UM MBA Students Excel in Charity Challenge

Ole Miss MBA students recently raised over nine thousand dollars benefitting seven different charitable causes in a first-of-its-kind “charity challenge” project. 

The “charity challenge” was the brainchild of School of Business Fellow and Assistant Professor of Management Kristin Cullen-Lester, who made the project a centerpiece of the MBA program’s Leadership and Ethics course, which she instructed for the first time this year.

“The results achieved by the class surpassed my expectations in several ways, demonstrating our MBA students’ remarkable dedication and capabilities,” Cullen-Lester said. “I am equally proud of the awareness generated for the causes and organizations they championed.”

For the project, students self-organized into seven teams based on shared altruistic interests, such as child welfare, clean water, or mental health and wellness, and had to develop a plan for a one-day only event to raise funds for a non-profit organization within their area of interest.

Cullen-Lester provided each team with fifty dollars of seed money to put towards their events, which the students later reimbursed, and each team had a day to hold their event between October 28 and November 10, 2023. 

Aside from setting the goal of raising as much money as possible for their charity, Cullen-Lester intentionally left the parameters of the project open ended.

“Managing the responsibility for designing and executing their event provided opportunities for students to develop ethical decision-making, creative problem-solving, leadership, collaboration, and networking skills that they will need in a dynamic professional landscape.”

Students got creative with the events they decided to host, which ranged from profit-share nights at local establishments, a pickleball tournament on campus, and even the opportunity to “pie” the faces of team members in the Grove with a small donation. The students were given a week to raise awareness for their events through online campaigns and posts on social media. Donations were collected online after the events as well.

The challenge’s winning team raised a staggering $4,023.00 for the Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children (CASA) of North Mississippi by hosting a hybrid cornhole tournament and raffle at the Library Sports Bar in Downtown Oxford. The team was able to secure many highly valuable prizes for the event, including a football signed by Ole Miss head football coach Lane Kiffin.

MBA candidate and winning team member Grant McCullough credits his team’s success to their attention to detail in planning every aspect of the event.

“We acquired highly desired items to auction off and spent time walking around the venue to spread the word about our ongoing event,” he said. “The setting, prizes, and outreach all together ultimately led to a successful charity event for our team.”

Among the other charities benefiting from the challenge were the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), Good Sports’ Play for All initiative, the Hydrocephalus Association, the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies, the NFL Alumni Youth of America, and the UM William Magee Center for Wellness Education.

The students learned to leverage their individual strengths while also embracing shared leadership responsibilities within their teams. Participating in the challenge facilitated student involvement both on campus and within the broader Oxford community. The project’s outcomes have established a benchmark for future success.

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