It’s Only the Beginning

Hi! My name is Camryn Ward but a lot of people call me Cami. I am a Sophomore at the University of Pittsburgh majoring in Accounting and Business Information Systems and minoring in Economics. I was born and raised in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, and I grew up in a tight-knit family. When it was time to decide where to go to college, I wanted to go as far away from southwestern Pennsylvania as possible. I just wanted to start fresh somewhere completely new, so if you would have told me three years ago I would be at Pitt, I wouldn’t believe it! However, when I visited Pitt and stepped foot on campus, I immediately fell in love and knew I had to spend my next four years right here in Oakland. I was recently accepted to go abroad again this summer as a part of Pitt’s International Internship Program in Dublin, and I couldn’t be more excited about all of the opportunities Pitt has provided me.

Growing up, I never really knew what I wanted to study in college or do with the rest of my life. During my Senior year in high school, I took an accounting class and, oddly enough, my Type A personality loved balancing debits and credits. I paired Accounting with Business Information Systems because I know they work really well together and added Economics because it is interesting and something great to know.

Academics have always been my top priority in my life thus far, and I spend most of my free time studying and doing homework. Aside from classes, I have been figuring out who I am socially and professionally through my professional business fraternity, Delta Sigma Pi. Delta Sigma Pi is an organization that strives to help all of its members achieve success through an emphasis on professional, social, and service events. I joined during my first semester of my Freshman year, and that is where I have met so many great friends. Not only are they the people that I want to spend all of my time with, but they push me to do better in the world of business, as everyone is doing their best to make it themselves.

Through Delta Sigma Pi and my classes at Pitt Business, I have been learning so many transferable skills that I use and continue building everyday. I think the most important skills I am learning and will continue to cultivate for the rest of my life are teamwork and critical thinking. I know that moving forward in my career, a lot of what I do will require teams, and all of my classes at Pitt Business capitalize on that and make sure to prepare us for that.

This semester, I am participating in a global service learning opportunity that will be a once in a lifetime experience. Six of us will be consulting for a nonprofit in Bolivia, and over Spring Break, we will travel to visit the organization in Cochabamba, Bolivia. The nonprofit, CEOLI, is an organization that works to give children and young adults with disabilities a better life. Their goal is to integrate and include these young people in school and work, which they may not otherwise have the opportunity without CEOLI. The organization is doing such great things for Cochabamba’s community, but over the past few years, they have received major funding cuts, forcing them to cut back on the services they provide. This semester and over the next few years, Pitt Business Student Consultants will be working with CEOLI, Pitt Business faculty, and Amizade, a Pittsburgh nonprofit that works with CEOLI year-round, to help CEOLI reach self-sustainability.

To help CEOLI this semester, we will be focusing on implementing a marketing calendar to sell cards, creating social media to increase awareness in the United States, and finding corporate sponsorships to offset budget gaps. One of the major things that kids at CEOLI do as part of their therapy is make greeting cards that then get sold to benefit the organization. The cards not only bring in money, but they spread awareness about CEOLI’s cause, so selling the cards is a major focus of the semester. CEOLI also wants to create a presence in the United States, so to aid with that, we will be creating Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn profiles for CEOLI to use for the US. Lastly, a big source of potential income and awareness could come from sponsorships from corporations who commit to buying a lot of cards in bulk, so we will be initiating that process that future student consultants will be able to continue building.

Luckily, we aren’t expected to be able to do this independently. All global service learning project students have a class together taught by some of the brightest minds in Pitt Business where we have been learning about the importance of service learning. Contrary to popular belief, service learning is completely different from community service in that service learning is the application of what you learn in classes for civic impact to build transferrable skills and curiosity. Community service is a one-time action that mostly just benefits the volunteer, but service learning creates lifelong habits of engagement. Some of the major things that separate service learning from community service are the necessary engagement and reflection.

Engagement includes being invested and interactive in the project itself and also being invested in any and all external factors that affect the project. For us working with an organization in another country, it won’t be enough for us to just work hard in class, we all need to know the context of Bolivian business, governmental, cultural, and social life. For example, it is very rude and you are seen as untrustworthy if you do not maintain eye contact with another person when in conversation. Reflection is important with service learning to look back on what you’ve learned to think about what you’ve done well, what could be improved, and what you should do moving forward. You’ll be able to find some of my reflections throughout the project here on this blog!

I decided to take this course and participate in a global service learning project because I thought I would learn a lot and it would be fun. I heard the stories and about what an incredible time students who participated last year had, and I wanted to create a similar experience. I also thought it would be great to learn some real world consulting skills, and I’d make some great friends in the process. Little did I know, that was just the tip of the iceberg! I have already learned a lot of ideas and skills that I can use in every class to help me learn better and be more engaged in class. One of the ideas I learned in class that I want to apply to all of my classes and life experiences is the equation Associate Dean Murrell taught us: Knowledge + Experience = Self Efficacy. Believing in yourself to be able to do something is so powerful and helps immensely in daily life and professionally, so this is an equation I will think about with every new opportunity. I’ve already learned a lot, but I know there is so much more that I’ll learn over the course of the semester. It truly is only the beginning of my journey!

There are many things personally, professionally, and academically that I hope to learn through this service learning experience and studying abroad. Outside of Canada, I have never been outside of the country, so I am eager to gain a unique first experience outside of the United States. While I will be with my fellow students and a member of Pitt’s faculty, I think it will help me gain independence and self-assurance, especially when going abroad in the future. Professionally, I think this will help me gain important skills working with clients. As I have never worked with a client before, I think I will learn some basics about how to foster a good relationship with them and how to communicate. It will also give me good skills for consulting if I ever decide to pursue a career in consulting. Academically, I think I will gain good professional writing skills. I have found that I have trouble writing professionally, and I have already gotten better with it, as we have had to start writing a Scope of Work to submit to our clients. Overall, I am very open to learning new things and I’m sure I will learn more than I could expect to.

I’m so excited for my journey with Pitt Business, CEOLI, Amizade, and my fellow Pitt Business Student Consultants over the next few months. I hope to make a positive and lasting impact on Cochabamba’s community and the lives of my friends. I can’t wait to see what the semester has to offer!