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Chaifetz School Partners With Habitat for Neighborhood Business on Capstone Course for Graduate Students

The Richard A. Chaifetz School of Business continually strives to fulfill its commitment to harnessing the power of business for good. Its partnership with a local St. Louis nonprofit organization, Habitat for Neighborhood Business (HNB), works to help business owners who would otherwise not have access to certain resources and business techniques. 

HNB was founded in 2006 by Saint Louis University alumnus Doug Brown with the goal of assisting businesses that would not otherwise have access to certain resources needed to be economically successful. Today, entrepreneurs and mentors aid local startups through education and mentorship. 

“The goal is to provide services to minority business owners in the underserved areas of the city of St. Louis,” Gladys Smith, Program Director for HNB, explained. Smith recruited entrepreneurs to join HNB to benefit from the program’s mentoring component and business resources, including resources from the Chaifetz School.   

“One of the hallmarks of what we do is provide mentoring to our entrepreneurs so that they get the support and advice of a business mentor,” Smith said.

While the Chaifetz School partners with HNB in several different ways, the embodiment of the partnership is Strategy and Practice, a capstone course within the school’s Professional MBA program. The class is designed as a synthesis of graduate students’ knowledge that they have earned through the program.

Shannon Shaughnessy and Megan Hampson, two graduate students at the Chaifetz School enrolled in this semester's capstone course
Shannon Shaughnessy (left) and Megan Hampson (right), two graduate students at the Chaifetz School, provided business consulting to a local business as part of the school's partnership with Habitat for Neighborhood Business.

Prior to the beginning of the class, students are sent a list of approximately 15 different businesses that are facing a problem. Students are put into teams based on which business they choose and spend the semester working with their newest consulting partners in areas that can be strengthened to promote success. 

Two students enrolled in this semester’s course, Shannon Shaughnessy and Megan Hampson, chose to work with the Institute of Personal and Professional Development, LLC. This local business, founded by LaKetia Carrell, specializes in counseling parents and professionals to help them become the best version of themselves.

“I always wanted to do something that helps kids or people that come from a different background,” Shaughnessy said. “So I was very interested when they said their main goal was counseling parents to become better in their professional and personal lives.” 

Hampson shares a similar sentiment, saying, “I just wanted to make sure we were helping out in every way we could.”

Not only does the course provide motivation for students to give back to the community, it also allows them to take on the role of an independent business consultant.

“It really is the epitome of the mission meets the market in the fact that our soon-to-be MBAs provide meaningful value that is aligned with our mission,” explained Anastasios Kaburakis, co-instructor of Strategy and Practice at the Chaifetz School. 

The Professional MBA program strives to foster students' creativity and critical thinking skills. Students in Strategy and Practice help businesses mostly on their own as instructors take a hands-off approach to support creativity and innovation. 

“It definitely did help us work together and made sure we were being pushed out of our comfort zone,” Shaughnessy said. 

The Strategy and Practice projects work to help businesses learn new ideas and gain access to resources necessary for the business to grow. 

Laketia Carrell’s husband, Lee Carrell, helps her run her business. He agrees that the capstone class is key to the business’s expansion. 

“You realize that you don’t know as much as you thought you knew, and by being in the program, that’s brought out by the knowledge of the instructors and students,” Lee Carrell said.

The course also keeps businesses up to date on the newest marketing techniques, including social media.

“I think one of the reasons why I hit a wall is when I think about social media, it’s overwhelming,” Laketia Carrell said, “But it’s going to be one of the most important things when we don’t have a big marketing budget.”

Both Shaughnessy and Hampson feel as though the course provided them with a unique business education experience that was enhanced by SLU’s Jesuit values integrated within the curriculum. 

“I don't think you would have had the same capstone project where you’re actually interacting with community members at another University,” Hampson said. “Having that Jesuit background, we’re able to help people and that’s something that’s important to me.” 

Kaburakis agrees and believes that MBA students at SLU feel a calling to use their skills for the greater good. 

“There’s a certain DNA, a certain calling for SLU MBA,” he reflects. 

Learn More About Graduate Business Programs at SLU

about the richard a. chaifetz school of business

Founded in 1910, the Richard A. Chaifetz School of Business at Saint Louis University has shaped the future of industry for more than a century as one of the oldest business schools west of the Mississippi. Today, SLU's business school continues to build on its reputation as a leader in business education through its commitment to inclusion, innovation and impact. The Chaifetz School’s undergraduate and graduate programs have been nationally recognized by U.S. News & World Report, Poets&Quants and The Princeton Review.