Students Enjoy Experiential Learning in Organizational Development Course
During the Spring 2021 semester, Dr. Shalay Jackson, an assistant teaching professor with the FSU College of Social Work, taught a Master’s-level course on Organizational Development. The course featured curricular content on corporate social responsibility with an emphasis on the collaboration among social workers and business professionals to create social change. The increase in socially conscious consumers creates the perfect marriage between business professionals and social workers with regard to developing sustainable corporate social responsibility initiatives. Social workers must collaborate with other disciplines to foster societal change, and this partnership represents an opportunity to stay true to our professional values while helping businesses impact society in ways that align with their consumers’ values.
The course offered experiential learning thanks to a collaboration with CapSource, an organization that connects educational programs and their students with companies to integrate real-world projects directly into curriculum. The experience represents a chance for social work students to develop skills and gain a better understanding of the opportunities and challenges that exist within real organizations as they approach building and scaling their corporate social responsibility initiatives.
“Social work students are committed to social justice and seek out ways to positively impact agencies, communities and society,” explained Dr. Shalay Jackson. “Social work students, particularly students in the Master of Social Work (MSW) Program with a concentration in social leadership and interest in macro practice, frequently pursue careers that promote broad change in both the nonprofit and for-profit sectors. Careers in community organizing and development, fundraising, advocacy and policy analysis offer a wide variety of arenas to promote positive social change.”
The emphasis on experiential learning offers a prime opportunity to expose social work students to real-world challenges as they work in teams and network with industry leaders. This type of learning takes students beyond the context of the classroom, allowing them to apply theory by addressing real-life challenges that they will experience first in their field placements and later in their careers.
The experiential learning approach allows industries and corporations to work directly with social work students to gain a better understanding of the variety of ways in which our profession can add value to their organization.
Working directly with the founder of CapSource, Jordan Levy, Dr. Jackson was able to connect students with industry partners that are actively engaged in corporate social responsibility, seeking to alleviate social problems and who are directly promoting community well-being.
For example, one of the course’s corporate partners included Eternal Fleur, a woman-owned business with a dedication to valuing “women from soil to CEO.” The company’s mission is to create an eco-friendly floral arrangement that can be preserved to last more than a year without water or light. Students working with this corporate partner created infographics on the impact of the cut flower industry and proposed a corporate social responsibility plan focused on:
- supporting women’s issues including support of human trafficking and women’s empowerment organizations, and
- supporting water conservation through highlighting Eternal Fleur’s water-saving efforts, donations to nature conservation organizations, and challenging the company to go plastic-free.
“Working in collaboration with a retail-focused business from a social work perspective was truly a unique experience,” said Sophia Valente, an MSW student that worked with Eternal Fleur. “We were able to learn a tremendous amount of information about the cut-flower industry that related to our values as social workers in such a short amount of time. We were also able to incorporate positive changes within a workplace, which benefits not only the company and its profits but their employees and the environment.”
Another corporate partner engaged by Dr. Jackson and the MSW program was Knock Knock Give a Sock, a company dedicated to humanizing homelessness by connecting local homeless shelters and communities together to address the needs of the people experiencing homelessness in their area. Students collaborating with this company developed:
- materials to educate parents and guardians about homelessness, and
- an interactive social media awareness campaign on Facebook and Instagram to educate and address issues related to homelessness.
“The most rewarding aspect of this experience was utilizing constructive feedback to produce a successful final awareness campaign,” reflected Tabisha Raymond, an MSW student working with Knock Knock Give a Sock.
The students were able to gain an understanding of how research and the social work perspective can be a positive influence on corporate decision-making and further promote a company’s commitment to social good.