Ramon Luis Fille ’22 learned more than theory in the course Principles of Management (MGT 200). He learned how to lead, and credits Assistant Professor of Management Kathryn Ostermeier, Ph.D., for his transformation into someone who can make a difference.
The course requires student teams to collaborate with a local or regional nonprofit organization on a semester-long service-learning project. At the end of the semester, judges evaluate each team on how they applied the concepts learned during the course and on the impact their project had on their nonprofit organization.
“There's a big passion for teaching at Bryant. We're really encouraged to try out new ideas, be experiential, and ask how can we make the course interesting and important to students.”
An Honors Program student who hopes to major in Marketing and Leadership and Innovation Management, Fille was the team leader for his group, which worked through the Veterans Benefits Administration of Rhode Island to help a shelter for veterans. Of the 65 teams competing, Fille and his team placed first. In all, the team helped over 100 veterans, improved the VBA's marketing collateral, helped prepare the shelter for government inspections, and volunteered for many events held in support of the veterans and the shelter. They received top accolades from the nonprofit leaders—and appreciation from the veterans.
Learning the ins and outs of team dynamics
The team was passionate about the cause. “We wanted to actually make a difference. After our first tour with our nonprofit, we said to ourselves, ‘We’re not here just for a course project,’” says Fille. Through his work in the course, Ramon learned how to use positive team dynamics to translate the team’s passion into high performance.
When teaching Principles of Management, Ostermeier stresses the importance of team dynamics, among her areas of expertise. She kicks off every semester with research on how team cohesiveness impacts team performance.
But being an actively engaged teacher-mentor, she says, is what helps the material stick.
For example, she meets regularly outside of class with team leaders to provide individual feedback and mentorship. During his meetings, Ramon says he explored with Ostermeier some creative ideas for getting his team on the same page.
Seeing results in real life: "Wow, there it is!”
“It was an amazing experience!” he says. He’d gain support and insight from his meetings, implement the ideas, “and then actually get to see it work in real life. It was like, wow, there it is!”
Fille’s team wasn’t the only Ostermeier group in the winner’s circle. Two other teams from Ostermeier’s MGT200 classes placed second and fifth.
What is the secret to Ostermeier’s success? She says it’s her approach as a teacher-mentor, building close relationships with students as they work to apply leadership and management principles in their projects.
“For me, ‘teacher’ and ‘mentor’ are not separate ideas, because while we’re teaching students concepts, we’re also engaging them in the learning process in which we want them to be an active participant. That’s why as a teacher, I also serve as mentor, giving them guidance, feedback, and motivation.”
“There's a big passion for teaching at Bryant,” she adds. “We're really encouraged to try out new ideas, be experiential, and ask how can we make the course interesting and important to students. I really like that about Bryant, because to me, teaching is a privilege.”
And what was the biggest takeaway for Fille? “Definitely how to be a great leader and a great manager,” he says, adding that the positive impact the team’s project had was greater than taking first place.
“The ‘A’ in the class was nice, but the smiling faces and thank you’s were even better.”