New class to teach business students about non-profit

More than 30 Miami-area community organizations benefitted from the work of freshmen last fall as partners in the School of Business Administration’s FIRST Step program.  FIRST Step, an acronym for Freshman Integrity, Responsibility and Success through Teamwork, is a mandatory first semester course that connects business students with non-profit organizations to assist them with meeting the real-world business and other challenges they face.

Vice Dean Linda Neider introduced the course four years ago to provide freshmen with the opportunity to learn about civic engagement, business practices and ethics. Students learn essential business critical thinking skills through real-world case studies, lectures, and multimedia presentations.

“A pivotal aspect of the course requires that freshmen cultivate the interpersonal skills needed for teamwork in the business world.”

The course involves lectures on Mondays and Wednesdays and a separate section on Fridays in which the freshmen, divided into groups of eight to 10, meet with a student teaching assistant to work on the their project.

Nadja Koch, an alumna who served as a Teaching Assistant and Peer Counselor in the course, described the group project experience of the course as invaluable, both for her and for the freshmen.

“The course introduces freshmen to a higher level of business class coursework than they normally would have gotten early on,” Koch said. “As a TA, I learned how to guide others and emphasize the shared experience of getting along.”

One of the organizations participating in fall 2010 was the South Florida American Cancer Society, which partnered with student teams on several projects. One group of students was charged with creating a marketing strategy for the organization’s upcoming Relay for Life event.

“ACS is a volunteer organization so we cannot do the work that we do without support like this and the work that you all have done,” said Sean Kramer, executive director of the American Cancer Society for Miami-Dade and Monroe counties, during the final student presentation.