The world of business—particularly fields such as finance, sports marketing and supply chain management—might seem far afield from a shelter for homeless women. But the service-learning component of Dr. Maryellen Kelly’s Product Management class has brought the two together.
Kelly, who teaches two sections of the class in the Palumbo•Donahue School of Business, invited Bethlehem Haven’s Caroline Woodward, director of development and public relations, and Amber Jackson, volunteer coordinator, into her classes on Sept. 8 to discuss the scope of work done by the nearby shelter for homeless women.
The students heard Woodward and Jackson tell how Bethlehem Haven tries to help women, including those who might have addiction or mental challenges, get back on their feet. The two talked about the women who seek help and the resource challenges of managing growing need in an uncertain economy.
They explained that the shelter feeds lunch and dinner to about 100 women a day—on a yearly food budget of only about $160,000—so it relies upon donations. The classes provided lunch for the shelter’s women that day, donating food and assembling 100 brown-bag lunches. The students then laid plans to provide two other meals to Bethlehem Haven’s women during the semester.
This service-learning project, Kelly explained, is anchored in the third objective of her course, helping students learn to apply new product principles to solve managerial problems in the real world of marketing.
“In this case, we are exploring the need for and the role of pro bono products and/or services in the real world of a Pittsburgh non-profit organization challenged by an increasing client base in the contemporary economy,” Kelly said.
Students will examine the pro bono tradition and policies at various organizations. “More and more product manufacturers and distributors are approached for donations or discounts today,” Kelly explained. “How might a product manager manage all of these requests? What are some examples and best practices?”
Through this explanation, the gap between business majors and Bethlehem Haven, located on Watson Street behind Fisher Hall, is bridged. They are among other Duquesne students who are participating this fall in more than 35 service-learning opportunities in the curriculum, including athletic training, communications, piano, occupational therapy, science, psychology, pharmacy, history, philosophy, business ethics and freshman learning communities, said Lina Dostilio, director, academic community engagement.
Through service learning, students engage with a community to help to identify and meet their needs, and, especially because of the Spiritan legacy of Duquesne, reflect on their learning and come to view their disciplines in ways that can be valuable to communities around them, Dostilio said.
“Service learning at Duquesne University sits at the intersection of academic excellence and a pervasive concern for others,” Dostilio said. “It is a hallmark of a Duquesne education. As part of our University’s core curriculum, every single undergraduate student experiences service learning, engaging almost 2,000 students in the community every year.
“These students work with more than 80 community agencies in the greater Pittsburgh area, which is a significant benefit to those organizations and the people they serve,” Dostilio said. “We see the service-learning program as a major part of educating future citizens and helping to address community concerns in the present.”
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