The Power of Partnership: Mercy and DeSales University 2021
“Mercy brings in a small handful of ambitious senior business students from DeSales University to assist us with solving business problems around the office: anything from marketing, to social media, to grant research and applications, and everything in between.”
In January 2020, I received a visit in my office from Amanda Blackman, director of the adult program at Mercy School. Amanda had been taking MBA classes at DeSales University, and, with a curious grin on her face, simply said to me, “I have an idea.”
Any time one of my peers has an idea, I have learned to listen (my assistant Mary has come up with several good ideas over the years!). Amanda went on to propose that Mercy School look into partnering with the Division of Business at DeSales University to form something of an internship program. It was more than intriguing to me!
Very simply, Amanda explained, “Mercy brings in a small handful of ambitious senior business students from DeSales University to assist us with solving business problems around the office: anything from marketing, to social media, to grant research and applications, and everything in between.”
I thought to myself, even though Mercy has a wonderful group of committed volunteers who help us with student-related activities, and a great board for governance and strategy, we are generally on our own when it comes to the nitty-gritty internal business details and functions. And this would be FREE. We don’t pay a dime. Sounds good!
“So what’s in it for the students?” I asked. “Well that’s the great part for DeSales,” Amanda replied. “Each student earns academic credits for their Senior Capstone Project, which is a requirement for graduation.”
That makes sense!
Amanda referred me to Assistant Professor Tom Craig at DeSales. Tom and I had a phone call, discussed some details, and then arranged a meeting at Mercy with the four students in the first capstone team.
Tom explained that the program is designed to provide DeSales students with opportunities to work collaboratively with local non-profit and community service organizations before they graduate.
“A big part of the DSU Division of Business mission is to educate our students to think deeply about how their unique, God-given talents can improve the lives of others and make the world a better place,” he said. “The hands-on experience of our capstone projects lets them directly apply what they’ve learned in accounting, marketing, management, and other disciplines to help our communities. What could be better than that?”
Tom also believes there was some divine inspiration to be thankful for: “During one of our MBA classes, Amanda was discussing some of the challenges faced by Mercy School in maintaining its high-quality programs. At that same time, I was beginning to set up student teams for the capstone projects. Instantly, the light bulb went on between us. Amanda and I discussed some options, she connected me with Mark, and the rest is history.”
To date, three teams of students have worked on the Mercy School project and the next team will start in September, building on the work of their predecessors.
Dana Sten, our financial manager at Mercy, recommended we place a high priority on grant research and applications. As development director, that idea appealed to me, and we agreed to put that at the top of the list.
Because of the impressive and reliable students that come from the DeSales business program, the partnership has required little more than a bit of macro-management and oversight from Craig. Since that first semester, in addition to grant research and writing, the latest teams of students have also focused on social media management, incremental website improvement, and digitizing files.
Without exception, all of these disciplines have seen improvement because of the good work of these DeSales students, and we still have so much more to accomplish in the semesters ahead! In particular, I am thrilled to report that we have received not one, not two, but three grants—all as a result of the work of the DeSales teams.
Mercy School For Special Learning has enjoyed a rich and robust relationship with DeSales University over the years. This latest component of our friendship further demonstrates what can be accomplished from the collaboration between two institutions with parallel missions.
Amanda Blackman, thank you for your forward thinking! Tom Craig, thank you for lending us your great students! And DeSales, thank you for the friendship. We will never take it for granted!