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72 November/ December 2014 BizEd The Idea The Birmingham Business Project, in which undergraduates and high school students conduct research to drive community revitalization Location The University of Alabama Birmingham Collat School of Business Big Problems, Big Projects In 2011, students created a marketing plan for nearby Wilcox County, which suffers from high unemployment rates and poverty levels; the stu- dents recommended ways for Wilcox to boost tourism and promote its arts community. Students continued to work in Wilcox in 2012, conducting a study to determine whether farmers in the region could grow moso bamboo, a quickly growing and highly commercial crop. For the 2013 project, students con- ducted research on the civil rights move- ment's effect on Birmingham's business community. They studied issues from each decade since 1963, when four young girls died in the bombing of Birmingham's 16th Street Baptist Church. At summer's end, they attended an awards ceremony in that same church, and then displayed their projects at a reception at the Bir- mingham Civil Rights Institute. This year, the students addressed issues related to education, housing, recreation, retail, crime prevention, and health in the 6th District, a collection of historical and architecturally significant neighborhoods west of downtown Birmingham. idea exchange Shaping the Future The Birmingham Business Project doesn't just develop students' business skills—it also clearly demonstrates to them their power to make an impact where they live, says Erik Jack, dean of the Collat School. "UAB has deep roots in the Birmingham com- munity, and we want to be an integral part of its future," Jack says. "This project helps students understand how their skills, knowledge, and abilities can help them change the community for the better." Analyze & Mentor For the last four years, the Collat School of Business has paired six undergraduates with nine students from two local high schools for its summer Birmingham Business Project. The students work together to conduct research on ways to improve local socioeconomic conditions. Part of Collat's Business Student Scholars Program, the Birmingham Business Project enables undergrads to apply business concepts in real-world settings and exposes high school students to business disciplines. As they delve into regional data, students meet with local leaders, from city council members to the school superintendent to the chief of police. "The students are getting real-world experience as they develop plans for their community that can make a differ- ence," says instructor Nathan Oliver, director of the program. Community Spirit YAG I STU DIO/G ETTY I MAG ES

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