MGMT 104 gives students opportunity to initiate change

The course syllabus now requires students to identify an issue on campus and begin a social movement

· December 10, 2013, 7:41 pm   ·  Updated December 10, 2013, 10:37 pm

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“One day, you’ll see one of the ads I designed on a billboard in Times Square.”

“I want to write a novel that will inspire people.”

These are some of the posts on a new Facebook page called “Penn Dreams,” created by students in MGMT 104 – Industrial Relations & Human Resource Management . Following a change in the syllabus last year, the course now requires students to identify a problem or an issue on the Penn campus and initiate a social movement that addresses the problem.

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Professor Adam Cobb, who teaches the course, says the goal of the project is to give students a toolkit for initiating changes in a given system, which is applicable both in the corporate world and society in general. “It’s about empowerment. Even for the little guy, as long as he finds some like-minded people, they can make small changes [to make things] better for themselves and the environment.”

Many projects, including “Penn Dreams,” arose from students’ personal experiences. Wharton and College junior Amir Javaid and his teammates founded “Penn Dreams” to help Penn students look beyond careers in banking and consulting.

“We were brainstorming for the project in a GSR and of course, our conversation leads to worries about career, jobs and OCR,” he said. “Then we think, maybe we should start to do something about this culture.”

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To change a school culture that over-stresses conventional career paths and create more openness towards non-traditional careers, they set up a Facebook page “Penn Dreams”, where they post dreams, fears and worries sent to them anonymously by Penn students, along with inspirational quotes.

Javaid’s favorite dream reads, “I eventually want to buy my parents a house in the city I settle down in.”

They also partnered with Career Services and hosted a panel with students that have worked for the FBI, the NFL, PayPal and eBay to provide guidance on pursuing unconventional career paths.

Another movement, “Penn Pride”, stemmed from Wharton junior Kaitlin Meiss’ volunteer experience at the Penn Alumni Weekend. She was amazed by how alumni in their 50s and 60s still remembered every word of their class cheer, a tradition no longer familiar to Penn students.

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“We all have Penn pride, it’s just [a matter of] whether or not we show it,” Meiss said. “We used to have a packed stadium during Penn football games, but now we don’t hear record numbers.” Meiss and her teammates partnered up with class boards and the student group Penn Traditions to raise awareness about the class cheer and Penn songs.

Some other projects aim at providing convenience to Penn students. Wharton junior Kelsey Gliva and her teammates started “Penn Transit”, a campaign that promotes the University’s transit services available for free to Penn students. “Many students don’t know that we have free bus services covering 20th to 48th street,” she said. “To encourage students to make use of the service, we designed a creative map that outlines all the restaurants in the area covered by Penn Transit.”

Gliva thinks that the open-ended nature of the assignment enables students to pursue a cause about which they are truly passionate.

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Unlike most other initiatives that target Penn students, Wharton and College junior Gabriel Fineberg and his teammates turned their attention to dining hall staff at Penn. Their project “Appreciation at Penn Dining”, encourages students to show respect and gratitude towards dining hall workers. “We try to include dining hall staff as equal members of the broader Penn community,” Fineberg said. “One proposal we considered was to encourage dining hall workers to wear name tags so students could connect with them on a more personal level.”

Professor Cobb thinks the results on average have exceeded his expectations.

“I was surprised by how creative they are in coming up with solutions to the problems and how resilient they are in difficult circumstances,” he said. “Students sometimes get told ‘No’ when they reach out to others for help. But they adjust and keep moving.”

Professor Cobb says the challenge for him and students is to keep these movements going after the semester ends. “For real social movements, sustainability is also a big challenge they have to face.”

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