Giving Back: Creating Their Legacies
Turning their own advantages into opportunities for others, EMTM graduates are giving back.
When he completed EMTM in 2002, John Fisher applied his newfound skills to building up Unidec, his Newtown Square company
that specializes in industrial robotics and high-speed automation service for the manufacturing sector. Yet it wasn't enough
to expand his client base to 48 countries or increase revenue he felt he had more to give. "I recognized that a lot of
the skills and experience I got from the program were gifts, and one that I should use in ways to help not just my own career
but the community as well."
Fisher is just one of a number of EMTM graduates who are using their technology and management skills to give back to society
by improving education, expanding opportunities and serving the public mandate.
A resident of Radnor, PA, Fisher was elected commissioner in the township last fall. His EMTM lessons in legal issues,
public policy, leadership, organizational behavior and especially finance all come into play on the job. "I'm working
with a $27 million budget, so I need to have critical analysis skills to do projections and modeling and predict future
tax increases, revenues and expenses."
A father of two children who attend Radnor schools, Fisher got involved with the Radnor Township School District's Diversity Task Force last year. "There was an incident of racist graffiti on bathroom walls in the school district. I was invited in as a citizen, but became more involved and ended up writing the diversity task force proposal for the entire school district a proposal that was subsequently adopted within five different schools." The task force evaluates schools' curricula and makes recommendations for incorporating more culturally diverse materials and lessons. Fisher has also helped organize community events in which victims of racism or intolerance discuss their experiences in an open forum.
In his remaining spare time, Fisher serves on advisory boards at the Goodwin School at Drexel University and the ITT Technical Institute at Delaware County Community College. A firm believer in the power of schooling, Fisher is proud to serve educational institutions. "The one thing no one can take from you is your education and, in my view, many of our social issues can be resolved through education."
Curtis Jenkins, EMTM '01, an IT project manager at Rohm and Haas in Philadelphia, PA, would agree. Jenkins devotes an exceeding amount of energy creating opportunities in the sciences for underserved children.
Jenkins first got involved with the Black Data Processing Associates (BDPA), an organization that works to bridge the digital divide for minorities, in 2002. "At the time I was in transition, searching for employment and networking. I attended an awards function in which high school kids were receiving scholarships. When I saw the looks on their faces I knew I wanted to be at the forefront of an organization that helped kids get scholarships."
After some years of service to the organization, Jenkins became president of the Philadelphia chapter in 2006. He says he found Dwight Jaggard's leadership course extremely useful when it came time to assume an executive position.
At BDPA he has helped students and professionals with BDPA's mission of the "classroom to the boardroom," and has worked with corporate sponsors to provide IT training and training members to gain International Computer Driving License (ICDL) certification. He has also been able to live out his dream of offering student prizes, scholarships and public exposure.
"EMTM allowed me to build relationships with people who worked in corporations, and many of them ended up helping support some of our programs."
For Jenkins, who was born and raised in North Philadelphia with economic hardship, the opportunity to help young students is invaluable. "This work is a passion of mine. I always wanted to be a bridge and help others in my neighborhood."
As he neared the completion of his presidential term in the fall of 2007, Jenkins was honored to learn that the Philadelphia Chapter won the organization's Chapter of the Year award.
Another shining moment came recently, when he arranged for his own company to donate 95 computers to Wireless Philadelphia, which provided the computers to welfare-to-work adult students participating in a nursing certification program. "People were actually crying when they received the computers," he says. "Any opportunity we can give even if out of 50 students you end up with three who go on to break the proverbial glass ceiling it's a success."
David Smith, EMTM '07, is another graduate committed to improving education for underserved youth through the initiative he founded, Middle School Science Partners in Baltimore, MD.
Smith became aware of the plight of students in Baltimore's inner city through a friend who worked for the archdiocese of Baltimore. The parochial schools were filling an important gap, but he found that the schools themselves needed a lot of support. "Most were struggling for resources to equip their science labs. In many cases the teachers are not very skilled in the sciences and many may not even have a science degree."
Smith, a technologist by training and Chief Scientist at Ziva Corporation in San Diego, CA, thought about ways he could help improve conditions for the students. "At that time I was still at Penn, and I started talking with classmates about what we could do," he says.
The program he came up with is comprised of three parts: providing the schools with better equipment and resources; bringing in career mentoring for students interested in science and technology; and connecting students to minority PhD candidates at the University of Maryland's Meyerhoff Scholarship Program.
Middle School Science Partners is currently being piloted in five schools. With assistance from EMTM classmates, Smith built a nonprofit organization to anchor the program and serves as its executive director. For its first phase, Smith raised funds through the Knott Foundation. However, he says, "We will need money for the long haul, so fundraising will be an ongoing business. Having taken finance and marketing classes at EMTM, I feel prepared to package the program for CEOs and CFOs."
So far, Smith has found the reaction to Middle School Science Partners overwhelmingly positive." It's amazing how much this idea resonates with people. I find that when it comes to helping younger people, everyone wants to give them a better future and the opportunity to succeed."