Winston-Salem State University MBA students are gaining hands-on experience while making an impact in the community through a newly redesigned course that pairs students with community organizations.

“We were able to do something to bring this community together,” said Gwendy Carter, a first-year student in the Master of Business Administration program.

Carter teamed up with a co-worker at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, Dedra Gaines, and Harvey Manley, who works in manufacturing at ConvaTec, to develop a business plan for a proposed heritage center in Winston-Salem’s Happy Hill neighborhood. At the beginning of the Marketing Management class, organizations affiliated with the S.G. Atkins Community Development Corp.’s Enterprise Center made presentations to students who then selected an organization and were tasked during the semester with creating either a business plan or marketing plan.

Gaines said her team chose the Happy Hill project first because “it was so different from healthcare.”

“We were drawn to this project from the beginning,” she said. “As we worked all the way through, it got more exciting.”

The presentation was titled “Lifting the Happy Hill Neighborhood Story Out of Obscurity” and garnered the highest score from a team of judge.

“We just wanted to represent the project,” Gaines said. “It just all came together for the final presentation.”

The heritage center is the dream of Cheryl Harry, founder and chief executive of Triad Cultural Arts.

“It was a pleasure to work with these three talented individuals,” she said. “They all brought their expertise to the table and freely shared and exchanged information to ensure that the project was a success. They were dedicated and bought into the vision.”

Harry says the work the students provided will be invaluable to the project.

“The strength of the plan helped us to clarify and make realistic goals and projections,” she said. “We will have a better chance of attracting funders to provide the much-needed capital for this project.”

The ultimate goal is to preserve an important part of African American history in the South by relocating one of the last shotgun houses and rebuilding another, thus creating a cultural heritage museum that will anchor a redevelopment of Happy Hill, which is noted for being the oldest African American neighborhood in Winston-Salem. Shotgun houses date back to the early part of the twentieth century and are identifiable by their narrow rectangular form believed to have had its roots in West Africa. Gaines said her team studied museum, researched shotgun houses and tourism in the Triad, and talked with city leaders.

“It was a win-win for our students and for these precious partners who have a chance to improve the lives of people in the community,” said Dr. Notis A. Pagiavlas, associate dean and senior professor of marketing at WSSU.

Each project received $1,000 to help with start-up operational costs, courtesy of the BB&T and DataMax foundations. Other student teams focused on:

  • Stroke prevention education for youth
  • Senior housing by the Ujima Community Development Corp.
  • Camel City Crossfit Gym expansion

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