Tom Gattiker, professor of supply chain management provided a unique, global perspective to his students this past fall semester through an experiential learning project with Happy Family, an organic baby food company. Happy Family is guided by the values of innovation, social and environmental responsibility, with a mission to change the trajectory of children’s health through nutrition. Gattiker responded to a request by Happy Family to assess the environmental and social sustainability of their supply chain. Gattiker scoped the project and integrated it into a small independent studies course as a service-learning project.
“It has been a phenomenal experience for the students,” Gattiker said. “The students learned that defining what is sustainable and not sustainable and then figuring out how to measure it is a challenging task. The team exceeded my expectations, and the company is really pleased.”
The students identified and prioritized factors that make supply chains more sustainable than others–factors ranging from mono-cropping and workers rights. They then assessed a variety of countries and ingredients on these dimensions. They presented their results to the company in January 2018. The students on the team were Alexa (Bell) Tippets, Logan Parker, Adebola Aderogba and Jack Shull. Faculty members Matt Castel, Phil Fry and Brian Greber provided essential expertise.
Gattiker stretched the traditional concept service-learning when he partnered with a for-profit company, rather than with a nonprofit organization. The Service-Learning Program embraced the project because it met the service-learning criteria of addressing a community issue, involving students with an organization with a strong social mission, and taking on a project that promotes the public good. Gattiker’s project provides a new model for integrating service-learning into business courses. Service-Learning with for-profit companies taps current students’ interest in social entrepreneurship, addresses a community issue, and provides students with a service-learning transcript distinction.