New business course at UH Hilo emphasizes community outreach

Professor of Management Jerry Calton wants business students to change the world for the positive, one venture at a time.

By Lara Hughes.

Jerry Calton
Jerry Calton

A new business course offered at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo is the brainchild of Jerry Calton, a professor of management and chair of the business department. Currently taught as Business Planning for New Ventures (MGT 425), Calton will be submitting the new course proposal this year to establish a new focus and rename the course Social Entrepreneurship.

The original class included the conventional small venture planning steps, but the new course—which has been taught for awhile now—adds goals and measures for social and environmental performance that Calton describes as “an innovative approach… in the context of founding a profit-seeking business venture.”

The goal is to challenge business students to engage creatively and collaboratively with the local business community to help form new businesses and help improve existing ones that will have positive social impacts. In essence, Calton wants students to change the world for the positive, one venture at a time.

“Business managers who have been traditionally trained, tend to focus too narrowly upon the single bottom line… they tend to be insensitive to ethical concerns or the concerns of other stakeholders,” he says. “The end result is that we have a business model that sometimes tempts managers to get as close to the line of the law as possible on the assumption that the closer you are to breaking the law, the more money you are going to make. This can lead to a kind of moral amnesia.”

Calton holds a doctor of philosophy in history and a doctor of philosophy in management, both from the University of Washington. He focuses his research and teaching activities on exploring ways to integrate improved social and environmental performance into the operations and decision-making processes of business firms (see profile story). His idea in designing the new management course is to build awareness and foster manager interaction with a variety of stakeholders and their interests.

“To be a manager, you need to be embedded in the middle of a community conversation or stakeholder network,” he explains.

Community outreach

Christine Osterwalder
Christine Osterwalder

This semester, the class is taught by Christine Osterwalder, a lecturer at UH Hilo who holds a master in business administration from the Drucker School of Management at Claremont, which is known for its focus on educating the business executive as a whole person, with emphasis on the balanced scorecard and ethics. Osterwalder has over 30 years of marketing experience and has been teaching at UH Hilo for seven years.

“I love seeing the students’ creativity,” she says.  “It’s exciting to work on something that matters but to also keep in mind successful business planning practices. I think when students have good ideas, the local community benefits because each of the (students’) projects is tied to a real life organization.”

Pelenatete Leilua
Pelenatete Leilua

Pelenatete Leilua, a UH Hilo student majoring in business administration (see profile story), took the course and says that it has been her favorite class to date. For her final project, Leilua and her cohort worked with The Makery in downtown Hilo, creating online promotional mediums to help market the organization’s artwork.

Nixon Jack is a UH Hilo senior majoring in business administration. He leads the Community Service Committee for the Lambda Psi Chapter of the professional business fraternity Delta Sigma Pi and is a member of the Hilo Chamber of Commerce.  Jack is taking the course this spring.

Nixon Jack
Nixon Jack

“Businesses, whether they intend to or not, have the potential to have a massive effect on individuals, communities or even the world,” he says. “I am eager to see the next big trend in corporate social responsibility.”

Professor Calton stresses the importance of building and maintaining long-term relationships and the need for ethics and an examination of one’s preconceptions, methods and procedures. “You need to have mechanisms that incorporate multiple voices,” he says.

In fact, a major aspect of the management course is networking, with one of its main points hinging on the active recruitment of mentors and supportive community members by student teams. After these teams have made contacts and built various working relationships, they can then have a sounding board to test assumptions, identify resources and plan viable business ventures.

At semester’s end, students are given the opportunity to present their community projects before a panel of faculty from the College of Business and Economics and members of the local business community. Some past social entrepreneurship plans have included a proposal to house the homeless, an idea for a “slow food” hub that would help improve nutrition and increase sales for local farmers, and the promotion of Hawaiian music classes in public schools.

The course will be offered online this summer, which is a great opportunity for students, especially considering that it is typically offered once per year, rather than every semester.


About the author of this story: Lara Hughes is a junior at UH Hilo majoring in business administration. She is a public information intern in the Office of the Chancellor. 

-UH Hilo Stories