Learning Business from the Inside Out
Students in Process and Project Management class help local nonprofits improve their operations
To meet its goal of being a no-kill animal shelter, Texas Humane Heroes needs to get as many animals adopted as possible.
With a limited number of staff and volunteers, this means the Leander-based nonprofit organization has to process its adoptions as efficiently as possible.
“The adoption process is central to what we do for saving homeless dogs and cats in our community,” said Ron Marullo, the agency’s executive director. “Improvements to this process will directly help increasing our outcomes and having a positive impact on our community.”
To see if any improvements could be made to its adoption process, Marullo recently turned to students in Alan Crudden’s Process and Project Management class for help. As part of the class, all the students have to complete both a process management consultancy and a project management consultancy.
Accounting major Hope Brown and business major Nick Moore, who are both self-described animal lovers, took on the challenge of helping Texas Humane Heroes. The two specifically looked at the organization’s dog adoption process.
“We wanted to help them streamline the adoption process from the time clients arrive to when they leave with a dog,” Brown said.
Brown and Moore noted that currently, potential dog adopters can find the shelter’s set-up confusing because the dogs are located in a different area from the office, where adoption paperwork needs to be handled.
“People aren’t sure where to go first,” Brown said.
In addition to mapping out the shelter’s existing adoption process, Brown and Moore came up with several ideas that might help, including improved signage and sending follow-up surveys to get client feedback on the adoption process. Another idea is to process the paperwork in the same area as the dogs, much the way the agency handles off-site adoptions.
“It was really interesting to see a business from the inside, not the outside,” said Moore, who would like to open his own small business consulting firm someday.
Brown and Moore plan to keep working with Texas Humane Heroes for their project management consultancy. The two are developing a plan to help the agency get more volunteers on a regular basis.
Other local organizations that students in Crudden’s class have been working with this semester include The Caring Place, the Literacy Council of Williamson County, The Williamson Museum, and the Admissions Office at Southwestern. Over the summer, Crudden worked with Sarah Brackmann, director of civic engagement, to identify local organizations that wanted help. Students chose the agencies they wanted to work with.
Shannon Johnson, a senior biology major, and Cara Heaslip, an exchange student from Northern Ireland, worked with Rita Turner at The Caring Place to identify how that organization could improve its volunteer training process. Johnson, who is interested in project management as a career, said Turner was wonderful to work with and she was lucky to get the experience.
“This class definitely clued me in on how to develop a business-consultancy relationship with a specific goal in mind,” Johnson said. “I also learned to use project management software, which gives me a leg up in the project management world.”
Crudden, who began teaching at Southwestern in 2012 after a 30-year career in industry, said that while doing projects such as these are a stretch for undergraduate students, they also provide valuable learning experiences that can’t be replicated in the classroom.
“Education is a combination of learning and experiences,” he said. “The more experiences you can give students, the more prepared they are.”