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Jim O'Connor (GSM96) returned as a corps member to the rural South African high school where he taught after finishing his undergraduate studies.

A Few Good People

Jim O'Connor's post-college year as a volunteer teacher at a rural high school in Lebowa, South Africa, strengthened his resolve to reach out to communities in need.

While studying at the Kellogg Graduate School of Management in 1995, he realized that most new graduates had a few months of free time before starting new jobs in the fall, and he saw the perfect window of opportunity for volunteer work.

With the help of faculty and classmates, O'Connor established a program, called the Kellogg Corps, in which alumni participate in four- to six-week consulting projects for a variety of nonprofit organizations around the globe. He knew he had hit on something big because the first year he proposed the idea, more than 50 classmates submitted applications. "Not only does the program give alumni practical applications of their hard-won business skills within the context of community service," O'Connor says, "it offers them an invaluable cross-cultural experience."

In the Kellogg Corps' first year, O'Connor led a group of five fellow graduates back to the school in Lebowa, where they tutored high school students in business and academic basics. "South Africa is a pretty entrepreneurial society," says corps alumna Nancy Curby (GSM96). "A lot of kids had aspirations to start their own businesses. We went over business planning, how to develop a product and how to advertise. They all responded really well, and it was fun for us, too."

The corps has grown steadily since that initial foray. Last summer, about 50 Kellogg alumni headed for 10 developing countries around the world, including Lebanon, Laos, Bolivia and the Philippines. According to current corps co-chair Paul Smurl (GSM99), graduates worked for organizations ranging in size from the World Wildlife Fund to the tiny Tanzania Food Processors Association. "In just a few years, we've developed mutually beneficial relationships with groups that want us back year after year," Smurl says. "Organizations like Save the Children have asked us to work with local groups they've partnered with in other countries, so we keep establishing new ties." -- L.S.