In a dire recession where U.S. financial companies and other businesses are shouldering heavy blame for questionable conduct during the past decade, corporate America has come under considerable pressure to rehabilitate its image and repair its frayed bonds with U.S. consumers for the long-term health of American capitalism. As an educational institution, the University of Maryland, College Park has launched an initiative that aims to show that its business school can help improve the ethics and socially responsible conduct of future business leaders and entrepreneurs.
This week University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School of Business officials announced the launch of the initiative for Social Value Creation. Although its development had been underway at least a year prior to the onset of the current economic crisis, the initiative pursues a mission that reflects the interest of students, the school and employers to instill a deeper sense of social responsibility in the private sector than Americans traditionally expect from the business community.
“(The initiative) would have happened on its own. But I think it’s being accelerated by the economic environment we’re in right now. The reason I think we’re seeing an acceleration is because we’re at a point where the business community is taking an internal look at itself and is trying to assess its role in society,” says Melissa Carrier, the executive director for Social Value Creation at the Robert H. Smith business school.
With a number of its program already underway, Social Value Creation is providing students opportunities to apply business skills, business processes and entrepreneurship to solve social and environmental dilemmas. One such program is Social Venture Consulting, which allows MBA students to provide consulting work for nonprofit organizations.
Carrier notes that 25 students are currently working with 10 local nonprofits on consulting projects. She adds that a total of 150 students, both undergraduate and graduate students, are involved with the initiative. Twenty-five percent of those students are in non-business degree programs.
“Business schools have a responsibility to make sure that future leaders have the values and skills to apply business processes to transform social problems while creating economic value for their organizations,” says Dr. G. ‘Anand’ Anandalingam, the dean of the Smith School of Business.
Carrier explains that the impetus for the initiative originated with the students at the business school as well as from employers. She credits the dean, who, upon his appointment last July, threw full support behind the initiative. Prior to the current academic year, Carrier had collaborated with students on social venture projects while working in the school’s Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship. In coming events, the initiative will host a Social Enterprise Symposium on March 26 and a film festival in early May. This fall, the initiative is slated to become an independent center for the business school, Carrier says.
“Students said they would like to see more (social value) classes. ‘We want to host a conference; we’re interested in creating a new club,’ they told me. And they came prepared; they actually had researched and benchmarked other university programs,” Carrier recalls.
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