UW News

November 8, 2001

Mastering the business of caring: MBA students run campus food drive

By Steve Hill
University Week

Schlepping 70 waist-high barrels across campus and getting them in their proper locations for the UW’s annual food drive is a part of the job Lorrie Johnson would prefer to delegate.

“I’ve done it before and it’s not fun,” said the longtime executive director of the University District Food Bank.

And Johnson certainly could use a hand hauling the barrels and their contents – a projected 6,000 pounds of food that will be collected between now and Dec. 4 – back to her office, just north of campus on 15th Avenue Northeast.

Thanks to five energetic MBA students Johnson won’t be doing any of the heavy lifting.

Jody Andress and four of her classmates have already been doing that and more as part of a project for Jane George-Falvy’s Management Modules of Business Administration 500 class. The idea for the project, according to George-Falvy, is to get the students working together to accomplish something on behalf of someone else. She says it helps foster a sense of teamwork within a group of students that will work together throughout the quarter.

“Simply because someone tells you that you’re a team, this doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be able to start functioning as one,” she said. “There are several ingredients to successful teamwork, and one is to build a history of successful accomplishment. For that, I needed to get them working on a project, quickly.”

Johnson needed them quickly too. The corporate sponsor who had been in charge of the UW’s annual food drive for the last two years had backed out. It was looking more and more like the already-strapped Johnson and a crew of food bank volunteers would have to step in and coordinate the entire drive – the biggest one benefiting the University District Food Bank.

But shortly after her team was given the assignment, Andress contacted a friend who serves on the food bank’s board of directors. Several ideas were considered before the MBA students chose to coordinate the campus food drive. It seemed like the biggest difference-maker, Andress said. Now she’s hoping to take it a step further.

“I want to do it again next year,” she said. “I think maybe it’s the kind of thing the MBA program could take on as an annual charity.”

That’s the kind of reaction George-Falvy is looking for when handing out the assignment.

“I feel that this is something that needs to be part of business education,” she said. “We are training the leaders of the future, and giving back to the community is an important aspect of leadership.”

The leaders in the making – Changbum Chon, Eric Tsai, Paul Breckenridge, Julie Bennett and Andress – delivered the barrels on Tuesday. They’ve also been in contact with building coordinators on campus and working to generate publicity for the food drive. They’re hoping to top last year’s grand total of more than 5,700 pounds of food.

The scope of what the students have taken on has impressed Johnson.

“What’s significant about this group is that they’ve taken on the whole process,” she said. “A lot of the time I do a lot of the contacting and running around. This has been a great help.”

Andress said working with people on campus to make the food drive happen has been surprisingly pleasant.

“People here are used to this, they look forward to this and they want to take part in it,” she said. “I wasn’t expecting that. I guess I was thinking it was going to be an intrusion.”

Johnson wasn’t surprised that Andress and the other students have been greeted with enthusiasm by the campus community.

“This has always been a really good collaboration,” she said. “We’re thrilled to be neighbors and partners with the University of Washington.”