First-year business students use their skills to assist not-for-profits

High-performing undergraduate students at the University of Auckland Business School are being encouraged to use their skills to benefit the community through an initiative developed by academics at the school, called the Accelerate programme.

The staff involved in the programme received a ‘Collaboration in Teaching’ Award from the School in 2018.

Established in 2017, the programme was created with the aim of extending and inspiring the Business School’s top first-year students, by giving them an opportunity to engage with a real-world organisation, and to give back.

Each year, the top first-year students are invited to apply for the programme, which is delivered by a team of passionate staff members.

The programme is completely voluntary for all involved, both staff and students. It is a co-curricular activity for which students do not receive any grades or course credit (although the programme has strong links to first-year undergraduate courses), similarly, it is an above load contribution for staff.

The current team running the programme and mentoring the students are Richard Brookes, Douglas Carrie, Michelle Kilkolly-Proffit, Parizad Mulla, 'Ilaisaane Fifita and Herbert Sima.

Between 20 and 35 students are selected, and placed in teams. Each team meets with their staff mentor weekly. Teams are asked to analyse a problem posed by a selected client organisation, which is always a charity or not-for-profit.

Over ten weeks, teams are required to develop and justify proposed solutions and recommendations and at the end of the programme, each team presents their recommendations to the client.

This year the client was Te Ukaipo, a community organisation in Ranui working with youth and families in West Auckland to help them achieve their potential.

This year the client was Te Ukaipo, a community organisation in Ranui working with youth and families in West Auckland to help them achieve their potential. Previous clients have been St Johns, Auckland Museum, The NZ Housing Foundation and Lifeline.

“In having the opportunity to have a fresh set of eyes looking into our organisation and providing ideas and approaches that may further improve what we already do was extremely rewarding and will further strengthen the organisation in its pursuit of its vision. What was more interesting for us, however, was the breadth and diversification of ideas that were presented. Each group was able to identify a different approach to growing and sustaining the organisation. This highlighted that there was no one way or correct way for Te Ukaipo to move forward but has given us fresh ideas and inspiration to keep moving forward with our work.” - Cecily Mantell, CEO, Te Ukaipo Mercy Initiatives for Rangatahi.

“It’s a truly aspirational learning experience through which students are able to contribute to society, learn by doing, and develop their professional capabilities. This year was particularly interesting, and I believe particularly impactful, because our client was a much smaller organisation, with far fewer resources. The whole thing is a win win for all involved - students, clients, staff, the faculty, and society, since there is always a social purpose,”  says Doug Carrie, who is the Associate Dean, Teaching and Learning and the Director of First Year Studies at the Business School.

'Ilaisaane, who joined the team this year, said the students went far beyond her expectations. “They loved that they could make a difference,” she said.  

The programme is now coming full circle, as alumni of the programme return as mentors to current students.  If you are part of a charity, and would like to have University of Auckland first-year business students work on one of your business challenges, be sure to get in touch.