Mercer business students continue to live out this mission in multiple ways. In recent months, as part of the Mercer On Mission program, business students have traveled to Rwanda and South Africa to serve and to learn.
Led by SSBE Professor of Management Dr. Linda Brennan, 10 business students visited Cape Town, South Africa, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity South Africa and the Pelican Park Owners Association. Providing project and event management services for the week of the Nelson Mandel Blitz Build, they also spent eight days interviewing over 300 of the poorest homeowners in Cape Town. Interview questions focused on health, welfare and expectations for their community. The team has coded and scrubbed the data for future analysis. Students found the experience to be transformational, and one Mercer student has been invited back to do an internship with Habitat. Excerpts from student journals include:
- "The social scoping work we did may have seemed obscure to us at first, but by the end of my journey in South Africa I discovered that talking and engaging with people is so much more important than going into a foreign community and expecting to produce a radical change in the community."
- "I have seen how great the need for business minds in service is… I feel like I need to take my business skills and work with a nonprofit."
Mercer has been invited to return to South Africa to participate in a similar project next year.
Meanwhile, 3,000 miles north on the continent, nine undergraduate and graduate business students worked in Rwanda with the Association of Genocide Widows (AVEGA). Under the leadership of Associate Professor of Marketing Dr. Etienne Musonera, himself a survivor of the Rwandan genocide, and Director of Graduate Programs Dr. C. Gerry Mills, the students provided workshops for the 30 officers of AVEGA regarding entrepreneurship, marketing, management and financial skills. In turn, the students learned about the magnitude of AVEGA, the needs of its members and the environment in which they operated. Mercer students prepared initial marketing plans for several AVEGA projects, and upon their return to Georgia, completed a comprehensive business plan for AVEGA's new facilities in Kigali. The intent is to continue to consult with AVEGA as plans are implemented and situations change.
Student responses in thank-you notes and evaluations repeatedly used the terms "life-changing," "eye-opening" and "experience of a lifetime." Students learned through direct experience that the skills and knowledge they acquired in business classes were worth a great deal more than a way to earn a paycheck. They learned that these skills could be applied in a way to help an organization, a community, a country. They learned the value of entrepreneurship tools in helping people achieve independence and self-respect. They learned that these skills are just as important to social organizations as they are to investor-owned business.
Mercer is grateful to the donors to the business school and to Mercer On Mission whose gifts make these programs possible.