Multicultural Consulting Course
     In Partnership with University of Washington Bothell - Business Economic Center
Bellevue College
     
     
   

Winner of the Service-Learning and Civic Engagement Collaboration Award - Business and Industry from the Community College National Center of Community Engagement

A Radical Breakthrough in Business Education

In conjunction with Ethnic Studies, we have developed an integrated course where students can participate in a significant learning experience (Multicultural Entrepreneurship and Consulting ETHN 241) that partners with the University of Washington Bothell - Business Economic Center for the selection of businesses, other educational institutions for curriculum development (UW Foster School and Eastern Washington University), industry for mentorship (the Bellevue Rotary Club and The Boeing Company provide mentors for the student teams), and economic development entities (City of Bellevue, King County, and the Port of Seattle). This course is modeled after the UW Foster School's nationally renown Business and Economic Center (BEDC) in which technical assistance is given to women- and minority-owned businesses and economic development metrics are tracked.

BC students have provided over 10,000 consulting hours with a market value of over $400,000 to businesses and organizations such as Redapt, Asia Pacific Language School, Academic Edge (woman-owned), and the Washington Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. This course won a national award in service learning and was commended by the Washington State Legislature as a contributor to small business development. It was recently included in the Economic Prosperity Partnership as a model program for small businesses.

 The goal of the program is to enrich the learning experience for students by providing real and deep business experience while increasing the survival rates of minority, women-owned, and other underserved businesses.

This course is appropriate for any students who want:

  • A substantial and structured work experience that brings value to a real business
  • A record of accomplishment that can be cited on their application for Business School or resume
  • Direct interaction with industry advisors and other business leaders
  • A chance to make an impact on our state's economic development

Past students have called it one of the best learning experiences. They have cited this experience as key to obtaining internships or jobs.

Advanced Learning

Your student team will be paired with underserved businesses selected by the UW Bothell BEC. The team will also be matched with a volunteer industry advisor who will provide expertise to the team throughout the assignment. Working with small businesses presents opportunity for you to approach a business holistically. You will get to know all facets of the business. Contrary to conventional wisdom, small businesses require a much higher order of problem solving. They canít afford specialists and must accomplish everything at significantly less expense than larger enterprises.  From a learning perspective, complete and deep understanding of a business allows the use of more advanced and recent business theory and practices. This means you'll be working much harder than you will for the typical course. It also means that you will learn more.

The key to business success is the ability to implement change. In order to implement change, you need to understand organizational development, how to commandeer resources, and, most importantly of all, how to work with people. Learning in the classroom doesn't always allow for the complexity of working with people and real business opportunities but this experience does. If you succeed, this will be an accomplishment that can be shown to potential employers. You will also get more knowledge and learn more skills that are directly applicable to getting you a better job. 

The course draws on curriculum developed at the University of Washington Foster School. We continually work with the UW Foster, UW Bothell and EWU to update and revise the curriculum. Our students have been successful in showing that they can produce projects of the same quality as the four-year schools.

Mentorship

A key feature of the teaming experience in this course is that industry advisors will oversee the project. They provide a crucial role to the businesses in that they will follow-up to ensure that the business implements the recommendations. They are matched to businesses based on specific industry expertise. For the business, these advisors provide a high level of technical expertise. Often they can provide linkages to larger enterprises in the area. For example, a mentor may be able to introduce an insurance agency to provide bids for a company such as Starbucks or Nordstrom.

 For the students, mentors raise the stakes on your performance. Your work is scrutinized by someone who could be a potential employer or reference. Mentors give you feedback based on workplace standards. Of course, your industry advisors provide the usual benefits of mentorship. They model professional behavior. They can provide counsel on career choices.

The Multicultural Perspective

Expectations at the outset is that your job is to effect real change. In order to effect change with businesses of a different ethnicity, you have to understand their cultural perspective. In team formation, you will be asked to get to know your team members, your business owners, and advisors, taking into account cultural perspectives. In order to be successful, you have to get your business owners to trust you. After all, you may be recommending radical change for their business. You must form a common language and protocol to communicate. Lack of communication or communication failure will doom the project. This cultural framework is important for you to understand as the shift in markets towards larger minority populations continues. You will be well ahead of the game in understanding how different cultures will play in the new marketplace.

Fostering Leadership

At its heart, this model is about students. You will participate in a learning experience that is complex and real. Research often involves surveys and interviews with people in the industry. Analysis must take in consideration not just the financial aspects, but resources and people as well. Completion of the project is not just about writing a paper, it's about effecting real change in a business and creating economic value for the state.

There is much research to say that key components of this model are part of the best practices in business education. Students work in teams. They create work of value to the community. They donate this work to the community. Their work is given high visibility.

Past students have given a big thumbs-up to the experience. Some remark on the learning experience as being one of their best. Others say that they learned how to manage a project. Many learn skills and knowledge they had not covered before. Some come to the realization that certain aspects of business are not for them. All have significant experiences that they can add to their resumes. Some claim that this experience was key in getting them their first job.