MBA Students Take Their Gold Award Program Proposal to Girl Scouts

Three MBA students in the Mike Cottrell College of Business completed a case study assignment for their summer course that piqued the interest of Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta.

Denise McWilliams, Latrisa DeGraft-Hanson, and Sharlie Brooks came together in their Strategy and Structure of Technology Operations class to work on this project, which they had one month to complete.

The Gold Award Program has been around since 1916 and is the highest achievement one can earn in the Girl Scouts Association. While the program is overseen by the local Council, a committee of volunteers, the Gold Award Committee, manages the program.

McWilliams, a member of the Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta Gold Award Executive Committee, thought of the program as a possible topic for the case study. She had previously noticed some potential problems with the program structure and interactions between the Committee and the Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta (GSGATL) Council members.

In 2016, only 3% of eligible girl scouts achieved the Gold Award. The group’s research aimed to discover why the number of girls receiving this award has decreased in the Greater Atlanta Council for the past three years. Their research included interviews with some Gold Award recipients as well as Gold Award leadership.

“I wasn’t surprised by our findings and being on the committee, I knew there were issues,” Denise McWilliams said.

The group’s recommendations for Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta included three main goals: create a more supportive environment, simplify process components, and improve technology integration.

McWilliams shared the completed case study with the Girl Scout Program Specialist who is the Council representative in charge of the Gold Award Program for GSGATL, Vena Namukasa. Namukasa is someone the students interviewed while conducting their research, and she thinks many of the group’s recommendations will be implemented at some point.

“The recommendations as a whole were of interest,” Vena Namukasa said. “We have recently conducted our own review with contact amongst the various individuals who are involved in the Gold Award process and have come up with very similar results.”

Among the group’s techniques for improving the Gold Award program include reinforcing interviewing, fostering empowerment, and creating a framework for positive change.

“I would like to see the GSGATL implement those recommendations that would improve communication and foster transparency between the Gold Award Committee and the GSGATL Council,” Latrisa DeGraft-Hanson said.

The Council has already begun strengthening their relationship with the Gold Award Committee and anticipates that they will increase online training along with implementing other recommendations. The case study has “re-affirmed our need to make some strategic improvements to the process,” Namukasa said.

“I never expected our work to be shown to so many people and to have the praise it has gotten,” Sharlie Brooks said.

The project proved to be a beneficial experience for the students who recognized the topic “would provide us a good opportunity to apply concepts that we were learning in class to an actual business model,” DeGraft Hanson said.