Community service projects led by MBA students from Cornell’s Samuel Johnson Graduate School of Business were recognized as part of a recent symposium highlighting leadership through service. Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick, a 2009 Cornell graduate, praised students from his alma mater for seizing opportunities to volunteer in the community.
“I believe that young people like you have the skills that we need in the nonprofit sector that we are not getting,” Myrick said. “You have the energy, the creativity, and the moral authority to make change, and it’s those things — not experience — that matter.”
Myrick, who was elected Ithaca’s mayor at the age of 24, could be considered a poster child for his own message. As he told the audience at the Second Annual Leadership Through Service Symposium last month, it was a community service project – tutoring kids downtown – that led to his attendance at City Council meetings and, ultimately, his getting hooked on government service.
Examples of community service were definitely not in short supply at this year’s symposium. Six Johnson student-led projects were recognized.
One such project was the Community Impact Club’s annual spring action, which raised almost $12,000 for four area nonprofits. Cindy Nham, MBA ’15, the club’s vice president for fundraising, was overwhelmed by students’ response. “On the very last day before the auction, I had 24 students reach out to me to ask how they could contribute,” she said, adding that she finally had to cut people off and say they couldn’t accept any more donations.
Another was a study conducted by Jonathan Ambrose, MBA ’14, to analyze incubators from around the country and help create an operating budget for a new Ithaca Incubator. Ambrose also recommended key services the incubator should offer to attract entrepreneurs when it opens downtown this summer.
“Entrepreneurship is really about opportunity,” Ambrose points out. “I think there are so many people in this region who are trying to create and trying to grow businesses.”
A third student-led project involved a benchmarking study for the Tompkins County Public Library. Vikash Khanna, MBA ’15, and three other students compared the local library to 30 peer libraries in college towns and cities in the Northeast and then provided recommendations for how the library could increase funding and improve services.
“The project overall has been a wonderful experience,” Khanna said. “It taught me a great deal about managing relationships and managing expectations, but more fundamentally about giving back to the community.”