St. Thomas is in the earliest stage of a new partnership with Operation HOPE, a nonprofit organization seeking to increase financial literacy among the underprivileged.
Bill Woodson, assistant dean of MBA Programs, said the opportunity presented itself because John Hope Bryant, the founder of Operation HOPE, was a presenter in the community series at the College of Business about a year ago.
“He came away with a strong sense of who St. Thomas was in the community; as a strong and engaged partner for providing value and support to the communities we are a part of, both in Minneapolis and St. Paul,” Woodson said.
When Bryant decided to consider the Twin Cities as a future location for Operation HOPE, he immediately thought of St. Thomas, according to Woodson.
“He reached out to us to find out how he could best access our students that might have an interest in an internship or meaningful (community) work experience,” Woodson said. “I said, ‘We would love to partner with you.’”
The specific program being launched in the Twin Cities is called HOPE FILE, or Fellows, Interns and Loaned Executives Program. Student leaders dedicated to economic and social justice will have the opportunity to apply to be an Operation HOPE fellow or intern and serve the local community.
Elaine Fischer is global director of the HOPE Corps, the international volunteer division of Operation HOPE. She said that a passion for economic justice throughout the world is essential to getting involved in this program.
“We’re looking for kids who want to work and make the world a better place,” Fischer said.
Dan Jackson, a graduate student in the MBA program, said that the mission of Operation HOPE fits in well with his goals and interests.
“My belief is that development enhances economic growth not only by providing places to live but by providing opportunities for individuals to establish businesses,” Jackson said.
Jackson also likes the fact that Operation HOPE is bringing its mission close to home.
“I have always been interested in giving back and helping the community in which I grew up,” he said.
Becoming a HOPE fellow is a different experience than most other fellowships, Fischer said.
“They are going to be the CEOs of that market,” she said. “They will build on their resume something that is going to make them attractive for their career path.”
Fischer said other colleges, like Dartmouth College and Duke University, have already gotten involved with the initiative.
“What we envision in Minneapolis is that it would be a team of St. Thomas undergraduates and graduates running an entire program for us in that market,” she said.“(The fact) that you are community-outreach driven is really important for us. I think it was just a really good match.”
Woodson thinks this is a fantastic opportunity for St. Thomas to be seen in a new light.
“I think that we have a great track record and a great heart for serving our community,” Woodson said. “I don’t think that’s as well understand or a part of our branding outside of our community.”
Because the program is still so young, few students know about it or are involved yet, but Woodson is hopeful.
“It’s going to be fantastic if we get those students stepping up to be a part of it,” he said.
Baihly Warfield can be reached at email@example.com.