This week, more than 200 graduate students from the Ross School of Business were challenged to create positive change in the local community and beyond by generating support to build an inclusive play structure at Eberwhite Elementary School in the Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) district.
In 24 hours, the Michigan Ross Master of Management, Supply Chain, and Accounting students developed a comprehensive strategy to infuse creative marketing and fundraising ideas into the ongoing project with a focus on community empowerment and leveraging the school’s message of inclusion and accessibility. During the time period, they also raised $1,170, which will directly benefit the Eberwhite Elementary Playground Rebuild project.
The tremendous feat was part of the Sanger Leadership Center’s Business + Impact Challenge, a leadership development program sponsored by the Deloitte Foundation designed to foster leadership, team management, and innovation skills while delivering impact to a community organization or business.
Constructed in 1990, the original Eberwhite Elementary playground provided nearly two generations of family fun. However, a recent professional assessment concluded the playground was not compliant with current ADA standards nor did it meet updated safety regulations. The structures were torn down earlier this year. Since then, the school’s Parent Teacher Organization has created a playground steering committee and raised funds to complete the first phase of the playground build, which was completed this past weekend. The stunning six-day community build engaged local volunteers to cover over 1,400 work shifts. Twenty-one local businesses donated meals to fuel volunteers throughout the build.
In order to generate the assets needed to complete the second phase of the playground in 2020, Michigan Ross partnered with AAPS for the B+I Challenge for the one-year master’s students. The students were divided into three teams and asked to write a multi-faceted business proposal addressing how the Eberwhite community can garner further funding and support for the playground; how to raise awareness for the need for inclusive, ADA-compliant play structures; and how to empower the community to take action.
Ross faculty, Eberwhite steering committee members, and subject matter experts supported the graduate students during the challenge. Ross professor Marcus Collins provided an overview of non-profit marketing; Ross professor Eric Svann offered pointers on project management; and Josh Botkin, from the Zell-Lurie Institute at Michigan Ross, challenged students to think creatively to develop new fundraising techniques. Eric Barritt, associate vice president and chief development officer for Michigan Medicine, also provided an overview of fundraising for students. Additionally, former MLB and Michigan baseball player Jim Abbott joined the students via webinar for a talk about the importance of disability awareness, particularly, how to talk about it and why it’s not often talked about.
“At Ross, we believe powerful ideas and purpose-driven leaders can make a positive impact on the world. This year’s Business + Impact Challenge not only gave our students critical insight into how to lead innovative teams, but it will also promote disability awareness and make a difference in our local community,” said Lindy Greer, faculty director of the Sanger Leadership Center. “We were excited to partner with the Ann Arbor Public Schools and absolutely thrilled with what the master’s students were able to achieve and the innovative solutions they proposed.”
The 24-hour challenge ended with a panel discussion, where each student team presented their proposal ideas and outcomes and discussed paths forward with Eberwhite stakeholders. Eberwhite will leverage the proposals and assets generated from the challenge to complete the second phase of the playground build. The new inclusive playground will be a unique resource for the greater Ann Arbor community.