Heather Rae Martin, (MBA ‘13), figured she would use reasoning and other analytical tools during her first few weeks at the Tepper School of Business. But a different kind of tool -- a drill -- also came in handy.
In the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Lawrenceville on August 17, she drilled four-by-four pieces of lumber as she and her classmates constructed planters to spruce up a city street. Martin, 26, was happy to help beautify the neighborhood for Community Day, one of the high points of the Tepper School BaseCamp program, an orientation for new students.
“I think this does show that Tepper School cares,” she said. “It’s not just about getting an MBA and career. It’s also about giving back.”
Martin, formerly an analytical chemist for Monsanto in St. Louis, used to tutor at an urban elementary school after work. “I thought it was as important as my day job,” said the native of Camden, N.J.
Returning student Stephanie Shapiro, (MBA ‘12), is also dedicated to serving the community. She organized teams of incoming students who spread out at eight different posts.
Pittsburgh Cares, a nonprofit that pairs volunteers with opportunities in the community, helped Shapiro organize groups of students to pull weeds, tend trees, clean up graffiti and other tasks.
As the students worked, residents showed their appreciation. “We were right there on Butler Street,” Shapiro said. “Cars honked at us, and people gave us a thumbs up.”
Shapiro said holding Community Day during Base Camp sets an altruistic tone for the rest of the year: “When I send emails during the fall asking people to volunteer, it will be much easier to get people to sign up now. If we do three more volunteer events this year, I will be really happy.”
Alcoa Inc. of Pittsburgh was a sponsor of the event, providing transportation and refreshments.
Adam DiNardo, (MBA ‘09), a project manager at Alcoa, said the company has a strong history of employee community service. He participated in a recent volunteer day at an elementary school in the Bronx in New York City and found himself working alongside Charles McLane, Alcoa’s chief financial officer.
“I thought, ‘Wow, if the CFO of a Fortune 500 company has enough time in his day to give back to the community, I should be able to do the same or more,’” DiNardo said. “Always remember that perspective when you get into your career. Set time aside to give back to your community.”
Eduardo Winck, (MBA ‘13), a 32-year-old from Porto Alegre, Brazil, agreed. He spent the day with his classmates beautifying the trail and boat launch under the 40th Street Bridge. Winck, formerly an IT project manager, painted over the graffiti covering the columns.
As students sweated together, they learned the names of their new classmates and swapped stories of volunteer work they had done in their former careers. Winck told of how in Brazil, he had worked on a project in which memorabilia signed by Brazilian soccer great Dunga was raffled off. The proceeds were used to buy a sewing machine for an impoverished community, enabling residents to make and sell things to become more self-reliant.
“Everyone had a story of community service,” Winck said. “A business cannot be an isolated entity. You have to connect business with a community.”
Justin Borntraeger, (MBA ‘13), a former management consultant from Montreal, and his classmates cleared out weeds and tended trees. He took shifts with the broom and trowel.
“We had a good division of labor. We had the garbage person. We had the weeds person. We had the sweeper. The mulcher. We organized it. That’s how Tepper does cleaning trees,” he said with a grin.
“It was good visibility of Tepper students giving back. And it was a lot of fun.”
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