Spotlight: Service-Learning Case Study in Business

August 28, 2017

SSU Business Grad and Undergrad service-learning students in Bali, Indonesia.

Dr. Robert Girling

Dr. Robert Girling

Dr. Girling with students in Bali.

Dr. Girling with students in Bali.

The CCE's own Claudia Sisomphou presenting at the 2016 North Bay Youth Summit

The CCE's own Claudia Sisomphou presenting at the 2016 North Bay Youth Summit

SSU Business Grad and Undergrad service-learning students in Bali, Indonesia.
Dr. Robert Girling
Dr. Girling with students in Bali.
The CCE's own Claudia Sisomphou presenting at the 2016 North Bay Youth Summit
Maddie Wright
Author
Maddie Wright

"Professor Girling and his courses offer wisdom, expertise, a challenge, and an opportunity for self-discovery for those who are open to the call." - Victoria Hernandez, Professor Girling's former student.

Dr. Girling turned to service-learning in order to show students the realistic opportunities and experiences they can have after graduating with an Economics degree. He said, "Economics is abstract, I was looking for ways to show students the practical side, service-learning does that." He started using service-learning while teaching in Brazil in the 1990's. He remembered it being chaotic and unorganized but students still learned lots.

"The students that did service-learning were able to network and most got hired right away by organizations such as the World Bank and UNICEF. It really demonstrated how powerful service-learning is because those students from that area, would not have gotten a prestigious job otherwise."

A colleague of his in Brazil named Bob Verhine had nothing but praise for Girling, "Many of his service-learning projects have had a major international impact, especially in the Caribbean and in Brazil. His work has contributed to national betterment and to international exchange and understanding. The success of his international work reflects a unique bi-national background and a very special personality that combines congenial interactivity with cross-cultural sensitivity."

Professor Robert Girling has a remarkable and impressive career. 2016 was his 40th year in the Business Department of Sonoma State. However, his profession began well before then. He received his Bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley in Economics, his Masters from the University of Essex in England, and his Ph.D. from Stanford in Development and Education. Dr. Girling has worked in Washington DC for a nonprofit that works for women's rights around the world and has also taught at the University of West Indies.

"I believe that my students have no limits, they're creative beings that are interested in the world and other people." says Professor Girling. One of his favorite projects is when he took some graduate students and one undergraduate student to Bali in 2013. The students were in his course Business 595: Social Entrepreneurship. He explained that social entrepreneurships are companies that have social goals, not just financial. These companies treat their employees well and advocate for social, cultural, or environmental issues.

While in Bali they studied social enterprises. They partnered with Mitra Bali Fair Trade. This organization facilitates the international sale of handcrafted goods made by local Balinese artisans. They work to educate the artisans about business and global markets. The students taught artisans about bookkeeping and safe labor practices, built bathroom facilities in their village, and provided no-interest loans for supplies. "His course on International Business was an experiential journey that highlighted the nexus of business strategy and global issues in the field of sustainability. It brought all of my passions into one classroom. As my first formal introduction into sustainability, this class allowed me to develop my intellect and expand my understanding of the social, economic, ecological, and cultural forces that shape our world. The acquired knowledge has guided my pursuits and will continue to serve as inspiration as I continue down my career path." said one of his former students, Victoria Hernandez

Another important landmark in Dr. Girling's impressive career is the creation of the Sustainable Enterprise Conference. The Executive Director of the conference, Oren Wool said,"Since we started in 2015, Dr. Girling has been a driving force for the annual Sustainable Enterprise Enterprise Conference. He's connected the North Bay sustainable business community, our best and most innovative companies, to the SSU School of Business and we're all grateful." His current students His current students in a course entitled Sustainable Business Strategies complete their service-learning project by helping facilitate the North Bay Youth Summit which is the youth version of the Sustainable Enterprise Conference. Students from grades 6-12, their teachers, and 10 environmental community partners participated in the event in 2016. They gave presentations about sustainability projects and education initiatives happening at their schools. The grade school students were inspired and couldn't wait to get started on their projects again the following school year with help from grants that were given to some schools that attended the summit.

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