Business School students head into the boardroom

karen newen and jianwen luPhoto/Heratch Ekmekjian

Jianwen Lu, MA ’18 (right) and Kim Newin, MBA ’18 present their work in front of peers

A group of Brandeis business students traded the classroom for the nonprofit boardroom this year. What they learned there not only changed them, but enabled them to effect change at the organizations.

Professor Gene Miller’s course “Field Projects: Consulting in Social Innovation Impact” placed undergraduate and graduate students into non-voting board positions with Boston-area nonprofits.

Jianwen Lu, MA ’18 and Kim Newin, MBA ’18 were two of the course’s participants. Under Miller’s direction, they joined the board of the Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation in Waltham. They were among 22 students in 15 small groups who joined the boards of local nonprofits as non-voting members.

Over the course of an academic year, Lu and Newin created a strategic marketing plan for the museum and developed new ways to strengthen its ties to the Waltham community.

“My job was to look at what data the museum has around audience engagement, and how to interpret the data going forward,” said Lu. “I have always been very interested in museums and was glad when Professor Miller paired me with the Charles River Museum. The experience of being a board fellow was interesting and very new.”

As part of the new marketing plan, Newin and Lu created feedback forms for various activities and exhibitions, publicized discount ticketing, developed analytics which tracked daily visitors, and designed electronic flyers to display in apartment buildings across Waltham.

The duo even utilized the Brandeis MakerLab, the university’s 3D printing hub, to help refocus the museum’s identity. At a 3D Hackathon in March, Lu and Newin tasked a group of Brandeis and University of Connecticut students to design something – via 3D printing – of use to the museum.

The group, which took first place at the hackathon, designed a 3D printing exhibit for the museum. The new exhibit includes a 3D printing head, which is now the most modern piece of technology on display in the museum.

“It was really eye-opening for both of us,” said Newin. “You have an idea of how boards are supposed to function, but then you get inside of one and you see what it’s really like. All boards have financial issues, partnership issues and fundraising issues, which is something we got to really focus on.”

“We now have some practical experience in how to contribute to a board,” Newin added. “We can now make an impact that way, and we’re more apt to look for opportunities like these in the future.”

Lu and Newin were among 14 groups from Miller’s class who presented their year’s-worth of course work with the Charles River Museum on April 27 at an International Business School breakfast sponsored by the Waltham Chamber of Commerce.

Additionally, Waltham Mayor Jeannette McCarthy, members of the Chamber of Commerce and some of the board members involved with Miller’s course attended the breakfast.

“It’s very nice to see your minds at work, offering support to businesses and nonprofits,” Mayor McCarthy said. “The support you give is worth so much, because you’re empowering them to be better organizations. More importantly, in your hearts you know that you offered help and service and that is something you will never forget.”

Miller, who plans to continue the course in the next academic year, said she has no doubts that the students will take their experiences from the course and apply them to their careers.

“The growth I’ve seen among my students is amazing, from their leadership skills to bringing each other along as cohorts,” Miller said. “They’ve been fantastic and I know they’ll shine wherever they go. They learned to lead and serve at the same time, which is a wonderful skill.”

Categories: Business, International Affairs, Student Life

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