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Mike Cottrell College of Business faculty offer expertise to community

September 2, 2020

Hugh Scott was eager to find a way to help. While scrolling LinkedIn this spring, the University of North Georgia (UNG) lecturer of management noticed an article about the College of Charleston faculty offering pro bono one-time consultations to businesses facing challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Scott mentioned the idea to Dr. Mary Gowan, dean of UNG's Mike Cottrell College of Business (MCCB), and she was quickly on board. After consulting with faculty members at the College of Charleston, Scott started by forming a partnership between UNG and the Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce called Profs for FoCo. It connects UNG faculty with businesses and nonprofits who needed their expertise.

"The Mike Cottrell College of Business is uniquely positioned to serve as a resource for businesses in our region and beyond," Gowan said. "In the midst of the uncertainty faced by so many for-profit and nonprofit organizations around us, we believe it is our responsibility to share our expertise to help these organizations navigate their way forward. Doing so creates a win-win situation for our region and opens doors for further engagement with the college."

More than 20 UNG faculty members have volunteered in the effort, which Scott is working to expand into partnerships with other north Georgia chambers of commerce.

"Our faculty were interested in how they could help," Scott said.

Mary Norman, a lecturer of marketing, connected with a pair of Forsyth nonprofits and was "blown away" by their efforts.

Norman connected with Cumming Home Ministries and Forsyth County Family Haven. The first group, which helps homeless men in rebuilding their lives, was seeking support in the areas of retail optimization for its thrift store and expanding awareness of its services and fundraising activities. Norman shared retail best practices and connected the nonprofit to Elaine Fitzpatrick, MCCB internship coordinator, who is working to find a student to help support these areas of need.

Amy Barfield, interim executive director of Forsyth County Family Haven, was interested in assistance with grant writing and fundraising. Norman and Scott put Barfield in touch with Dr. Sarah Young, assistant professor of political science and assistant director of academic engagement at UNG, who has extensive experience with nonprofits and grant writing. Young then paired Barfield with a marketing class taught by Dr. Caroline Munoz, associate professor at UNG.

"They're all doing a great job. They're just asking for a little help," Norman said. "That's what we want to give them."

Dr. Mohan Menon, UNG department head of marketing and management, has helped with a pair of requests. Shawn LaFave, president of North Georgia Promotions, wanted digital marketing and social media assistance, and Menon connected him with Munoz, Fitzpatrick and Dr. Chris Dant, faculty member and internship coordinator in UNG's Department of Visual Arts.

Menon also helped the nonprofit BMore Learning Inc. The group seeks to teach middle and high school children career preparation skills, and Menon hopes it will lead to an internship for a UNG student. It also gave Menon a chance to connect Shawn Athanasios, a lecturer of business communication with personal coaching experience, with Jackie Martin, the group's creator and founder.

Menon is grateful for the experiences students are gaining and the ways UNG faculty are reaching out.

"We are citizens of this community," Menon said. "And we help each other out."

James McCoy, president and CEO of the Forsyth County Chamber and a graduate of UNG's Cottrell MBA program, is appreciative.

"This clearly demonstrates the level of partnership that exists between Forsyth County's educational institutions and the private business sector," McCoy said. "We are excited to elevate this partnership to a new level with this program."

For more information about the Profs for FoCo program and/or to set up an appointment, visit www.profsforfoco.org or email Laura Stewart, Forsyth County Chamber vice president of community engagement, at lstewart@focochamber.org.

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