Building hands, changing lives

Orientation week for MBA students at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School each year introduces new students to the program, each other and the school’s core values. This year, one program in particular engaged students in a new kind of teamwork.

Through a program called “Hands-On Team Training,” the students built prosthetic hands that will be donated to children in need around the world. Many of those children had their hands amputated as a result of injuries from land mines.

About 30 GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) employees came to campus from the Research Triangle and Pennsylvania to work alongside the MBA students. Divided into small groups, the students opened zipped bags to find the pieces and parts they needed to build prosthetic hands – and then heeded the advice to follow the instruction booklet step-by-step and not to rush.

Building the prosthetic hands gives students the opportunity to realize the gift that they have in their own hands while working together, says Dennis Morgan, a team-building expert from Play With A Purpose, which runs the event. “Each person brings their own unique talent to a team.”

The mood in the room was upbeat as music played and students worked together to build the hands. Volunteers walked around the room to answer questions as the teams collaborated to accomplish the task. A help desk was set up for groups that needed to make fixes or repairs.

Once teams built the hands, they tested their finished products to ensure that they worked properly. The final step was to decorate zipper bags to hold the finished hands. Children who receive the hands often treasure the bags and will hang them in their rooms or homes.

Students created colorful drawings of the Old Well, Ramses and other UNC symbols. They added messages of hope, love and inspiration that will be shared with people around the world.

David Perretz, a first-year MBA student and former Army officer, says the project showed that community service is valued at Kenan-Flagler. Furthermore, he said the hands will make a “dramatic change in someone’s life.”

“To me, it was very significant to appreciate the impact it will have right away,” says Perretz, who was deployed twice to Afghanistan during his seven years in the Army.

The UNC Kenan-Flagler teams completed the project in just over an hour, faster than any other group has, says Morgan. He says those teamwork skills will serve the students well in the MBA program and during their careers.

The students’ passion for the project reminded him that “above and beyond, there are people in this world who care,” Morgan told the students. “You’ve definitely changed lives today.”

The event reinforced that health care careers provide an opportunity to improve lives.

GSK is an important partner with UNC Kenan-Flagler across many initiatives, specifically health care and MBA recruiting.

“At GSK, we work every day to find better ways to make a difference in the lives of patients, and we wanted to use this time to work together with UNC Kenan-Flagler students to help others to do more, feel better and live longer,” said Christine Barczak, U.S. pharma graduate program lead at GSK.

Story by Olivia S. Hart, UNC journalism student.

Published August 26, 2013.