Immersion Course Brings Positivity and Purpose to Michigan Ross BBA Students and Organizations

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When BBA junior Emily Gorman received an email from her academic advisor about the Magnify program, she almost overlooked it — until she read the program had a one-week merger project with Detroit Public Schools. At that point, she was curious to learn more about it.

“I’ve always been really interested in education and I saw it was Detroit Public Schools (DPS) so I thought, ‘Oh, that might be cool,’” said Gorman. “I had no idea what was going to happen, but it completely surpassed all my expectations.”

Magnify, which combines MO 455: Foundations of Positive Organizational Scholarship and MO 456: Action Learning for Foundations in Positive Organizational Scholarship, began in 2014 and was born out of the Center for Positive Organizations (CPO). The seven-week course, which takes place in the summer semester, is open to all U-M undergraduate majors and gives them a firsthand look into how to manage and lead organizations that flourish and help employees thrive.

As an immersion program, Magnify students participate in workshops, hear from professionals who are active in positive organizational scholarship, receive peer coaching, and engage in experiential activities.  As part of their final week, students in the current Magnify cohort will host a showcase this week. During the showcase, students will reflect on their new insights from the capstone projects and how they can apply them in their professional and personal lives. 

One of the highlights of the course is a mini-consulting project, where students partner with various organizations strategizing and providing insights on what positive business practices could be implemented. For Gorman, working with DPS was a life-changing experience. Her cohort connected with various stakeholders, including teachers, students, parents, curriculum designers, and cabinet members, and looked for ways the school system and its constituents flourish.

We’d ask stakeholders, ‘What’s your favorite part about coming to work each day?’ or ‘Can you tell me about a time that just about put you on cloud nine?’ Each time, I saw the entire energy in the room shift - people were so excited to be talking,” said Gorman. “You realize how the things that impact people’s lives are not simply dramatic, one-time transformations; daily positive practices hold so much potential and strongly impact individuals' well-being.”

BBA sophomore Sophia Savas had a very similar experience with her project. Her cohort partnered with Quicken Loans in Detroit to improve inclusion in the workplace. She added that the challenge was finding solutions that the company hadn’t already put in place.

“We tried to highlight the different types of inclusion that occur in the workplace, whether it’s emotional inclusion or physical inclusion,” said Savas. “We spent time interviewing people all across the company and talking with people in different roles, showing them that inclusion is more than just statistics. They [Quicken Loans] think this is a unique way to give people a chance to learn about things that could take years of work experience to learn.”

Magnify faculty director and co-instructor Monica Worline says the program is unique because it marries positive organizational scholarship with action-based learning and students can provide these insights to organizations because they are practicing what they’re preaching.

“We’re actually engaging the students to use the same kind of tools, tactics, and research-based knowledge that they’re learning in classroom,” said Worline. “They’re learning how to build an organization that brings out people’s well-being. They work together to talk about their purpose in life and as a student.”

Jane Dutton agrees. Also a Magnify co-instructor, she focuses on the research aspect of positive organizational scholarship, while Monica focuses on the practical application. Once students complete the program, they can join the CPO as fellows, assisting in various programs and activities like event planning. “It changes how they see their world beyond school. It empowers them to think about how they can help other people and see the positive impact they can have.” 

Another unique element of the program is the diversity of students. The majority of program participants are women (although more male students are applying) and students come from a wide array of majors.

“I think the program really addresses what the underlying purpose of diversity, equity, and inclusion is,” said Savas. “Appreciating people for who they are and allowing people to be their full selves. You have unique ideas and unique experiences that will contribute to creating new ideas.”

 

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Learn More About THE Center for Positive Organizations