas, etc – and in the process, learn something new about myself. I want to grow as a human being and strengthen my own values and faith. I have often heard that when you study abroad, you realize more about where you come from than anything. I know that witnessing the contrast between third-world Guatemala and the cozy United States will be difficult. I want to become more open-minded and develop a heightened sense of global community. Essentially, I am hoping to leave Guatemala with a new perspective of the world.

One of my life-long goals is to get more involved in serving others internationally. Eventually I am hoping to go somewhere to volunteer long-term through a program such as the Peace Corps. As an International Business/International Economics major, I think that my experience in Guatemala will be a great first step to take, and I encourage others to do the same! Be willing to get out of your comfort zone, take a risk, and experience the unknown!

By Emily Seitz, BUSN200 Facilitator

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Business “class”

It has been an annual tradition for the University of St. Thomas Business students, faculty and staff to host a Silent Auction to raise money for the Listening House Homeless Shelter.  I was fortunate enough to be one of those students last year.

There were twelve of us that were chosen to form the student team.  At the first meeting Dr. Barbara Gorksi divided us into different groups that would be in charge of different parts in the whole process of preparing for the auction.  There were teams for marketing, finance, organizing, etc. I volunteered in the marketing group. And that meeting was the first time I ever experienced the process of operating an event. There was clearly a division of tasks in which specialization was promoted. Then it came into each individual group the question of how we would manage to take on the list of objectives among ourselves. We looked at the whole long-term goal, decided what ought to be done, and formulated a specific plan to achieve the goal. Here I began to think about the running of a business. From what we did that day, I saw the very first insight of business management; none of the classes that year had given me such significant of effect!

Within our marketing group, we sat down and talked about each other’s skills and interests then decided who would do what. I myself chose to design the official poster that had “spring” as its theme, write the media press, arrange with the Residence Hall to distribute our posters in all the dormitories. Together our team took care of advertising the Silent Auction around campus, collecting as many donations and selling as many tickets as possible. We made a trip to the Listening House to see how they operate their non-profit and what they had been doing upon their mission: “Don’t preach, don’t fix, just listen”-Rose Marie Reger Rumsey of Listening House. Even just listening with all your heart is pure charity. Every effort counts and no donation is small. Hence, the visit encouraged our group to advance our campaign.

We went out to Grand Ave, Rosedale Mall, churches, and corporations for days to collect donations. Here I learned how to communicate in a way that could convince people to donate and at the same time promote our event. It was not easy! It was not a pleasant feeling being refused four or five times in a row, but I thought of what position the denier might be in, smiled and moved on. The hope and determination to achieve the BUSN200 goals kept us and all other groups going.

The Silent Auction turned out as utmost desirable as it could be! Together we raised nearly $30,000 for Listening House, hundreds of items and goods were bid on during the auction, and guests came in with excitement and left with satisfaction. We worked on the event until late at night, no one spared a complaint; there was only jokes and laughter. We all appreciated what the service taught us and loved what a fun time we had. I left Listening House Silent Auction with my head full of lessons.

I learned so much about managing details, determining objectives, working with people, speaking in a clearer and more confident way, interacting with teammates and linking ourselves into the chain of operation for a great performance. Designing posters didn’t make me a professional designer, and I never sought to be such. Going out to ask for donations and advertising were not necessarily enough to set me up as a great salesman. But because of each of those skills and experiences I enriched my ability and confidence.  A business will need to obtain a creative designer, an outstanding seller, a skillful accountant, etc…but above all they will need a strong manager who can lead all those people. What would be needed, how it would be done, who would do it … and all the “what if’s” from my BUSN200 experience constantly remind me of what a professional business manager ought to think about. From doing the BUSN200 Silent Auction for Listening House, I saw the fundamentals of business management before I ever had taken any business class. It was a phenomenal experience that marked changes in my perspectives, knowledge, and attitudes; from this experience I changed the way I lived and did things.

By Bob Ta, BUSN200 Facilitator

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Where is Steve?

This past weekend I had a meeting with the leaders of the organization with which I did service last spring.  This organization provided the service opportunity where I had decided to complete my BUSN200 requirement.  The name of the organization is STLF: Students Today Leaders Forever.  This organization was started just a few years ago by a small group of students from the U of M and has now grown to a national level.  They work with college and high school student organizers to send out buses of volunteers on “Pay-it-Forward Tours.”   These service tours traverse the United States, and during the span of a week do six different service projects in six different cities.

The meeting I had yesterday with the national staff of STLF caused me to reminisce about the service experiences I had with this amazing organization.  One particular experience I had on my Pay-it-Forward Tour while at the YMCA camp of Middle Tennessee came to mind.   I hope I am able to describe for you why this experience was so special to me.

After a long day of service walking dogs at the St. Louis Stray Rescue, an even longer bus ride to the camp YMCA, and several team-building activities, all of the UST students from our bus had finally settled in at the camp.   The women on our bus had retired to their cabins at our temporary home, while I and the rest of the men on the trip had found our way to the back porch of our cabin.  Our discussions turned to this and that; we were becoming closer friends as the service tour continued.  We eventually migrated to the camp lodge to eliminate the possibility of waking those sleeping with our rather loud fooling around.  About an hour later we had returned to our cabin to retire for the night.  Right before the lights were turned off, Eric said from his bunk “Has anyone seen Steve?”

Steve, one of the two senior men on the trip, had become a center of comedy on the trip.  He and I had become particularly good friends during the trip; thus, Eric’s question had been directed mostly towards me.    Upon reflection, I realized that I had not seen Steve since our group activities had ended earlier that night.  As we checked with each other, we realized that none of had seen Steve for quite a while.

Our joking quickly resumed as funny, absurd scenarios of what could have happened to Steve rang out from all corners of the cabin – ranging from Steve deciding to become a wild bear-man, taking to the woods with only the clothes on his back and his infamous tin of tobacco chew, to Steve sleeping in the giant canoe suspended to the roof in the lodge.  In an attempt to locate Steve we called his cell.  And while we didn’t get an answer we did use the opportunity to leave a crazy voicemail for him.  In a last attempt to find Steve, we all went outside to the dark campgrounds and on the count of three yelled the trademark call we had developed for Steve – a long, drawn out extension of his name “STEEEEEVVVVVVVEEEEEEEEEE!!!”   A short pause, and then we saw Steve’s big buzz-shaved head pop up from across the field under the overhang of the basketball courts.  Simultaneously and without any announced planning, we all immediately ran as fast as possible to greet Steve and catch him up on what he had missed.

To others this memory may not seem that significant.  But, at the meeting yesterday I found myself reflecting on why that memory was so special and significant for me.  I realized it all comes down to the feelings I had at that moment that night in Tennessee.  I had felt like a kid again.  I was a kid again with all of the joys and lack of concerns that come with being a kid – no social barriers, no cares in the world.  I was simply surrounded by friends and filled with joy!  I wish I felt that way all of the time.  As I continued to think about what produced that feeling and what I could do to get feeling back, I quickly realized that my service experience was what had caused that feeling in me.

Being around all these new people who quickly became my friends because of the service we were doing together; being on the bus eight hours at a time to reach our next service site; and engaging in service for others had provided just the environment I needed to feel like a kid again!   I felt amazing – equally because of the new experiences I was having and the friends I was making AND because of the service we had provided.   In addition to all the good things that we accomplished in those nine days of our service tour, I walked away with 43 new friends, a lot of amazing memories that I will never forget, and an enlightened knowledge of the true power of service.

By Taylor Matysik, BUSN200 Facilitator