MBA Students Share Skills and Motivation with Student Guests

Apr. 6, 2010

Graduate management students helped mentor nearly 50 seventh-graders recently in a program that offered underserved youths a fresh perspective on education.

Full-Time MBA Program members shared motivation to aspire to excellence as well as tangible, specific tools that the students could use immediately.

Hula hoop exercise

Seventh-graders in the Knowledge is Power Program  work together to pass Hula-Hoops down the line without letting go of each others' hands.

The students were from the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) Truth Academy in Dallas, part of a national network of free, open-enrollment college-preparatory schools for disadvantaged youths.  The students attend class for four hours on Saturdays in addition to their days during the week.

Members of the Full-Time MBA Program became inspired to host the students after visiting the KIPP campus.

“When we saw what they were doing, it was so eye-opening that we wanted to do something,” Full-Time MBA Program Director Lisa Shatz said. “We knew that we needed to give them the benefit of our skills and knowledge.”

Upon arrival, the students were given a brief orientation before starting on the activities.

MBA student MeLinda McCall told the students about the 30-second “elevator pitch”— an introduction highlighting a person’s best features that can be delivered in the span of a short elevator ride — and why it is important. The KIPPsters next got a few minutes to come up with their own elevator pitches.

Yarn exercise

The yarn exercise showed students the value of networking.

The students then stood in a circle, and the starting person was given a ball of bright red yarn. After completing his or her pitch, each student held on to a strand of yarn but tossed the ball to another student, who then delivered his or her pitch. At the end, McCall pointed to the web-like netting they had created, showing that they were now all connected by the yarn: They had just created a network.

“It was important for them to participate because I don’t know if they have people talking to them about presenting themselves and how they can present themselves in an interview,” McCall said. “I hope when they [go home and] brush their teeth at night they’re looking in the mirror and practicing their 30-second elevator speech.”

Michael Edwards, 14, said the elevator speech was his favorite part of the morning’s activities. “I liked that because a lot of times people ask you that on the spot, and you don’t know what to say,” he said. “But practicing in the mirror and practicing every day [will] help you evaluate things about yourself and helps me think about me personally.”

Ashley Steele, an education major at Texas Woman’s University and mentor at KIPP through Big Brothers Big Sisters, volunteered to work with UT Dallas and lead the team-building exercises. As their first exercise, students were told to line up according to their birthdates. The catch was that they couldn’t talk, make noises or write information; they had to find a way to communicate with one another and form a chronologically accurate line.

“It was fun,” 13-year-old Briana Robison, who wants to become a journalist, said. “It helped you work with your teammates even better.”

The second exercise involved passing two Hula-Hoops down the line—but the students had to hold hands the entire time. To make it even more challenging, the hoops came from opposite directions, which meant they met in the middle, yet each Hula-Hoop had to make it to the opposite end. The students were allowed to talk and help each other but had to continue holding hands.

Wendolyne “Wendy” Bustamante, 13, who said her goals included maintaining a 4.0 grade-point average and attending Harvard University, said that the morning’s activities gave her new tools to work with: “I learned new leadership and teamwork things.…It was fun, and I can add to my list of things I can do with my family and friends from school.”

For MBA student Rebecca Brooks, the event’s main planner, the reward came from seeing the program come together so well. “It was nice seeing how it all worked,” she said.

Over lunch, a panel of five MBA students shared their stories of overcoming difficult circumstances, with education playing a key role in how well they succeeded.

“You could see them thinking, ‘If they could do it, I can do it,’ ” Shatz said. “That was really what we wanted to accomplish with the panel.”

As a final activity, the KIPPsters took a tour of the campus, which ended with a visit to the Motion Capture Lab.

“That was definitely their favorite part,” Shatz said. “No other school could have done that.”


Media Contact: Kris Imherr, Naveen Jindal School of Management, (972) 883-4793, imherr@utdallas.edu
or the Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, newscenter@utdallas.edu
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