ASU business school helps create real-world solutions to business problems
Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business has teamed up with a few different businesses and organizations over the years to help create real-world solutions for various problems.
Kevin Dooley, distinguished professor with ASU’s W.P. Carey School of Business, created an interdisciplinary lab course for full-time Master of Business Administration students. For each project, the class has a sponsor or client, depending on the outcome of their work. The class will also team up with another ASU school as a partner on the design.
“The city came to us to do a business plan,” Dooley stated of the class’s first project assisting Mesa, Ariz., with food waste. For the project, students teamed up with ASU’s School of Sustainability.
The city’s idea was to collect food waste within Mesa and put it into the wastewater treatment system. City officials turned to the students to see if there was enough food waste in Mesa to make the project work. Students quickly determined there was more than enough food waste in Mesa to make the idea work. “We found a small sliver of Mesa could make it feasible from a production standpoint,” Dooley stated.
The project then became how to collect the waste, how much money it would cost to collect the waste and whether it was economically feasible to add organic material to create recycled, renewable energy. To be effective, the cost for implementing the new plan must be the same or lower than the cost of keeping things the same. Ultimately, whether people would participate in the food waste collection became a factor as well.
The city did not end up implementing the food waste idea because it did not work out economically.
Garbage truck project
Republic Services then approached the graduate program to help create a garbage truck for the future. For the project, students partnered with ASU’s school of design. Since garbage trucks are typically kept in the fleet for between 10 and 12 years before being swapped out, Republic Services had to begin thinking up a new design early on. Waste collection companies such as Republic Services must look to the truck suppliers for their design. So, if it wants a new design, the waste collection agency must consider its research and development needs.
With computers and sensors becoming more prevalent on vehicles, students were able to consider including these on the garbage trucks. Students broke up into teams to design their own garbage truck based on what they believed would serve Republic Services the best in the future. “It was meant to be provocations, not solutions,” Dooley noted.
If the students came up with a certain idea, it may not only be useful on their garbage trucks but also something competitor collection agencies may think of. Overall, the students came up with two or three ideas that Republic Services stated its own team had not even considered when designing.
Foster youth project
Students in this business program recently worked on a foster youth program. Statistics show that many homeless young adults come from foster care. These young adults often lack the basic life skills necessary to find a job. The goal of students was to investigate solutions to this problem, with a particular emphasis on peer mentoring.
While not a formal mentor program, students worked with local nonprofit agencies to direct people who have been through the foster care system to help out these homeless young adults. Those who saw a greater success in life and their goals all reportedly had an informal mentor and a strong, positive experience with them.
Some student groups focused on making these young adults aware of the many services available for the homeless through municipalities. Others worked on a solution to keeping a formal record of those deemed homeless. Many states do not keep any form of formal record, and those that do are inconsistent in how they record data. Students focused on finding a consistent way to formally record data about a homeless individual and then share it with other states.
For each of these projects, Dooley describes them as being “work that has some potential for real impact.” Students may be particularly helpful in certain instances if the problem and solution are geared toward young adults. These are semester-long projects with multiple groups working on a particular problem. Next year he mentioned students will focus on a project regarding recidivism and criminal justice.
These projects allow both the business or organization and the students to step outside the box. And why turn to the school of business? Dooley explained that whether they are nonprofit or for-profit, the business or organization still has operations and funding needs. “All the beneficial projects still need to succeed in a business context,” he explained.
Working with students during undergraduate and graduate studies in such a capacity allows businesses and government agencies to reach out and engage students in order to create awareness about potential job opportunities. In creating those positive relationships between universities and surrounded cities, students can discover jobs they would not have otherwise considered while remaining local.
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