Business professor uses his experience as a Habitat for Humanity volunteer to teach students inside and outside the classroom
When the former Chair of the Management Department, Tammy Madsen, approached Richard Trevisan about designing an experiential learning course involving Habitat for Humanity, he welcomed the opportunity. As a regular volunteer with the Silicon Valley affiliate for the past 15 years, he had already imagined the potential of the nonprofit to provide learning both in and beyond the classroom.
"I believe that students at Santa Clara understand the three C's of competence, conscience, and compassion and strive to live by them, but perhaps need a way to practice the compassion piece," he explains. His course, MGMT 8: Business Ethics in Practice, offers students the hands-on portion of their education that he says he would be hard-pressed to replace with an academic lecture.
As part of the course, students work with Habitat for Humanity to gain first-hand experiences with the operation of a nonprofit organization while engaging with the community. As Trevisan notes, such hands-on learning allows students to apply their business skills while developing an understanding of social justice and civic engagement that carries on beyond the classroom.
"What the students have told me is to not turn this into a heavy academic course. Although the journal and other articles were helpful, the hands-on part of the course, working alongside of the families and listening to the stories of their struggles, surpasses what could have been learned as theory," says Trevisan.
Business Ethics in Practice
Students also have a unique opportunity at the end of the quarter to present suggestions for improvement to the executive director of Habitat for Humanity Silicon Valley. This opportunity allows business students who are learning about organization and management to apply their knowledge and skills to help the affiliate improve its operations. Both this and their experience outside the classroom contribute to what Trevisan believes is a distinguishing characteristic of Santa Clara students.
"I believe that Santa Clara University students, and this is feedback we've gotten from people in industry, are not only competent but also ethical in their behavior. This course gives students not only a hands-on experience, but perhaps whets their appetite to continue civic engagement and citizenship activities of this sort, which of course incorporate social justice."