Willamette University MBA students and the United Way of the Mid-Willamette Valley grant funds to empower local organizations, seek racial justice and social equity
The 2020-21 Willamette MBA Community Grant program awarded seven organizations across Marion, Polk and Yamhill counties, totally $150,000, to bring about racial and social equity programs within rural and underserved communities. Each organization is making a significant impact right here at home.
The awarded organizations are:
They join the growing list of organizations that have received funding through this unique program managed by students in Willamette University’s MBA program and funded by United Way of the Mid-Willamette Valley.
How this all came together
With $150,000 from United Way of the Mid-Willamette Valley, this year’s student-led cohort rolled up its sleeves on day one. Eager to gain a strong understanding of the needs across communities in these three counties, students held meetings with local leaders. A recurring theme centered on the need to directly address social equity and racial justice. In the midst of a global pandemic, raging wildfires just up the canyon and political unrest across the nation, the cohort centered its conversations around values: social justice, inclusivity, integrity and impact. After several weeks of learning and holding a board presentation, this year’s cohort chose to focus on marginalized communities and BIPOC led or supported organizations. Meetings with local BIPOC leaders further affirmed their mission statement: Addressing root causes to support an inclusive, equitable, and just Mid-Willamette Valley by prioritizing issues facing oppressed communities. The ultimate, guiding vision: A prosperous environment, where all communities thrive.
Co-instructors Nicole Thibodeau and Andrew Galen advised students, helping them make informative and thoughtful decisions on funding grantees. Students also sought guidance from prominent leaders in the local not-for-profit community, including listening to and learning from local BIPOC leaders. Throughout the year, the cohort assessed the potential impact of proposed projects based on the funding area and the overall alignment with the cohort’s mission, vision and values.
How the community responded
The response to the initial letter of intent (LOI), produced 42 applications, totaling $929,000 in requests. Students systematically evaluated all responses and selected 16 organizations to submit a more detailed request for proposal (RFP). An additional review process, followed by virtual site visits, led students to select 7 local not-for-profit organizations to receive a total of $150,000 in funding for the 2020-2021 grant cycle. The students referenced their mission, vision and values throughout the process to ensure organizations’ proposed project, leadership and overall mission were in alignment.
Due to the ongoing global pandemic and restrictions on social gatherings, the award event was held virtually on April 15, 2021. This ceremony honored grant recipients for the current 2020-2021 grant cycle as well as the past 2019-2020 cycle. Last year’s grantees were Connections 365, Institute of Applied Ecology, Latinos Unidos Siempre, Marion Polk Food Share, Mid-Valley Suicide Prevention Coalition, REACH Northwest and St. Francis Shelter.
Experiential and consequential learning has been central to the Atkinson Graduate School of Management curriculum for more than twenty years. In the last decade, experiential learning has augmented what Atkinson calls consequential learning, in which students are compelled to apply what they learn and then experience the consequences of the decisions they make.
Established in 2016 as a partnership between United Way of the Mid-Willamette Valley, Mountain West Investment Corporation and Willamette University MBA, the Willamette MBA Community Grant Program has invested in 32 community organizations, awarding 39 grants totaling nearly $700,000 in its first five years. This program was launched with the goal to cultivate leadership in the not-for-profit sector and create a significant impact in Marion, Polk and Yamhill counties.
These awards are the culmination of two semesters of hard work for the students enrolled in the Willamette MBA course Philanthropic Investment for Community Impact. This year for the first time, the course was also offered to students enrolled in the MBA for Professionals program at both Salem and Portland campuses. The mix of students allowed for unique collaboration and was overall beneficial to the process.
If you are interested in receiving updates about the next Willamette MBA Community Grant Program cycle, please email firstname.lastname@example.org to subscribe.
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