For me and many of my colleagues, altruism expressed through volunteering is an important part of our daily lives. Sometimes these contributions to our community are part of a school project, but more often they are the result of individuals caring about a certain issue and contributing their time and skills to making things better.
Personally, I have recently turned my attention to the issue of affordable housing. My career ambitions lie in the real estate industry, and this semester I took a course called ‘Housing Theory’ in the Faculty of Architecture as one of my electives. This class was structured around the history of and the need for decent housing for all members of society. It also discussed the real world application of this theory through the provision of housing for the most disadvantaged in our community. When I started the course I didn’t think I would be inspired to become involved with this cause, but I was wrong.
As I learned more about this topic, it dawned on me that the skills I have developed as an MBA student and the experience I gained during my Corporate Residency are valuable to the not-for-profit organizations trying to provide low income housing in Halifax. As a result, I looked for an opportunity to apply my skills and I will now be spending part of my Christmas break helping a not-for-profit group, led by my architecture professor, understand the business implications of a proposed housing project in the city and how affordable, low-income, or co-op housing options could be incorporated into it.
While all of my colleagues are involved outside of the classroom, my classmate Kaleigh MacMaster is particularly noted for giving back to the community. I asked her to share her thoughts on volunteering as an MBA student.
Kaleigh is currently on exchange in Denmark at the Copenhagen Business School, but even from there she has remained involved with a cause she has been part of for years: Movember. The “Movember Foundation challenges men to grow moustaches during Movember (formerly known as November), to spark conversation and raise vital funds for its men’s health programs.”
She began her involvement with the cause during her undergrad at St. Francis Xavier University as a member of the Student Union, where she helped to start their fundraising team. Her interest in Movember is rooted in her belief that “men’s health specifically is not something that is widely talked about, but it needs to be.” To highlight this she told me that “testicular cancer is the most common cancer for men aged 15-29; this is something we should be comfortable talking about in order to create change!”
Kaleigh was also drawn to Movember from a business-oriented perspective – its unique and quirky branding. “I decided to become involved with Movember because their organization interested me from a ‘nerdy’ marketing perspective.” This initial captivation led to her involvement over the past four years, starting with her work with the St. Francis Xavier branch, which transitioned to her co-leading the 2013 fundraising team at Dalhousie, joining the Halifax Movember Committee, and even participating in events held in Denmark during her exchange.
Like me, Kaleigh has found that the people she meets while volunteering her time and skills is one of the great motivators to continue the work. She notes that volunteering can be one of “those experiences beyond the normal curriculum that form your unique perspective and story” and how she has “been inspired by the people I’ve met through the organization and the stories I’ve heard.”
In addition to the volunteering we do as individuals, our class as a whole is active in a number of group initiatives. This semester, my classmates helped sort food donations at Feed Nova Scotia, assisted with a Junior Achievement program by teaching young students about how to succeed in business, and ran the annual Ethics in Action Conference. Kaleigh was thrilled with our Movember efforts as well, as this year our MBA team raised over $1,000, and our joint Faculty of Management team raised over $66,000. Volunteering is something extremely fulfilling and has become a key part of our program’s culture. What would you get involved in?