Published 4/26/17 on the University of Maryland, Robert H. Smith School of Business website.

Fasika Delessa ’18 writes about a student consulting project with College Park’s Support, Advocacy, Freedom and Empowerment (SAFE) Center.

College students are busy; with packed schedules and heavy course loads, it can be easy to lose sight of what is happening in the greater College Park community. Most students know about commercial development around campus, but few know the actions the university has taken to address local human trafficking. Housed in College Park, the Support, Advocacy, Freedom and Empowerment (SAFE) Center is the product of a historic partnership between the University of Maryland Baltimore and the University of Maryland, College Park aimed at addressing human trafficking and supporting survivors.

The SAFE Center, an organization dedicated to providing critical services to human trafficking survivors, faces many challenges traditional businesses and nonprofits face. This spring, five University of Maryland graduate students are volunteering to help the SAFE Center work through some of those challenges through a semester-long consulting engagement. The student team is part of Change the World (CTW) Consulting, a signature program of the Center for Social Value Creation (CSVC) at the Robert H. Smith School of Business, where every semester over 50 undergraduate and graduate students serve as consultants with local nonprofits working to solve complex problems.

Students working with the SAFE Center are conducting research and analysis to help establish an economic empowerment program, backed by data-driven and results-oriented models. The research component of this project is vital, and what the team has spent a bulk of their time conducting, according to Annie Wolaver, a master of public policy student on the team. Through their research, the team is looking to understand existing program models and to determine which model best fits the needs of the SAFE Center clients.

The five graduate students working with the SAFE Center bring a diverse set of skills to their consulting project. Wolaver said she appreciates “working with such a diverse team. Each member brings unique and complementary skills to the project, from past consulting work, data analytics, and social work expertise.” Evan Klondar, a joint MPP and MBA graduate student reflected on the important mission of the center, emphasizing that “working with the SAFE center is a real privilege; their mission of economic empowerment for victims of trafficking is motivating and keeps me engaged with the project.”

Solving issues as vast, complex, and devastating as human trafficking requires the collaboration of everyone in a given ecosystem – universities, cities, students and residents. On a sprawling campus of more than 40,000- one that is full of world-renowned researchers, hundreds of student groups, and the many other functions of a large research university- it may be easy to lose sight of the community that transcends the bounds of campus. This is why the spirit of collaboration, which helped create the SAFE Center, and is integral to CTW’s mission, is necessary to create lasting social impact.

As Wolvaer noted, “It’s important to be mindful of what’s happening beyond the scope of the classroom. There are so many organizations out there on the frontlines, helping the most vulnerable amongst us. Contributing to that mission is beyond fulfilling.” When their engagement comes to an end, the team hopes to provide the center with a final recommendation on an economic empowerment program design tailored specifically to the needs of their clients, and how this program can be a jumping off point for future College Park collaboration.

For more information about the Center for Social Value Creation, visit: www.rhsmith.umd.edu/svc.

About the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business

The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and part-time MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, specialty masters, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.