Fall 2008 Issue


Show me more than the money

Andreas School of Business alums are among a growing trend of workers who mix corporate culture with community service.

By Rochelle Broder-Singer

During the past year, Jenny Nilsson-Tecklenburg ’00, ’02 has collected Thanksgiving food for needy women and children, donated unwrapped children’s gifts for Christmas, helped raise money to send supplies to China’s earthquake victims and helped Sisters from Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity distribute food in Los Angeles’ Skid Row. And she’s done all of this work through her employer, Los Angeles-based American Tours International (ATI).

ATI is the United States’ largest tour operator for foreigners visiting the country, and its owners encourage all employees to become involved with The Noel Foundation, a charity founded by one of the owners. It’s an opportunity that Nilsson-Tecklenburg, a native of Sweden with a bachelor’s degree in marketing and a master’s degree in electronic commerce from the Andreas School of Business, has embraced.

“It does feel good to work for an organization that has that mission… It’s rewarding,” Nilsson-Tecklenburg says.

Noel Irwin Hentschel, ATI’s CEO, founded The Noel Foundation in 1989 after meeting Mother Teresa. It works with organizations around the world, including the United Nations Development Fund for Women, Missionaries of Charity and City of Hope. ATI employees and the foundation were on-site handing out water and other aid shortly after this year’s earthquakes in China.

Charitable work and community service are not just a side offering at ATI. Nilsson-Tecklenburg says part of her job as a market director at ATI is to educate her clients about The Noel Foundation’s work around the world.

Nilsson-Tecklenburg wasn’t looking for that kind of involvement when she went to interview at ATI. But after meeting Hentschel and learning about the foundation during her interview, she walked out of the office and called her husband and said, “This is the kind of company that I want to work for.” Now she cannot imagine working for a company where community involvement is not a part of the corporate culture. “[I’ve] made it a part of my life,” Nilsson-Tecklenburg says. “As things are more global and people are more aware of what’s going on in the world, that’s becoming a bigger part of what people look for in a job.”

A generational thing

Nilsson-Tecklenburg is not alone in her desire to work for a company that is conscious of its place in the larger community. Researchers, consultants, recruiters and others who study America’s changing workforce report that workers of all ages want more from their jobs than financial rewards, more than a sense of professional development. Increasingly, they want to work for a company that not only gives back to the community and to society, but also encourages its employees to make their own individual contributions – often on company time.

Professors in Barry’s Andreas School of Business have encountered the same feelings among their students and many have integrated discussions of corporate social responsibility, philanthropic involvement and social justice into their curriculum, says Interim Dean Jeffrey Mello. He and the faculty have been thinking about “what it really means for business to exist in this day and age, being part of a larger world, the larger society,” he explains, adding that he would like to give business students “a real grounding in ethics, social responsibility and social justice.”

In the classroom or out in the work world, each of the three generations now in the workforce – Baby Boomers, Gen X and the group known as Gen Y or Millennials (roughly, people born from 1977 to 1997) – have different motivations when it comes to the demand for socially responsible employers. Baby Boomers are blending their youthful impulses to change the world with their current desire to get the most from their near-retirement or semi-retirement years. Gen Xers, who have, perhaps more than any other generation, defined themselves through their work, are looking for a broader definition of self.

Both generations are also influenced by the Millennials, possibly the most civic-minded generation in decades. “Their parents instilled in them that desire to make the world a better place than they found it,” says Alexandra Levit, a researcher into young workers and author of several books, including “Success for Hire.” In fact, she adds, the current sense of idealism and desire to change the world among young people was last felt when the Baby Boomers were in their teens and early 20s.

In addition, the lines between work, social life and personal life have blurred for workers of all ages during the past 10 to 15 years. Now, a person’s work affiliation has become an even larger part of his or her identity, says management and human resources consultant Michael Woodward, president of Miami Beach-based Human Capital Integrated. He adds that the corporate scandals (think Enron, Tyco) and bad behavior of the past decade have also made people think twice about a corporation’s wider reputation.

“You’ve seen a much harder push for people to see their companies out in the community,” says Woodward, who is also an industrial and organizational psychologist. And when they have choices about what company to work for, he adds, “There’s really more of a vetting process. People think about, ‘Does this reflect me and who I am?’ ”

In fact, when Dalila “Dee” Grohowski ’95 started at the consulting firm KPMG in 2005, she asked about community service and corporate citizenship initiatives. She was delighted to find out how much the company offered.

Grohowski, who works in the firm’s tax practice, uses 12 paid hours per year for volunteer work and helps lead fundraising and education drives which the company supports. “They are really serious about giving back to the community and allowing their employees – encouraging their employees – to do it,” she says.

Grohowski uses her volunteer hours to work as a classroom volunteer in an eight-week program for Junior Achievement, which prepares students for the work world, encourages entrepreneurship and teaches financial literacy, mostly through hands-on programs. She teaches middle school students about resume writing, how to start thinking about future careers, what college they might want to attend, even how to balance a checkbook and budget their money. The volunteer support KPMG offers allows her to work with an organization whose mission she has supported since her brother went to college on a Junior Achievement scholarship.

Besides her work with Junior Achievement, Grohowski is on the advisory board of the company’s network of women and has helped plan activities such as American Cancer Society breast cancer awareness initiatives and a shoe drive for the Women’s Alliance, which gives low-income women professional attire and career skills training.

“To give back, to donate not only financially but time-wise … at this point in my life that’s what’s really important to me right now, more than making money,” says the 55-year-old. “I read somewhere that our lives have five stages, the last being our philanthropic stage, where we feel a need to give back to our communities. I am on my last stage, my philanthropic stage.”

Boomers bounce back

Like Grohowski, many Baby Boomers are recommitting to the values that drove them as young adults, i.e., that desire to change the world, put on the back burner as they began raising children and supporting families. Consequently, more Boomers are looking toward second careers in the nonprofit sector.

Rae S. Wruble ’86, ’89 is a good example of the trend. In 2001, she opened Baptist Health South Florida’s Genetic Risk Education Service at the Baptist-South Miami Regional Cancer Program.

Wruble, a certified genetic educator, screens for and educates individuals as well as community and medical groups about hereditary cancer syndromes. She helps families understand their hereditary risks and helps patients assess the best options for treatment based on their genetics. For example, Wruble explains, when a woman under 40 is diagnosed with cancer, she is referred to the clinic. Genetic testing will help her decide whether to have a double or single mastectomy, change treatment or even change the expectations for the disease’s progression.

An R.N. who earned a Bachelor of Professional Studies and an MBA from Barry, Wruble had moved in and out of work in the cancer field for years. But it was her own family history that inspired her to enter genetic education. In 1990, Wruble’s twin sister was diagnosed with breast cancer – years before genetic testing became available to the general public. She died in 1999.

Wruble began doing research for one of the physicians who treated her sister, became interested in genetic testing and went on to train in genetic education.

Shortly after she began working in the field, Baptist approached her about consulting with its cancer physicians. Wruble suggested they bring her on staff, and Baptist proposed starting a genetic education service. It opened in 2001 and Wruble has been the service’s sole employee ever since.

“This job isn’t just a job. For me this is kind of a mission,” she says. Wruble was able to help her own family, too, testing herself and several family members and finding some with a mutation in their BRCA-1 or BRCA-2 gene, which pre-disposes them to early breast or ovarian cancer. Although Wruble didn’t have the gene, she feels she can relate to patients because of her family’s experience. “It’s nice to help some families avoid the same thing that I went through,” she adds.

Rarin’ to give back

Baby Boomers like Wruble and Grohowski passed on their own sense of social responsibility to their children, the Millennials. And the newest generation in the workforce is a driving force in the trend of increased social and community involvement.

Deloitte & Touche USA’s 2007 Volunteer IMPACT Study found that 80 percent of 18-26 year olds identified themselves as volunteers, and 62 percent would prefer to work for a company that “gives them an opportunity to contribute their talents to nonprofit organizations.” Nearly all believed companies should offer this kind of opportunity.

Marc Eastwood ’02 is a development associate for the nonprofit Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation. The New York-based charity, founded by musician and businessman Russell Simmons, raises money to help give inner-city youth access to the arts and provides gallery exhibition spaces for underrepresented artists.

Eastwood had been tempted to minor in arts while earning a bachelor’s degree in business administration at Barry but chose not to. After graduation, he moved to New York and ended up earning a master’s degree in arts and culture management from Pratt University. One of the few students in his program with a business background, Eastwood was moved when a representative from Rush spoke to the class about blending doing good with sound business practices. He did a one-year internship with the organization.

“Initially it was about both interests [the arts and business] meeting, but once I started to work and see the kids every day, my heart got involved and I was like, ‘Wow, this is such great work, to touch so many lives,’ ” he says. “You feel that you are making a big difference and there are no words to describe that.”

And while Eastwood can imagine himself working in the for-profit world one day, he says he’d be most likely to do something related to corporate social responsibility or diversity. “[It would have to be]something where I’m not just focused around the dollar sign and am definitely supporting the community,” he adds.

Second nature

It’s not always possible to find a company that offers that kind of commitment. Instead, some people find it preferable to start their own company, creating from the ground up an organization that reflects their own values.

That’s what immigration attorney Elizabeth Ricci ’96 did when she partnered with her then-boyfriend, now-husband, Neil St. John Rambana to start her own law firm in 2001. From the time they started the firm, the pair made time to do pro bono work. While most state bar associations encourage attorneys to do pro bono work, and the Florida Bar recommends attorneys aspire to 20 hours a year, Ricci’s firm, Rambana & Ricci, P.A. of Tallahassee, does closer to 80 hours. “We did it from the beginning. Even though we couldn’t afford monetarily to do it, we did it,” Ricci says.

The firm does some pro bono work for domestic violence victims but concentrates most of its efforts on immigration law. “I think it’s probably pretty typical of immigration lawyers because we see so many people who are indigent or who have been put in a bad position immigration-wise,” she says. “When you see something like that, you feel that the only right thing to do is to do it at no charge.”

Ricci’s commitment to the community began during her days at Barry, after she received a sizeable scholarship one semester. A friend asked her how she was going to give back. “That really got me going in the community service realm,” Ricci says. After getting her bachelor’s degree in international business from Barry, she decided to join the Peace Corps, working as a small business development volunteer in Guatemala.

The integration of work life and community consciousness is a model that Interim Dean Mello hopes to instill in more business students. Building on the work that some professors are already doing and focusing on Barry’s core mission of service, he is retooling the graduate and undergraduate business school curriculum to include, in a systemic fashion, issues of corporate responsibility, social justice and business ethics.

He hopes a concern for the role of companies in the larger community will become ingrained in future Barry business graduates. His expectation: “How to be a principled businessperson, look holistically at the role of the company in a larger society and environment, should be second nature to them.”

Rochelle Broder-Singer has written for publications including the Miami Herald, South Florida CEO magazine and Splendid magazine. A freelance writer with a business background, she is based in Hallandale, Florida.

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