WSU MBA Students Give to Homeless Hospice as Part of Philanthropic Leadership Course

OGDEN, Utah – A Master of Business Administration degree usually focuses on how to earn money, but students in Weber State University’s leadership course learned how to give money away — effectively and for impact.

Michael Vaughan, an economics professor in the John B. Goddard School of Business & Economics, donated funds for three teams of MBA students to identify, select and contribute $1,000 each to a nonprofit organization. Groups gave money to The Inn Between, which provides end-of-life hospice care to Salt Lake’s homeless men and women. They also selected Seager Memorial Clinic in the Ogden Rescue Mission, and Ogden’s YCC Family Crisis Center.

“As we went through the process of selecting and interviewing these charities, I was able to see all the good things they are doing,” said Shawn Bell, WSU MBA student. “I learned how much more we could all be doing to help and realized, ‘Wow! I haven’t been thinking about others enough.’”

YCC development manager Kathi Dysert, student Madison Elliott, executive director Julee Smith

As former WSU provost and now director of the Center for the Study of Poverty and Inequality, Vaughan has long championed civic engagement. He wants students to learn about the responsibility of philanthropic leadership.

“One of the things people engaged in philanthropy say is, ‘It’s hard to give away money,’” Vaughan explained. “What they mean by that is it’s hard to make decisions about where your money is going to have the greatest impact.”

As part of the assignment, students had to formulate assessment criteria, which included taking a close look at data from various charities. They discovered quickly that large charities make tremendous contributions but use a greater percentage of donations to cover administrative costs. Smaller charities don’t track their spending as carefully but demonstrate incredible service.

That’s what attracted one of the MBA groups to select the Seager Memorial Clinic in the Ogden Rescue Mission, which serves the homeless, indigent and poor of Northern Utah. What impressed MBA student Marcio Da Silva was that the clinic spends 99 percent of its donations directly on clients. There’s virtually no overhead.

Da Silva, who founded and volunteers as the financial director for a nonprofit that promotes higher education in his native country, Brazil, took the class to understand how nonprofit organizations function in the United States.

MBA student Jared Pehrson and Kristiina Rodriguez,
Inn Between donation coordinator

“We are in a different country, different culture, different language, different needs, but what connects nonprofits is the mission and how they help those who are in need sometimes where government programs are not able to reach,” Da Silva said. “I see it is very important to have this kind of organization that will help people who are not getting outreach from other programs.”                     

Vaughan advised students to consider both depth and breadth: Does the charity provide limited services to a great number of clients, or does it offer extensive services to fewer people?

He also challenged teams to investigate sustainability, specifically whether the organization could leverage $1,000 to attract additional funding.

“By engaging in this project, students were able to learn and reflect about their own leadership ability,” Vaughan said. “As business leaders, they are going to interact with others, make assessments, form and share opinions. They will have to listen to others to eventually reach a consensus.”

After investigation and assessment, the third MBA group selected the YCC Family Crisis Center that helps individuals dealing with domestic violence and rape. The center is open 24/7 to women and children.

Shawn Bell said learning leadership through philanthropy was an “incredible experience,” the outcome of which is that, with his group, he gave away $1,000, and with his family, he plans to begin volunteering time during the holidays at a local charity.

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Michael Vaughan, economics professor
801-626-7308 •


Allison Barlow Hess, Public Relations director
801-626-7948 •