community outreach - The University of Tulsa

community outreach

New community service organization at TU

The value of volunteers to community well-being is indisputable. But what happens when such work is done? And, more importantly, how can a service organization not only aid with problems but solve them as well?

University of Tulsa Student Association (SA) president and energy management major Kareem Ihmeidan wants to find a solution to these questions. After having spent considerable time in the neighborhoods surrounding TU, Ihmeidan decided it was time for SA and the campus as a whole to extend their resources to less privileged communities. Ihmeidan and his fellow TU students Chris Paul and Joshua Stewart therefore recently teamed up with True Blue Neighbors to establish Force for Good, a student-led initiative that emphasizes the personal role of volunteers in community outreach.

This new organization is centered on the deep involvement of TU students in the public sphere beyond the university. The goal is to establish a university-wide, community-facing, non-partisan organization that is embedded within the Tulsa community. In doing so, Ihmeidan hopes Force for Good will provide a volunteer-to-advocate pipeline for students who have a passion for community involvement. The group’s advocacy dimension will allow for volunteers to sit in on the committees of city boards and commissions and, thereby, get involved with community leaders. “Participating in Force for Good could, I hope, potentially lead to a student discovering a lifelong passion for civic engagement and, perhaps, even a career path,” said Ihmeidan.

Melissa Abdo, the director of True Blue Neighbors, is eager for the initiative to take off. “Force for Good is not just an outreach program, it’s a problem-solving program,” she remarked. “I believe it’s going to have long-lasting results.”

These outcomes are exactly what Ihmeidan hopes to establish before he graduates: “I want to leave something behind, something that can flourish and expand into greatness.”

Opportunities to get involved

One of Force for Good’s first initiatives is an afternoon tutoring program with Will Rogers High School, through which TU students can volunteer their services one afternoon a week. After speaking to the Will Rogers principal, the group has started to establish a team of tutors.

TU students can also join the leadership team or its Reshape Tulsa Initiative, which offers the chance to serve on City of Tulsa boards and commissions. Ihmeidan and his colleagues are likewise seeking students to join its community organizing team, which will give members the opportunity to volunteer with community organizations and develop their community organizing skills.

For Ihmeidan and Stewart, one of Force for Good’s defining moments was a meeting last summer with prominent community leader and 2020 mayoral candidate Greg Robinson. One of the main take-aways from their conversation was Robinson’s advice to “ask the people what they need, and don’t try to decide it for them.”

Drawing inspiration from that counsel, in spring 2022, Force for Good plans to host a “listening day tour,” which will be a day of service dedicated to listening to the concerns of Tulsa residents. Participants will canvas door to door in various neighborhoods to inquire about the problems that community members feel need addressing, such as unequal access to housing and education.

Are you passionate about community service? Then sign up today with Force for Good. The volunteer application can be found through both the True Blue Neighbors and Force For Good websites. As a further incentive to get involved, any volunteer opportunity offered through the group will count as credit hours through True Blue Neighbors’ Public Service Internship.

Business students team up with local firms and nonprofit organizations

Students in The University of Tulsa’s Collins College of Business regularly share their expertise with companies and nonprofits in Tulsa and surrounding communities. These projects not only give the students real-world experience, they also help local businesses and nonprofits find creative solutions to expand their brands and better reach consumers.

Professor Charles Wood wearing a green shirt and smiling
Professor Charles Wood

Professor of Marketing Charles Wood believes that hands-on experience is a valuable tool for learning about the world of marketing. “The purpose of all of these collaboration projects is for students to apply concepts they learn in class to real-world settings,” Wood said. “For an applied discipline such as marketing, real learning occurs best when students are required to synthesize and experientially use theories and concepts in new contexts.”

Dee Harris of Tulsa’s Family and Children Service Center worked with TU business students in both the spring and summer semesters. “Professor Wood’s classes are the perfect example of balancing student learning with community need,” she said. “I’m thrilled to be a partner in real-world learning as it invigorates students and provides nonprofits with a new perspective about our marketing and communication plans. I always look forward to collaborating with students and enjoy watching them discover, create and solve.”

Integrated Marketing Communication

A potent example of this university-and-community engagement arose in the spring 2020 Integrated Marketing Communication course. In this course, undergraduate students formed teams and worked with seven local nonprofit and for-profit organizations. At the beginning of the project, representatives of the organizations came to campus multiple times to check-in with the students’ progress and provide assistance where needed. Then, once the COVID-19 pandemic altered the semester plans, the meetings between student groups and their organizations continued, albeit online.

Despite the unexpected transition to online classes, the students and their companies maintained a close working relationship that promoted growth for both parties. The student teams developed and managed a full Google AdWords campaign to help their clients achieve their goals. A local social media expert, Joe Hart, came to these sessions and supported the teams throughout the semester.

Consumer Behavior

During the summer, community engagement continued, but this time with graduate students. A consultancy brief project in the master of business administration (MBA) Consumer Behavior course paired small groups of students with 10 local companies including Scoops Rolls and Creamery, Runners World and Marshall Brewing. Each group of students listened to their partner-firm’s concerns and developed personalized plans to meet their needs.

For the summer course, Wood explained, “the only selection criteria provided was that the business be locally owned. Students were encouraged to choose their own clients based on what they believed was the organization’s potential and clear need for some advice and assistance, meet with the owners and then proceed from there.”

All the groups delivered potential aids to the companies, including ideas about better use of social media, customer loyalty programs, community engagement, retail layout improvements, partnerships, branding and promotions.

Danny Donley smiling and wearing a blue polo shirt
Danny Donley, MBA student

One student in the MBA course, Danny Donley, said of the summer experience: “The chance to work hands-on with a real company in our community that is struggling a little extra because of the COVID-19 pandemic was a tremendous experience. My team worked with a small massage therapy company and helped use our knowledge and research to immediately revitalize the company’s marketing strategy and reach. We had the opportunity to put creative ideas into action to test our own skills while benefiting a local firm, which is rewarding in two ways.”

A business degree from TU will bring you in contact with faculty members at the forefront of their fields who are excellent teachers as well as scholars. Learn about this vibrant, welcoming community.