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Neighborhood Prosperity Initiative (NPI)
NPI at Two Years ... Reflecting Back
Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014
NPI at 2 years… reflecting back
It’s now been two years since the first group of students signed up for ELSJ 197, a pilot course in which they would help to develop a new program designed to give LSB students an opportunity to use their business skills to contribute to neighborhood prosperity in San Jose. We call this group the Founding Associates, NPI 1.0. As I look back over this time, I see that we have been improvising all along the way—building on each others’ ideas, trying things, learning from our experiences, meeting inspiring people and forming this entity we call the Neighborhood Prosperity Initiative.
I am proud of the willingness of the students who have been brave enough to enter into classes and experiences which they have known, up front, would be somewhat organic and evolving….they have hung in there as plans had to be changed, or timelines adjusted in order to work with organizations and projects that do not operate on an academic calendar. Building mutually beneficial and respectful partnerships between the university and “the community” is time-consuming, painstaking and sometimes messy business. But we are making progress in defining what an effective, sustainable program looks like.
Our NPI Fellows program is now in its second year and we currently have five Fellows who are doing 6 month internships in local non-profit organizations. Our website and Facebook pages are kept fresh with the activities and perspectives of students involved in a class and in other NPI projects (check it out…http://scu.edu/business/npi/blog.cfm). The current class of 15 students (BUSN 198) is about to embark on a project helping small businesses with Wells Fargo Bank. And we continue to learn from our relationship with Yolanda Arteaga as students provide ideas and assistance to help her market and catering business prosper.
As the faculty director of this effort I am most heartened by the student learning I see taking place about everything from dealing with unstructured situations and taking an asset-based approach to looking at low income communities, to a broader awareness of the many ways they will be able to use their SCU education over a lifetime to carry out their commitments to social justice.
The development of NPI has been a labor of love for all involved because we believe that we can find that “sweet spot” that takes best advantage of what undergraduate business students have to contribute, while learning from the wisdom embedded in the community. Many people at SCU—beginning with Dean Starbird--have given NPI support, encouragement and resources, and have had patience as we evolve. Paul Pereira, a San Jose city staffer, has been tireless as my (volunteer) co-teacher. Finally, people in the Washington neighborhood have been generous with their time, sharing perspectives with students and many of them—from the children at Washington Elementary to City Councilmember Sam Liccardo –have become powerful role models for our students.
We continue to improvise--students, faculty, staff and community members taking ownership and co-creating NPI—and look forward to how NPI will evolve to result in even more powerful learning and significant contribution to prosperity in our neighboring communities. We welcome your ideas and involvement. For more information, contact Jackie Schmidt-Posner (firstname.lastname@example.org)