Procter & Gamble recently honored a group of Haslam of Business students for making an outsized impact on citizens’ lives in developing countries. The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, students organized and executed a walkathon on campus to raise more than $17,000 for Hands Across the Water, a clean water initiative. Hands Across the Water distributes water purification packets produced by Procter & Gamble that contain a powder to both disinfect and separate sediment from water.
For Wiley Stidham, a 2017 graduate in supply chain management, receiving an award at Procter & Gamble headquarters in Cincinnati served as validation for a project he worked hard to make a success during his time at Haslam.
“It means a great deal to me,” Stidham said. “Being a part of this project was one of the most rewarding experiences of my college career. I was able to play a small part in something that will affect people on opposite sides of the world. It’s a tremendous feeling and something I will carry with me my entire life.”
Stidham became involved in Hands Across the Water through Corporate Social Responsibility, a course taught by Tom Van Dorselaer, a retired Procter & Gamble executive and adjunct professor of marketing at Haslam. During the project, Van Dorselaer acted as a coach to the students and ran each class like a business meeting.
“This was about service-learning, real world business experience and truly making a difference in the lives of others,” Van Dorselaer said. “The ability of team leaders to truly participate by speaking up was crucial. At times, we had to make tough decisions. We had to deal with set-backs and pick one path over another. It was extremely important for each student to show support and provide pushback when appropriate.”
Students in the class were recruited through an interview process.
“Each student was a leader on campus in some way,” he said. “We had a classroom of leaders that had proven experience in executing plans and achieving goals. We experienced several adjustments where we stopped and reflected on what kind of team we wanted to be and the broader goal. This was a rewarding process, because the students learned to prioritize the broader goal of social responsibility over themselves.”
The walk took place during October and included 2K and 6K options. A total of 24 Haslam students teamed up with nine additional students from the Maharashtra Institute of Technology in Pune, India. The Indian students traveled to Knoxville to learn about the packets and fundraising efforts in the United States and plan to distribute the water purification packets in villages.