Organization Design Strategies: A Look at the Global One Health Initiative GAP Project in Ethiopia and Kenya

Rolling out of bed after finals week at the end of our second semester in the MBA program, it was both exciting and nerve-racking to be packing for a three-week trip for Ethiopia and Kenya. After making it through final group projects and coursework, I kept wondering if I was truly prepared for our in-country portion of the GAP global consulting project. On May 4, 2018, most of the members of my GAP team met at the Columbus airport for our journey to Addis Ababa. We were headed to our client’s regional office that was recently opened at the end of 2017. Our client, GOHi, is an NGO based at The Ohio State University focused on education, research, training and outreach programs to build capacity toward a global One Health approach.

My amazing GAP team!

Before leaving for Ethiopia, our team of seven MBA students met with GOHi several times to work through project objectives and develop a plan of action during the in-country experience. We were working toward developing recommendations for their organization structure and a list of potential partners for GOHi to establish a sustainable presence in the region. The months leading up to the trip, we identified organizations with similar missions to connect with in-country and learn more about their strategy and operations on the ground. We prepared interview guides, developed spreadsheets, laughed late into the evenings in Gerlach Hall, made nicknames for ourselves and bonded over Graeter’s Ice Cream.

After all this time, May 4th finally came around, and we embarked on our journey. Our team spent the first week in Addis Ababa getting to know the GOHi team and beginning our interviews with similar organizations working in the region. We were able to walk to the office every morning from the hotel where we stayed, passing by the ongoing building construction and liveliness of the capital city. The GOHi staff was extremely welcoming and supportive, inviting us to learn about their daily activities, taking us to a traditional Ethiopian lunch and dinner where we tasted our first authentic injera and later experienced the traditional dance of eskista, and allowing us to observe project sites and learn more about the on-the-ground project work taking place.

We met with organizations like Amref Health Africa, PSI Ethiopia and the Ethiopian branch of the CDC. We learned about the importance of maintaining relationships with government entities to gain support for organization success, we identified potential partnership opportunities and recommendations for increased visibility and flexibility in organization structure. 

Meeting with GOHi team and PSI Ethiopia

After our week in Addis Ababa, we traveled to Kenya to further our research with organizations based in Nairobi. There, we met with and learned from organizations like the International Livestock Research Institute, World Animal Protection and the University of Nairobi. Although most of our time was spent in meetings, we had time for a quick weekend safari to Maasai Mara as well!

After a week in Nairobi, we flew back to Addis to bring together our final report and presentation to the GOHi team. Throughout the entire project, we had established a strong group dynamic that enabled a strong final product for the client, one that they are still using today! Although a short trip, I found this to be an amazing experience, full of learning, the chance to build new relationships and the opportunity to consult for an organization working toward an important mission.

Beautiful sunrise on our last day in Addis!

A huge shout out here to my amazing Fisher MBA GAP team: Aziza Allen, Ariel Cooper, John Cox, Kaitlyn Kendall-Sperry and Obi Nnebedum

And to the GOHi staff and leadership team: Wondwossen Gebreyes, Emia Oppenheim, Ashley Bersani, Getnet Yimer, Kassahun Asmare, Tigist Endashaw, Tewodros Abebe and Joshua Amimo

MAcc Gives Back… and I Get a Workout

One of my favorite experiences this past year has been volunteering in MAcc Gives Back. This event occurs every spring and is open for participation by all MAcc students and professors. The goal is to “give back” to the local community of Columbus.  This year, different groups went to different locations. My group volunteered at Clarfield Farm. This is a local farm that produces healthy produce for the Ohio community, and works closely with the Mid-Ohio Foodbank.

Once we arrived at the farm, we received a brief tour of the facility and greenhouses to see current growing plants. There were different duties to fulfill such as: filling the irrigation system over with dirt, shoveling gravel to cover a certain area of the ground, and helping move supplies to lay tarp on the ground and reorganizing the supplies.

I personally worked with two classmates, Courtney and Matt. Courtney and I shoveled the gravel into wheelbarrows, while Matt unloaded the wheelbarrows and spread the gravel evenly around the area needed. This activity was a great way to bond with fellow classmates while volunteering in addition to getting a major “arm workout.”

Matt carrying the gravel to be distributed on the ground
Courtney and I in “mid- shovel”

Overall, this was a great experience. One reason is that I learned more about my classmates outside of class and enjoy some fresh air with them. In addition, after the volunteering, a former professor who worked with us, Brian Mittendorf, took all of us out for lunch. There are enormous opportunities at the Fisher College of Business to connect with classmates and professors. I highly recommend all incoming students to get involved in as much as possible.

MAcc Gives Back

One of the difficult parts of being in such a short program is that by the time you start to get to know the city, you’re almost done. This can sometimes make it hard for students to participate in community service. On the one hand, you have a whole year to volunteer. But on the other hand, it can be intimidating to finding a good cause immediately after moving to a new place.

 

Future horticulturalists at Franklin Park Conservatory
Cleaning up a new Boys and Girls Club site

One of the MAcc Council’s solutions is “MAcc Gives Back.” Similar to Fisher Impact Day in the fall, MAcc Gives Back is an annual day of service to spend a morning giving back to the Columbus community in the spring. This year, we had the opportunity to volunteer at five different sites across the city. Focusing on issues that ranged from food insecurity to youth programs, MAcc students, faculty, and representatives from Crowe Horwath and Deloitte all had a great time serving.

Hanging out at the food bank with a recent alum
Farming in the city

As Vice President of Community Service for the MAcc Council, I also got to plan and coordinate this event. For any prospective students interested in nonprofit work or even just continuing their service projects from undergrad, this is a great opportunity. This position allows you to plan MAcc Gives Back, VITA, and any other service projects you can fit into the year. I would definitely recommend this position to anyone wanting to engage with the broader community around Fisher.

Our photo shoot at Dress for Success

Becoming a Volunteer Income Tax Assistant

Each year, the Master of Accounting Program organizes the Volunteer Income Assistant (VITA) program to help local individuals file their Federal and state income taxes. We, as volunteers, go to a site twice a week to help individuals who have made appointments.

Most of the tax preparers are either enrolled in the MAcc program or undergraduate accounting students. In order to be certified to help file taxes, we need to pass at least four different exams.

The VITA program not only helps the public to file their taxes for free but also helps our students to apply  in-class knowledge to the real world. It prepares our MAcc students to be more comfortable communicating with the clients and to improve various “soft skills” which are necessary when we start our professional job.

It is definitely rewarding to see what you prepared then get approved– and, in some cases, result in tax refunds deposited to the clients’ accounts. It was a little more difficult when clients would have tax due, meaning that they didn’t have enough tax withheld during the year and they needed to pay the IRS out of pocket. We needED to be very careful about how to deliver the message.

Besides the VITA program, the MAcc Council also organizes other community service events to do our best helping the local organizations and to take part in fun activitiesin and around Columbus.

After Submitting the Deposit, What’s Next?

Happy late Valentine’s Day & Happy Lunar New Year!

This is the time of year when many incoming MAcc students have received their acceptance letters and paid the deposit to the MAcc program— and are now wondering what should be done next.

My suggestion is to focus first on finding housing: a good apartment and roommates, if applicable. The good news is that Columbus and surrounding cities have a lot of housing options– and many options are low cost.

After you’ve paid your deposit, you’ll soon receive emails regarding housing information. You may choose either on-campus housing or off-campus housing. OSU’s on-campus housing options are all fully furnished, but limited in availability. Therefore, apply as early as possible if you’re interested.

The price range of an off-campus one-bedroom apartment varies, but I think it’s about from $650-$850, depending on the location of the apartment, whether or not it is fully furnished, and the surrounding community. OSU has put together a very helpful webpage with a list of off-campus options.

Along with the housing email, you should expect to receive several other emails regarding how to purchase Buckeye football tickets (a must-do activity at least one time while you’re here), class registration, and orientation details. You’ll be kept in the loop all spring and summer so that you can start on a high note when you begin the program.

For now, relax and take pride in your admission. See you in the fall!

 

Experiential Learning in the Community

One of the main reasons I decided to pursue the full-time MBA at Fisher was because of the many experiential learning opportunities offered, especially the GAP international consulting experience. However, little did I know that other opportunities would present themselves even within our first semester here!

One afternoon, while exploring the events on our Event Hub webpage, I stumbled across an information session to get involved with “Fisher Serves” and engage in a consulting project for a local non-profit. Fisher Serves is a student-run organization committed to promoting awareness and connecting Fisher students to service-based opportunities in the community. The information session I signed up for was about working  on a consulting project for the Columbus Museum of Art.

After attending the session, I realized what an opportunity this would be to not only get more involved in my new community and engage in the art scene of the city, but also build relationships with students outside of my core team and apply some of the key concepts we’ve been learning in class.

http://www.columbusmuseum.org/host-your-event/plan-your-event/

After a group meeting and tour of the museum with museum staff, we’re working in two teams to help improve museum event revenues and the café experience. It’s been a great opportunity working with the Fisher Serves team and we’re excited to build out strategies for the museum moving forward. Hopefully, you will see some of our new ideas come to fruition at the museum next year!

MAcc Gives Back!

This past Friday many of the MAcc students joined together to donate their time to various local charitable organizations. The day started, as most days should, with coffee and bagels with the class. After breakfast had finished, each of the groups dispatched to their respective service locations. Some of the locations that were available to volunteer at were: The Boys and Girls Club, The Capital Area Humane Society, Franklin Park Conservatory, the Columbus Rabbit House, and several other locations.

My group, which consisted of students, working professionals from Columbus, and two Ohio State faculty members, were assigned to COSI, which is a science museum and research center located in downtown Columbus. Unfortunately, we were not there to explore the museum and see what research is being done (which is must-do if you end up coming to Ohio State.). Our group’s task was to help the landscaping team finish mulching different flower and tree beds that surround the property. For the two hours we were at COSI, we were able to mulch several beds, which was able to save the landscaping team at least a full day of work!

After we finished at COSI, all of the groups met back at the Varsity Club, which is a staple restaurant across the street from the Fisher College of Business. Everyone had lunch together, discussed their volunteer project, and caught up.

Overall, through MAcc gives back, our class was able to donate over 100 service hours to the community of Columbus. Aside from donating time, it was also a terrific opportunity to interact with your fellow classmates, Fisher Faculty, and working professionals.

MAcc Gives Back

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Every year, the students in the MAcc program participate in something called “MAcc Gives Back.” This event takes place on a Friday in the spring when MAcc students don’t have class. This year, students were split into 8 groups, and each group was assigned a specific volunteer site to perform volunteer work at for the afternoon. In addition to students from the MAcc program, various faculty and staff in Fisher performed volunteer work with us. Each group also had one or two professional members from accounting firms in Columbus assist with volunteering. All the volunteers met at Fisher prior to volunteering to eat breakfast and socialize and then everyone went their separate ways to their specific volunteer sites.

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My group went to COSI, the science museum in downtown Columbus. Our group helped the grounds crew at the museum by mulching several locations in front of the building. Although it was only about 40 degrees and windy, I still had a blast spending time with the other people at my volunteer site. I thought it was really great that Professor Arya, the director of the MAcc program, and Rebecca Zurek, one of the admission directors for the MAcc program, volunteered at COSI with us. We also had two accounting professionals in our group so it was nice getting to chat with them about their careers. I think MAcc Gives Back is a great example of the rewarding and fun opportunities in which students in the MAcc Program are able to participate.

VITA

Something I really enjoyed this year was volunteering for the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. This program exists in cities throughout the country, and this was my first time ever volunteering with this program. We had the opportunity to file federal and state tax returns for local residents in the Columbus area so they were able to receive the maximum amount of their refunds at no cost. About 60 students volunteered, many of which were fellow MAcc students. The rest were undergraduate students at the Fisher College of Business. Therefore, this was a great opportunity to meet more students at Ohio State as well as get to know other students in my MAcc class better.

Some of the VITA volunteers
Some of the VITA volunteers

Since I will be starting a career in tax after graduation, I was given the opportunity to be a VITA site manager. This was a great leadership opportunity and was very educational for me because I was able to help others work through issues they came across while preparing tax returns. It was rewarding getting to actually interact with the people we were helping and know that we were saving local Columbus residents a great deal of money by preparing their tax returns for free. It was also satisfying to see that we obtained thousands of dollars in refunds for residents each volunteer session. I would highly recommend that future MAcc students (or undergraduate students), whether they plan to work in tax or not, volunteer for the VITA program!

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FETCH!

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LzuAreC4d0I&feature=youtu.be

One great thing about being in the MAcc program is that we have so many amazing opportunities to do community service and help others using our own knowledge. One community service event we do every year is helping young students learn more about how to manage their budgets. It is called FETCH!

FETCH! stands for Financial Education Teaches Children Healthy Habits. It is offered through The Ohio Society of Certified Public Accountants. It is a fun, interactive board game that teaches children in 5th and 6th grade about the importance of budgeting, saving and spending. I am very lucky to take part in the program this year.

We went to an elementary school near German Village. Students were very excited about the game and were very energetic. We spent some time to explain the rules and then the game started! We let them make their own decisions on how to spend their money first, and then we had little discussions. Volunteers, like me, led the discussions and helped students come up with strategies on how to avoid the future risk. It was so much fun teaching them how to make investments but at the same time save them some money in case of an emergency. I really enjoyed taking a break from all the group assignments and midterms. I love talking to them about what accountants do and who they are. It was a great experience!

Students are trying to make decisions on how to spend their money.
Students are trying to make decisions on how to spend their money.

 

Stephanie Lewis, MAcc Tax Professor, is leading a discussion.
Stephanie Lewis, MAcc Tax Professor, is leading a discussion.

 

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The winning team and the volunteers!