Brandeis International Business School

From the classroom to the boardroom

Paired with local nonprofits, Brandeis International Business School students gain valuable experience while giving back to the community

Adjunct Professor Gene Miller (middle row, third from right) with students and staff.

Adjunct Professor Gene Miller (middle row, third from right) with students and staff.

A course taught by Adjunct Professor Gene Miller pairs Brandeis International Business School students with the boards of local nonprofit organizations, offering them valuable real-world experience and a chance to contribute to a good cause.

“Not many 22-year-olds get to see the inside of a boardroom, let alone participate in meetings and engage in high-level projects,” said Nimisha Shinday, MA’18, who recently completed Field Projects: Consulting in Social Innovation Impact (BUS 297 C).

In the year-long course, graduate and undergraduate students are matched up with nonprofits that complement their coursework. Students participate in board meetings and work alongside nonprofit executives to complete projects that directly impact the communities in which they operate. Technical lessons about nonprofits and social impact businesses are coupled with discussions led by guest speakers, including NGO board members, nonprofit executive directors and business leaders.

“Students are clamoring for hands-on opportunities where they can have a social impact, but oftentimes they don’t know how to pursue them,” said Miller. “Students in this course are learning the ins and outs of social innovation firsthand. They have a seat at the table at the highest levels of nonprofit management, working directly with executives and networking with impactful leaders in this space.”

Shinday was paired with the Waltham Boys and Girls Club, where her focus was geared towards data analytics and key performance indicators.

“At first I was very nervous about being in a boardroom, but I realized that the executives there were actually looking to us for new perspectives,” she said. “I was able to apply my knowledge from previous coursework and implement software to better track student performance and make data management systems more efficient and accessible across the organization.”

Miller’s students appreciate her dedication to experiential learning and social innovation. “She was constantly making time to give us one-on-one help with our projects and was really an incredible mentor,” said Jess Morana, MA ’18.

For some students, the course is their first exposure to the nonprofit world. Others, like Daisy Tian, MA’18, saw it as an opportunity to continue her community service. Before enrolling in Miller’s course, Tian had previous volunteer experience at the Waltham Group and also traveled to Honduras to volunteer with other Brandeis students.

“I was interested in doing real work and making a tangible difference in my community,” said Tian.

Through Miller’s course, Tian worked on fundraising strategy for Africano, a nonprofit startup seeking to create cultural engagement opportunities within African-American communities in Waltham. She researched potential funders, drafted grant applications and developed a broader fundraising strategy.

“Not only did I learn about the critical role of funding for nonprofits, I also had the opportunity to do work that will directly help an under-resourced organization continue the powerful work they do in our community,” said Tian.  

Miller said the real-world experience students gain in her class often translates into a boost in their confidence and leadership ability.

“Students leave this course feeling motivated and prepared,” said Miller. “They see that their insights are valued in the boardrooms of leading nonprofits and are empowered to make their own social innovation dreams a reality.”