Eller Students Apply Business Skills to Social Arena

May 1, 2006

Seven students in the Eller College of Management who have spent a semester creating a business structure for a nonprofit venture to benefit Nigerian women will present their work to professors and the community May 1 from 1–2 p.m. in McClelland Hall on the UA campus.

The students, under the tutelage of Stephen Gilliland, Eller College Department of Management and Policy head, came up with the organizational structure for the Institute for Research on African Women, Children, and Culture (IRAWCC).

Leslye Obiora, professor of law at the James E. Rogers College of Law, piloted IRAWCC in 2004 with the hope of improving the lives and status of 103 women in the Nigerian village of Oguta. The project has been successful, but Obiora needed help structuring the organization and communicating the concept to potential investors.

Obiora brought her plight to Gilliland's social entrepreneurship students, who embraced the idea. They quickly stepped in to research the venture and provide recommendations on organizational structure, as well as reorganize the financial management of the operation.

Gilliland has been teaching the social entrepreneurship class for five years. Its purpose is to enable students to use their business skills to address social and environmental issues. With the cohesion and sustainability of Obiora's project in jeopardy, this year's student work was paramount to the continuing success of IRAWCC.

According to Gilliland, students in the class are being exposed to ways their business knowledge and leadership abilities can be used to contribute to society's greater good. He cited a comment from a student who said, "This is the most valuable and fulfilling endeavor in all of my undergraduate and graduate experiences."

Oguta, Nigeria was selected for the pilot project because women living there are significantly economically depressed and occupy a low place in the social hierarchy. Nigerian high school students were identified to teach the women the skills necessary to raise their socioeconomic status. Once the women have fulfilled required classes focusing on social, political, economic, cultural, and civic knowledge and skills, they become eligible for a micro loan to begin a business venture.

The presentation of recommendations will take place in McClelland 208. For further information about the project and the class, contact Stephen Gilliland at (520) 621-9324 or sgill@eller.arizona.edu

The Eller College of Management at The University of Arizona is internationally recognized for pioneering research, innovative curriculum, distinguished faculty, excellence in entrepreneurship and social responsibility and its top-five MIS program. Forbes ranks the Eller MBA full-time program among the top 50 nationwide, and the college leads the nation's business schools in generating grant funds for research.

In addition to a full-time MBA program, the Eller College offers a part-time MBA program, the Eller Executive MBA, and the ability to combine an MBA with graduate studies in science, engineering, law, pharmacy, finance, MIS, international management and entrepreneurship. The Eller College of Management supports more than 4,500 undergraduate and 600 graduate students on the UA campus.