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Notre Dame MBA Students Visit and Consult for L’Arche

“There’s never a compromise. L’Arche doesn’t compromise on what kind of a life and a home they’re providing to the core members.”
Akash Panigrahi, Notre Dame MBA student

After only 3.5 days with us, our consultants and students from Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business knew us well.

“What I’ve experienced here is the awareness of the dignity and the beauty and the value of each individual–how they contribute their gifts and just their presence.” James Wilson, one of our visiting Notre Dame MBA students, shared. “Everything is informed by that understanding of the goodness of each person and the unique gifts that everyone brings… having Eileen in here writing letters and interacting with [everyone], eating dinner, we played Uno with Ricky and Joseph and just seeing the authentic relationships and friendships that everyone has with each other. Even looking from the operations and administrative side of things, how decisions are made based on that.”

Needless to say, they passed the school of L’Arche with flying colors.

Grow Irish is an immersive program built into Notre Dame’s business school. Twice annually, various sites host a team of students to complete a week-long consulting project addressing an urgent business need.

About two weeks out from their visit, students have an intro call with the organization, having received informational resources from the site beforehand.  The goal is clear: Develop a SWOT analysis of L’Arche GWDC’s funding model used to pay DSPs and administrative staff.  These students dedicate over 140 hours of brainpower toward that goal, ending on their fifth in-person day with a presentation of their research and recommendations.

“Following successful Notre Dame partnerships, we were excited about the opportunity to engage with masters-level students around necessary organizational development projects that could continue to foster the mission of L’Arche in our community and in L’Arche in the USA,” Caitlin Smith, GWDC Director of Human Resources shared.  “We are the first L’Arche USA community to try this and we hope that it will be an opportunity for other communities to engage students in the dual purpose of formative community life experiences and also complex and critical business challenges that L’Arche faces.”

Lara Brian, Associate Director of Experiential Learning and Business Development at Notre Dame, affirmed this hope for a mutually beneficial relationship: “…learning more about the wonderful mission and goals of L’Arche GWDC, we thought that this would be a great, win-win collaboration for our Spring Grow Irish 2024 portfolio of consulting projects.”

We got to welcome five students–Seth, Kosi, James, Andrew, and Akash–who all ranked L’Arche GWDC among their top 5 out of 24 domestic and international site options.

When asked what interested them about our project in particular, many of the students shared that they had not had much experience with non-profits previously and appreciated learning more about the intricacies involved, especially with fundraising.

Kosi Umeh added, “I think meeting the core members makes you understand the why–why L’Arche really does what L’Arche does. And it puts perspective into why it’s so important to continue to grow this course.”

It was incredible to witness how ready the students were to receive our mission.  “Something really unique is how this group was able to capture L’Arche’s priority on individual core members really quickly,” Caitlin said. “And they incorporated that awareness into their recommendations.”

One of the students, Akash Panigrahi, commented on how this priority is something he learned from, “There’s never a compromise. L’Arche doesn’t compromise on what kind of a life and a home they’re providing to the core members.”

This is our hope with any group–that we can all learn from each other. “That’s just really the beauty of L’Arche,” Sarah Moore, GWDC Director of Development and Communications, said.  “We got to learn from these amazing five MBA students, and they got to learn from us. They were inspired to be immersed in L’Arche, and we got to walk away with ideas that will further L’Arche.”

We are so grateful for this partnership, particularly learning how much L’Arche’s and Notre Dame’s business school’s values overlap.  James described Notre Dame’s approach to business as “growing the good,” noting that “business that doesn’t serve the common good is bad business.”

Andrew Sarafa expanded on this, sharing how Notre Dame’s MBA program errs more on the side of stakeholder theory as opposed to the traditional shareholder theory: “A business is not only entitled to its shareholders but also to the community that it operates in–being a good tenant to your community and not only optimizing the for-profit but also being understanding to the community that you’re around and what you’re in, what you’re trying to push towards for those around you.” All ideas that directly relate to L’Arche’s guiding principles and our mission of creating a more human society!

When asked if we would do this again, Caitlin was quick to say, “Absolutely!  The students had the capacity to do very in-depth work while also enjoying community life.  They didn’t take for granted that the mission had to lead the change. Their recommendations will be a guide for the work that’s already happening and also an incubator for potential new solutions to perennial problems.”

We are so grateful to the students who visited us and Notre Dame for this partnership and opportunity.  We look forward to all the ways we’ll grow together in the years to come!

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