Service Leadership Projects

As part of the Fellowship, each Roy H. Park Leadership Fellow is charged with making a significant public service contribution to Johnson, the University, or the surrounding community.

The Service Leadership Projects serve as a capstone for leadership development at Johnson by providing the Fellows with an opportunity to practice their leadership skills, integrate the perspectives of diverse disciplines, and develop an enduring commitment to public service. The projects are structured to focus on service improvements and program enhancements for either non-profit organizations or for-profit start-ups that stimulate economic development. The Service Leadership Projects benefit not only the client and community, but also the Fellows by enabling them to deepen their leadership capability and their appreciation of the rewards of public service.

The Park Leadership Fellows are self-organizing and self-governing with respect to the Service Leadership Projects. They act as the primary source for initiating and developing project ideas, and consult with the Program Director for referrals and advice on project structure and content.

Below are just a few examples of Service Leadership Projects that have invaluably impacted the Johnson, Cornell, and regional communities since the Fellowship’s inception:

BR Venture Fund Logo

The Big Red Venture Capital Fund

Working with the support of Johnson alumni and faculty, one team of Fellows developed an early-stage venture capital fund to be operated entirely by a team of Johnson MBA students. The Big Red Venture Fund (BRV) offers students hands-on training in how to run a venture capital fund, including making key investment decisions. This experience gives a competitive edge to MBA candidates who are interested in sought-after jobs in the venture capital industry. Involvement in refining business plans also teaches students how to start businesses and support them through ongoing consulting. BRV typically invests up to $250,000 in U.S.-based high-growth companies across all industries. Initially funded by donations to Cornell University, BRV is a true evergreen fund, recycling all proceeds for reinvestment. Along with investing start-up capital in promising new companies, BRV also serves as the gateway to Cornell technologies by providing its investment partners unique access to new innovations.

State Theatre

Historic Ithaca: State Theatre Business Plan

The State Theatre is a historic regional theater that operates as a non-profit and as with many arts organizations, faces chronic financial challenges. The goal of one team of Fellows was to analyze the Theatre’s program strategy and develop specific action items to improve its profitability. The team conducted two large-scale audience surveys across ten different events, yielding 450 respondents. They used the results to develop an audience profile for the Theatre and segmentation of its customers. Tailored marketing strategies were presented for each of the segments analyzed. In addition, more than a dozen interviews with other comparative historic theaters and performing arts venues in the Northeast were conducted, which helped the Fellows evaluate the feasibility of various operating plans. The team also carefully analyzed the financial plan of the theater and recommended budget adjustments based on their short-term and long-term goals. The Theatre remains open today and hosts comedians, musicians, ballet, and theatrical performances.

Johnson Board Fellows - 0419_11_069

Johnson Board Fellows

The Johnson Board Fellows program is an effort designed to give students an opportunity to serve on the boards of local non-profit organizations. Board Fellows gain hands-on experience as non-voting board members and have the opportunity to develop the tools for valuable community leadership throughout their careers. This project focused on designing and launching a pilot program for this effort involving a handful of students chosen as Board Fellows and a small number of Ithaca-area non-profits. Today, the Johnson Board Fellowship program continues to flourish, annually placing second-year students on local non-profit boards for one-year appointments. The Johnson Board Fellows program has been featured in US News and World Report and Cornell Enterprise magazine. The group has also been honored with the prestigious Town-Gown (TOGO) Award by the Cornell University President for its outstanding contributions to the relationship between Cornell and the broader Ithaca community.

Dewitt Middle School Leadership Development Program

A team of Fellows helped construct a Student Council Leadership Development Program at Dewitt Middle School. This program included a series of six 45-minute leadership development workshops that were delivered, evaluated, and refined over the course of the school year. The thirty-five Student Council members learned about leadership traits, styles of leadership and their own personal style, how to work effectively in teams, how to increase effectiveness of decision making in a group setting, creative problem solving techniques, and the concepts of servant leadership. The program was documented such that the workshops could be easily replicated and delivered by interested community members in future years and at additional schools.

Dewitt Middle School

Women in a classroom

Johnson Women in Business

This project launched an inaugural women’s conference at Johnson and established a viable infrastructure within the Women’s Management Council to sustain the conference on an annual basis going forward. The fundamental objective of the Johnson Women in Business weekend was to attract more accomplished women to business school, educate them on Johnson’s unique value proposition for women, and to provide a forum to discuss issues relevant to women’s success in the business world. Through benchmarking peer schools, surveying current students, and on-boarding key admissions personnel, the Johnson Women in Business Conference was launched for prospective and current students, attracting outstanding prospective students to the Ithaca area.

Alternative Outdoor Adventure at LACS

One group of Fellows worked to develop the Alternative Outdoor Adventure Program at Lehman Alternative Community School (LACS). The program was composed of a nine-week course during which LACS students could develop teambuilding skills, problem-solving skills, and self-awareness. The following year, another group of Fellows partnered with the LACS and the Ithaca Youth Bureau to further develop a program to educate, empower, and impart healthy lifestyle education to young adults by establishing sustainable alternative outdoor education and other hands-on physical activities. The nine-week course included activities such as low- and high-ropes courses, rock climbing, swimming, canoeing, tennis, and dragon boating. The program culminated in a two-day camping trip encouraging physical and mental fitness and wellness. Following the successful pilot, the Fellows transitioned the program to the Ithaca Youth Bureau to continue this course offering with LACS.

Lehman Alternative Community School library interior

Battle of the Brands

Battle of the Brands

In conjunction with the Marketing Association, a team of Fellows introduced what is now one of the most beloved Johnson traditions: Battle of the Brands. The 1st Annual Battle of the Brands included six teams of students, each sponsored by a well-known consumer products company and assigned a random product for which they created and executed a marketing plan over a two-week period. Teams then sold their products during the capstone event at the Sage Social where the entire student body, faculty, staff, and partners “purchased” the products. After the sale, each team presented their results to a panel of nearly 30 industry experts and marketing executives. Participating students benefited from immediate application of classroom materials while engaging with sponsoring companies and receiving real-time feedback from marketing experts. The event received much praise from students, staff, and sponsoring companies, and has since become a cornerstone experience for students.

Cornell ROTC Flag

Cornell ROTC Program

There are over 100 undergraduate cadets serving in Cornell’s ROTC program getting ready to enter a world that is very difficult to understand, much less prepare for. This project’s purpose was to help the cadets by leveraging the invaluable leadership experience of several former service members who are current business and law school students at Cornell. In coordination with the Association of Veterans at Johnson, one Fellow enlisted the support of graduate students across multiple programs to volunteer their time to help advise Cornell’s undergraduate cadets. With the support of senior officers serving within the ROTC program, the team was able to initiate branch-specific leadership panels. The panels were used as opportunities to introduce all the cadets within a particular branch to the graduate student veterans who had served in that branch, provide a forum where veterans shared lessons learned, and to promote the forming mentor and mentee relationships.

Adirondacks Expedition - Canoe Line-up

Adirondacks Leadership Expedition

Upstate New York is an environment full of beauty and opportunity for adventure. For this project, one Fellow wanted to leverage the local landscape to design a leadership expedition that could provide an additional experiential leadership learning opportunity for Johnson students. As a result, this Fellow designed and facilitated the Leadership Expedition to the Adirondacks, an MBA leadership development trek through the Saranac Lakes in the Adirondacks. In its first year, nine Johnson students camped and canoed 15-20 miles over three days with the support of Cornell Outdoor Education technical experts. Participants practiced leadership and followership skills as they overcame obstacles and challenges while also building a new cohort of classmates and learning technical camping skills. Following the successful pilot program, the Adirondacks expedition became an official expedition offering along with the Patagonia and Quantico Leadership Expeditions.

MacCormick Center

MacCormick – Johnson Fatherhood Initiative

In partnership with the New York State Office of Children and Family Services, a team of Fellows organized an effort to provide a positive male influence and expand opportunities for young men at the MacCormick Youth Detention Center in Brooktondale, NY. These youths are detainees in a maximum-security institution who will be responsible for parenting children upon their release. This program was focused on providing mentorship, support, and educational opportunities through activities focusing on fatherhood, work, and life skills. The program was highly successful, and was carried on for multiple years by other students within Johnson.

2009 Solar House

MacCormick Center

In fall 2007, Cornell participated in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon, an annual intercollegiate competition in which student teams are challenged by a series of ten contests during a week-long event to design and build full-size, solar-powered houses. Cornell’s team comprised more than 120 students representing seven Cornell schools. The team designed, built, and exhibited an energy-independent home spanning 650 square feet and featured a unique detached solar-covered canopy. The Fellows taking part in this project were responsible for the marketing and fundraising activities. The major marketing function centered on a comprehensive website that included all of the team’s activities, including strategy, design, project updates, and fundraising. The fundraising activities succeeded in securing more than $120K in cash donations and $80K in materials in kind. The website placed 3rd overall which was the best performing element for the Cornell team.

Tompkins County Emergency Response Logo

Tompkins County Fire Department Volunteer Revival

Declining fire department volunteerism is a nationwide, systemic issue currently faced by the 17 individual Tompkins County Fire Departments (TCFD). For this project, four Park Fellows worked in partnership with the TCFD to identify initiatives to increase volunteer recruiting, participation, and retention rates. Through extensive surveying/interviewing of various stakeholders, as well as best practice research, the team of Park Fellows was able to outline six initiatives including implementation plans to help reverse this trend. They also worked with the TCFD to submit a grant to support the execution of these initiatives going forward. Upon graduating, the team transitioned the project to a group of first-year Fellows to execute and expand upon these initiatives by creating a process to streamline grant-seeking applications for the county and partnering with local businesses to offer a discount program for volunteers to act as another retention tool.