Students becoming the teachers—and then the CEOs

October 26, 2017

Shaping the future

As Michigan Ross defines the future of business education, current students chart the future of business.

Jameka Eleazer and Emily Fisher, Magnify 2017 alums

After their class project wowed hundreds of staff members at Michigan Medicine this past year, two Ross BBAs are launching their own positive organizational scholarship consulting firm, which they believe to be a first of its kind.

When Jameka Eleazer, BBA ’18, and Emily Fisher, BBA ’18started the Magnify program with the Center for Positive Organizations this spring, they didn’t know it would result in the creation of their own business — but they knew it would be a great learning experience.

Magnify is an interactive course that culminates in an action-based learning project. Students first learn the tenets of positive organizational scholarship — “essentially unlocking resources within teams and companies to help the organization flourish at a deeper level,” Fisher says — and then they help a real-world business apply the lessons.

Jameka and Emily’s project took them to Michigan Medicine, where they guided a small staff group through activities meant to build compassion. They started by interviewing teams and assessing their strengths: “We didn’t want to look at weaknesses. We didn’t want to look at what they weren’t doing well, because that makes people resist,” Eleazer says.

Still, they anticipated pushback: Part of learning about the positive organizational philosophy is understanding that some might not immediately understand the value of doing “touchy-feely” activities. So imagine their surprise to see that not only was the staff open to the activities, but they were also energized and inspired.

“One of the things we focused on was helping them appreciate their co-workers,” Eleazer says. “They really responded. People were doing small things like thanking each other for favors and big things like saying ‘I love how you do such an amazing job; that really helps me.’”

The director of the department in Michigan Medicine was also so impressed by the students’ presentation that he invited them to come back and speak with a larger group of staff — numbering in the hundreds. The energy was electrifying.

“The audience was answering our questions, so we knew that they had been engaged, and we knew that they respected us, and that was really neat,” Fisher says.

“We weren’t expecting to make that kind of an impact. We were only there for a week. It was a really powerful thing to be able to present to that many people, and be that voice to continue this.”

The experience sparked their desire to continue.

With the help of the Center for Positive Organizations and the Zell Lurie Institute, the two are in the midst of launching their own consulting firm to help healthcare organizations implement positive organizational practices. They plan to officially launch in January. To prepare, they’re undertaking an independent research project this fall semester at St. Joseph Hospital. “It’s all going really fast,” Eleazer says.

For both young women, this business is fulfilling their hopes of making a positive impact. Eleazer was headed into personal banking but was unsure if that was the right fit.Fisher, who has a chronic illness that required hospital stays while growing up, always wanted to help improve healthcare.

“When I was little, we were asked to say what we wanted to be when we grew up, and you get the normal answers like doctor and firefighter,” Fisher says. “Well, I wanted to be a superhero and I’ve carried that with me throughout my whole life. I’ve always known I wanted to help people and that I want to leave the world knowing that I made it a better place.”

The Magnify program at Ross has certainly brought her one step closer to that goal.

by Tara Cavanaugh and Christopher Ankney

This article was originally published in the fall 2017 Michigan Ross Dividend Magazine.