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Students Impress Mayor with Food Bank Projects

“There is no better feeling than when we realize that what we are learning is useful, it actually works, and we can apply it to the real world to help people,” student Michael Daniels said.   

May 14,  2014

By Elaine Cole

Close the textbooks and get out of the classroom. What student doesn’t love that opportunity?

Randy Lewis’ organizational management class jumped at the chance to put their knowledge to work for the Community Food Bank, with results that landed jobs and got the attention of Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, who came to the TCU campus on a blustery, rainy day to meet the students and see a video of their projects.

Throughout the semester, Neeley students used business models for team projects to raise money, collect and donate food, and organize a run to raise awareness of the food bank’s services. Two teams from Dr. David Gras’ strategy class also took the challenge.

Michael Daniels, entrepreneurial management major, and Ashtyn Hurr, accounting major, represented their classmates in a presentation to Mayor Price, the CEO and COO of Community Food Bank, Regina and Rudy Taylor, and Neeley faculty and classmates.

“I would like to welcome you to the Neeley School of Business, where as you will discover in just a moment, ‘It’s more than business, it’s personal,’” Daniels said.

“In many ways, this project did not feel like school,” Hurr told the crowd. “It was a lot of fun being able to prove our understanding of the material in a creative way. This style of learning goes beyond simply studying, taking an exam, and then forgetting everything we’ve learned by the next semester.”

Daniels agreed. “There is no better feeling for a student than when we realize that what we are learning is useful, it actually works, and we can apply it to the real world to help people.” He cited motivational models, change management models, expectancy theory, equity theory and other models he and his Neeley School classmates used on their projects.

Hurr introduced a video diary she created of the service learning projects she and her classmates engaged in over the semester. (Watch the video to see what some of the teams were able to accomplish for Community Food Bank.)

After the video, Mayor Price congratulated the class. “You two are amazing so I know the rest of the class must be equally good,” she said. “Can we hire ya’ll to work for the City now?”

Regina Taylor, CEO of Community food Bank, also lauded the class.

“These TCU students have so many new and innovative ideas; they easily do things that are work for me,” she said.

Taylor approached Lewis about class projects after her daughter, April, who graduated from the Neeley School in 2009 and was in the inaugural Neeley Fellows class, saw her parents struggling to keep the 31-year-old food bank afloat.

“We (Taylor and her husband, Rudy, COO) got our degrees back in the ’70s and a lot has changed. April saw us struggling with a business plan, and strategic planning, and the direction we want to go in. She said, ‘I’m going to invite my professor, Randy Lewis, out and see if he can help ya’ll with strategic planning. He does that, and he’s good, Mama.’ I said okay. He came out, and if you know Randy Lewis, he jumps in with both feet.”

After the presentation, Daniels said he could go on and on about the projects. “We were grateful for the opportunity to see the food bank get money and raise awareness and even get hires from TCU to help them with marketing and accounting. Those things are not just beneficial for them but also to the people they help in the community.”

While students find it gratifying to use their business sense to help a charity, and the charity benefits from their insight and enthusiasm, more importantly for Lewis, at the end of the semester it demonstrates their critical reasoning on the business models he teaches. That’s what they get graded on. The fun and fulfillment are bonus.