Tauber Institute Students, Alumni Give Back on Community Service Day

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Volunteer groups organized by the Tauber Institute for Global Operations at the University of Michigan spent a day helping two local businesses solve operational challenges.

Leaving their classrooms or workplaces, students and alumni from the Tauber Institute donated their time and skills to create recommendations for two local businesses on how to solve difficult operational challenges during Tauber’s annual Community Service Day. For this year’s event, which took place on Friday, Feb. 8, volunteer groups traveled to Argus Farm Stop in Ann Arbor and Detroit Area Pre-College Engineering Program (DAPCEP) in Detroit.

At Argus Farm Stop, an every-day, year-round Farmer's Market located just steps from the University of Michigan, Tauber students and alumni worked to tackle two challenges: improving operational efficiency within the store, including organizing large deliveries and optimizing unused space in the basement, and designing a commerce platform for scaling up a new business-to-business model connecting farmers with local restaurants and co-ops.

For Ross student Fernanda Barros, MBA ‘20, spending the day helping Argus as part of Community Service Day was a welcomed experience to apply her knowledge of operations outside the classroom to an organization in need of the Tauber students’ expertise.

“It’s nice to have the opportunity to dedicate one day out of my two years here to give back to such a special place,” said Barros.

Kelsey Wyatt-Mair, MBA ‘19, also thought the event presented the group with an interesting challenge of developing recommendations for a small-scale, mission-oriented business. After spending the summer working an internship with Amazon, Wyatt-Mair said she had to approach the Argus project differently than how she would have at the retail giant, with new considerations in mind.

“You have to scale everything down because you have limited resources and capabilities when you’re dealing with a very small business and your solution has to fit into those constraints,” Wyatt-Mair said. “You’re also designing solutions for a business that’s mission-oriented, not profit-driven, so you have to think about what matters to them, and it’s not about making the most money.”

Argus’ co-owner and Ross Alum Kathy Sample, MBA ‘89, was thankful to have the Tauber volunteers take a fresh look at her business, and how they manage orders from around 200 farmers.

“We are so close to the operations that we think about our problems and finding solutions for them in a certain way,” said Sample. “So having smart people with objective viewpoints share their recommendations makes a huge difference.”

At the end of the day, the Tauber volunteer group presented their ideas to Sample and other members of Argus’ leadership team with the hope their recommendations will help improve the store’s operations and increase its business going forward.

In addition, a Tauber student group visited Detroit and assisted DAPCEP, a nonprofit that helps educational institutions connect youth to STEM experiences in Michigan. The team helped DAPCEP figure out better ways to more easily access the historical student data for marketing purposes and for use in funding pitches.

Learn more about the Tauber Institute