Despite the pandemic, Ilitch School students persevere to set up project aiding one of Detroit’s best known nonprofits

Five global supply chain management students from the Mike Ilitch School of Business planned a way to make a real impact in their community last semester and refused to let the COVID-19 pandemic stand in the way of making it happen.

The five students—Soros Ashley, Scott Fraser, Sultan Hussein, Danielle Metivier and Jonathan Rozanski—jumped at the chance to use what they learned in the classroom to help Habitat for Humanity Detroit, a nonprofit organization that has helped nearly 400 families from substandard living conditions to more stable home environments. The team crafted a strategic plan to create a safe, clean and efficient workplace as part of a directed study, which was supervised by Hakan Yildiz, associate professor of global supply chain management, and Lori Sisk, lecturer of global supply chain management at the Ilitch School.

“Donating your time is very valuable, but it’s especially rewarding to help an organization using your professional and intellectual capabilities,” says Yildiz. “It’s a good experience regardless of which organization it’s for, but the nonprofit gives them a little more satisfaction.”

The students were taught the 5S Methodology in class (which stands for “sort, set in order, shine, standardize and sustain”) and used it to create better functioning spaces and processes for the nonprofit that’s been operating since 1986.

The students divided their attention among two separate issues: creating new systems for organizing donations and tools as well as helping the nonprofit reassess its existing equipment as they shift their focus from building new houses to renovating existing homes.

Sisk says the university’s proximity to so many organizations, both businesses and nonprofits, allows students at the Ilitch School to find many opportunities and experiences they might otherwise miss out on.

“I think we have the benefit of being where we are—in downtown Detroit,” Sisk says. “Students can take advantage of going to school and getting that experience in internships and co-ops at the same time.”

The relationship between the university’s students and local organizations is often symbiotic, says Yildiz.

“The benefit is that students learn all these methodologies and concepts in the classroom, and of course within these courses we give them real-life examples, case studies, and guest speakers—but still, that has some limitations,” Yildiz says. “These directed studies are a way for them to have to figure things out on their own and it allows them to synthesize what they've learned throughout these years.”

“It really just solidifies and brings to life what they learn in the classroom—plus, getting that hands-on experience is invaluable,” Sisk adds.

At the same time, the organizations benefit from the work of Ilitch School students, whether as a team on a directed study project or as individuals at internships.

“Multiple people from Habitat for Humanity Detroit said how pleased they were and how much the students had exceeded their expectations,” Yildiz says.

The COVID-19 pandemic made it impossible to fully implement the students' plans, but it didn’t stop them from making sure it happens in the future. The team crafted an extensive set of step-by-step instructions, layouts, maps and templates so when classes resume, a new group of students can take over.

“Although the project was cut short, they never really stopped,” Yildiz says.




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