Beyond Excited for Bolivia

Hi everyone! My name is Gemma Skidmore and I am currently a Sophomore at the University of Pittsburgh. I plan on majoring in Accounting, Business Information Systems and Supply Chain Management while pursuing a certificate in Leadership and Ethics and possibly in Business Analytics as well. While this seems like a lot to take on, I plan on graduating with 150 credits and I thought I might as well put those credits towards something useful and subjects that also interests me. Professionally, I plan on sitting for the CPA exam which is why I am getting 150 credits, as I plan to have a job in the accounting industry.

On campus I’m involved in a professional business organization, Phi Beta Lambda, where I will serve on the Leadership Team as the Vice President of Compliance for the upcoming year starting in April. Through Phi Beta Lambda, I’ve grown professionally as I’ve focused on this with the professional development workshops with various employers and recruiters. In addition to my future role, I currently am a part of the Pitt Business Leaders Conference planning team, where we put on a set of three workshops for over 100 students from surrounding high schools. This has further developed my skills of working on a team, working with outside clients. My work last year on the CPLE team projects for both Pitt Dining Services and the Rotary Club of Pittsburgh also helped me develop professionally and as a team player.

Recently, I was also accepted to study abroad in London for the GBI: London International Accounting Issues this summer where I will be taking a class and completing an internship. Outside of school and academics, I love photography, kayaking and travelling. As my family is originally from England, I was fortunate enough to spend many of my summers there. I also went to Germany for two weeks last summer exploring the supply chain of the automotive industry. Another passion of mine is service, which is one of the reasons I was originally attracted to this program on top of hearing the amazing experiences past participants had!

I will be participating on the Global Service Learning program this Spring semester going to Cochabamba, Bolivia during our Spring Break. This specific program works with CEOLI, a non-profit organization that works with children and young adults with disabilities. Their mission is to build a better future for those with physical and intellectual disabilities. Part of this is done through art therapy where the children and young adults draw greeting cards. This form of therapy is where CEOLI has turned to help generate self-sustaining revenue streams through the sale of these cards, as they have faced major cuts in their overall funding.

The CEOLI Cards project is our main focus for the semester. Our team of six is working this semester on generating major card sale revenues through the work of previous years’ marketing calendar during identified key time periods. Additionally, we are working on increasing online sales in the United States by providing an awareness on social media platforms. We also plan to foster relationships with corporate sponsors to create viable channels for the sales of these cards. Throughout the semester, as a team we will gather information on how to continue this work, creating a path for the future consultant teams to come.

Throughout the class we are learning about what service learning really means and its importance in the classroom. Many people are unaware of the true meaning to service learning and how it differs to community service. Service learning involves engagement, an impact on multiple stakeholders and a sense of reflection, which is much more than community service as this is often a one-and-done effort that ultimately only benefits the individual doing the service. The aspect of reflection will be emphasized through the work in our blogs as we look back and truly make sense of the work we’ve completed and its impact on all the stakeholders involved.

I decided to take the Global Service Learning course and participate on this project for a couple different reasons. When I came out for Phi Beta Lambda in the spring of last year several students had shared their experience through the program and how much it impacted their college experience. Given how much service means to me, I was instantly interested in learning more about the program and the impact I could have on this project. After joining Phi Beta Lambda, I heard more and more from students’ experiences, especially last year’s team and the effect it had on them, I knew that this was something I had to do.

From this program I know I will gain valuable experience personally, professionally and academically. Personally, this experience will leave a lasting impact on my life that I will have to share forever. I am excited to work with CEOLI to make a difference in the individuals lives who we’ll be working with while in Cochabamba. In terms of a professional impact, this program is helping me as I am still exploring my options and interests from a career standpoint. Recently the Consulting field was brought closer to my attention and interest so I’m excited to see the influence this has on helping me narrow down if this may be the right career path for me. Academically, service learning has an abundance of benefits and I know will take advantage of these through the program. For example, my writing skills have always been an area for improvement and through the program I hope to do just that. Being in the course for only four weeks now I have already seen improvement which is exciting. Additionally, awareness is so important. Having an awareness of different cultures around the world is especially important. This is best done in a country experiencing real-time issues and events rather than learning from a book inside a classroom.

I’m so excited for this semester and the work our team will continue to do over the next few weeks. Can’t wait to see where the rest of the semester takes us and the experiences we’ll all gain while in Bolivia!