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Rice MBAs Get Creative and Reach Out to the Community

HOUSTON, May 22, 2006—Rice MBAs in Professor Jing Zhou’s Managing and Creativity and Innovation class did much more than sit in a classroom and broaden their horizons on how to think creatively. Zhou’s students turned ideas into actions and studied creativity and its management outside the classroom by researching various companies in different industries in the U.S., and by going to various organizations around Houston.
 
One of the student project groups worked with a particularly non-traditional organization, the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) clinic. The WIC is a non- profit agency that was formed in 1974. Their mission is to safeguard the health of low income women, infants, and children who are at nutrition risk by providing nutritious foods to supplement diets, information on healthy eating, and referrals to health care.
 
Rice MBA students spent their time observing at the WIC and then brainstorming creative ideas and recommendations to present to the organization. While typically an observation and consultation would be very expensive and likely unaffordable to a non-profit, the Rice MBAs did everything for free.
 
The WIC project team said that they wanted to see how they could help an agency that did not have access to the resources wealthier agencies had.
 
Professor Zhou said, “It’s a wonderful example of how our students are using the most cutting-edge management principles and tools to make a difference in the community and society at large.”
 
The team, made up of Rice MBAs from the Class of 2006 Manny Chana, Jonathan Tilghman, Vijay Raghavan, Dalinda Silva, and Mark Streeter, worked with the WIC to assess how creativity was being implemented and to examine areas in which creativity could be applied.
 
Because of obvious budgetary constraints, the students had to look at problems from different angles. For example, the WIC had an extremely low IT component, operating with only one computer. The students presented various opportunities for the WIC clinic to receive computers through donation, one being laptops from Rice MBA graduates who no longer need their computers. Another constraint was that of “average tenure.” The students learned from Dr. Zhou’s class that “average tenure” can be a limit on creativity if an agency has been operating under certain conditions and procedures for a long time.
 
Together the team compiled a paper and presentation in which they addressed aspects of the WIC that they saw could benefit from greater creativity.
 
Team member Jonathon Tilghman said about the project, “I hope that we did make a difference. I feel that we opened up their eyes to things that they were not previously aware of.”