Prof Gives Business Students a Lesson in Charity
Classes Donate Thousands to Nonprofits While They Learn About Professionalism
Dec. 14, 2009
To the casual observer, financial information management and social responsibility seem worlds apart in mission and purpose. To John Barden, an accounting and information management professor at the UT Dallas School of Management, they are both integral to his students’ education.
For more than three years, Barden has, at the beginning of each semester, informed his students about the “Classroom Citizenship and Social Responsibility” portion of his class.
Not only do students benefit, Barden maintains, but so do their future employers and the communities they live in. And, also clearly benefiting are the nonprofit agencies that have received almost $9,000 in cash donations over the past three years from Barden’s classes.
Barden’s classroom rules are clear, although he admits unenforceable.
- A treasurer will be elected for each class to collect funds.
- Funds will be maintained by the treasurer.
- Each class will elect one charitable organization to receive the donated funds.
- There will be no baseball caps worn in class. If a student wants to wear a baseball cap, the donation is $2 per class.
- If student is late for class, the donation is $5 per class.
- If a student’s cell phone or beeper goes off, the donation is $10 per class.
- If a student wants to text during class, the donation is $10 per class.
- Funds will be distributed to a charitable organization at semester’s end.
- A publisher donates a textbook to each class and the book is raffled off for $50. Student has to pay in 10 days or interest accrues at 1 percent per week.
“I always felt we should give back to the community, and with the number of students in my classes, I saw this would work,” says Barden, who regularly has about 60 or so students in each section of this upper-division accounting/finance class. “I am teaching the students responsibility – to be on time, work hard, be honest and believe in themselves.”
The first class in December, at the close of the fall semester, was reckoning day in Barden’s four sections. He asked for a report from each class treasurer. The collections on hand in each class were in the $70-to-$80 range. Up on the board was a PowerPoint spreadsheet showing what classes in the past three years had given – and to which organization.
Then Barden started his pitch – “If you think you were late,” he’d start, “or you texted in class and haven’t paid...” He admonished the class: “I have eyes in the back of my head.” Several students laughed.
In each case, a few students would stand up and walk over to the class treasurer with a bill or two, then a flood of students handed in singles and fives and tens. Several students in each class asked whether they could turn in IOUs – Barden heartily agreed. By the time all the money was in, each class had collected almost $200 and, in each case, Barden chipped in enough out of his own pocket to round up to $300.
“This is about the students,” Barden said later. Great students aren’t so great, he said, if they don’t enter the work world with solid business habits.
“In the business world, a baseball cap is truly not acceptable,” he told one class. And later, he said: “Say you work for PricewaterhouseCoopers, and you’re late for a meeting. You’ll be late for one and only one meeting.” Do not, he said repeatedly, text while you are talking to your boss or in a meeting.
The next part – spending the money – engaged students as Barden kept up a steady stream of conversation about boardroom wrangling and how decisions are made by committee. Students named five charities they were interested in supporting. In one class, all five were focused on children’s needs: Buckner Children and Family Services, Feed The Children, Texas Scottish Rite Hospital, CASA of Collin County and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The students, by a simple majority, voted to send their $300 to Buckner.
Students generally agreed that children’s causes interested them the most. “We’re young, and some of us came from not-so-stable families, and we know how hard it is to get to college,” said Yeseria Sanchez, a junior finance and international business major, who also served as her class treasurer.
“They’re the ones least likely to help themselves,” said Eric Rivetna, a junior accounting major, in explaining his vote. “A lot of children aren’t as lucky as I am because I came from a loving, stable home,” commented Dao Nguyen, a junior accounting major.
In fact, all the classes this semester voted to support children’s agencies. A total of $700 was directed to Buckner, $300 was donated to Children’s Medical Center in Dallas, and another $300 to CITY House, a shelter in Collin County for homeless teenagers. Since he’s been at UT Dallas, Barden’s classes have donated $8,675 to charitable causes – ranging from Susan G. Komen for the Cure, to Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, to North Texas Food Bank. But the preponderance of the donations goes to causes linked to children and youths.
Mary Baty, an accounting senior, was vocal in her support for directing class funds to Buckner. “These kids are kind of like cast-offs,” she said. “And these are our future leaders.”
Students generally supported the “Classroom Citizenship and Social Responsibility” portion of Barden’s class, several noting that they wanted to help out, but just didn’t have opportunities that fit into their schedule and this did.
John Barden seeks input from students on which nonprofit agency they would like to receive class “fines.” While the fines are all voluntary, each of Barden’s classes historically donate $200 to $400 per semester to charities.
Bassem Dahdouh, elected at the beginning of fall 2009 by classmates as the class treasurer, counts money his classmates have donated to pay for anything from wearing a ball cap in class to showing up late. Dahdouh is a junior business administration major.
Amber Jewett, a junior finance major, sorts the donations for Bassem Dahdouh. She works as a waitress after classes and says she’s “a little OCD” about making sure money is all facing the same way and sorted by value.