Expanding the Reach of The Arc

Social Change students showcase new ideas for venerable Massachusetts nonprofit
Participants in the Service-Learning Showcase
Maura Sullivan, senior director of Government Affairs and Health Policy at The Arc of Massachusetts, Sonia Alleyne, executive-in-residence in the Department of Public Service & Healthcare Administration, students Sotiria Boci and Ryan Leonard, and Leann Baldwin, lecturer in the Public Service Department.

The common message throughout the 2023 Service-Learning Community Showcase was crystal clear—Suffolk students are on a mission to enhance the lives of others. 

The Showcase consisted of eight presentations involving 75 students in the Sawyer Business School course titled Social Change, taught by Professors Sonia Alleyne and Leann Baldwin.

The assigned project: to provide various ways that The Arc of Massachusetts, a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization, can grow and prosper while serving 200,000 individuals with autism and intellectual and developmental disabilities statewide.

Working in small groups, students looked for answers on how The Arc could improve in such areas as reaching a new generation of supporters under the age of 30, expanding outreach to the private sector for donors, and attracting more high school students, college graduates, and immigrants into the field. 

Ryan Leonard, Class of 2025, was a member of Team Horizons, whose findings discovered that The Arc needed to expand its overall visibility.  

“We felt that The Arc should develop more social media pages in different platforms, like Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, and YouTube,” said Leonard, a computer science major.  “We also thought that they participate in more local community events and hand out merchandise with their contact information.”

Leonard believed that the many elements of the project (research, writing, editing, group work) was beneficial. “This was certainly a learning experience for my skill development and getting me out of my comfort zone,” he said. 

Sotiria Boci, Class of 2024, and her team, The Arc of Change, focused their efforts on analyzing The Arc’s strengths and weaknesses and ways that they can become a more productive resource.

“We tried to pinpoint what The Arc was missing in their story,” said Boci, a finance major. “We recommended that they captivate a broader range of donors through a number of ways.”

Boci, a self-described “big supporter of social change issues,” enjoyed the project’s collaborative component. “We were open-minded and had a free exchange of ideas,” she said. 
Jim Klocke, CEO, Massachusetts Non-Profit Network and Maura Sullivan, The Arc’s senior director of government affairs and health policy — along with SBS Associate Dean Pelin Bicen and Carlos Rufin, chair of the Department of Public Service & Healthcare Administration—were on hand to hear the innovative ideas the student groups had developed. Each project’s presentation included a research paper with recommendations for The Arc, a poster summarizing the paper, and a public service announcement. 

Professors Baldwin and Alleyne praised this year’s student projects. “I think they did a really good job of thinking outside the box,” said Baldwin, following the student presentations. “They took what they learned in the classroom and applied it to a real-world client where the information they found could do some good.”

“The students were inspiring and empowering,” added Alleyne, who serves as an executive-in-residence in the Department of Public Service & Healthcare Administration. “I was proud to see the various projects through the lens of our young people and future leaders.” 

Alleyne said that since the creation of the school’s service-learning “think tank” in the fall of 2019, nearly 600 undergraduate students and 25 MPA graduate students have been immersed into a community learning experience with positive results for approximately 17 non-profit organizations.  She feels that her Social Change course and the Showcase directly connect with the business school’s new Business with a Purpose vision. 

“Business with a Purpose provides a bold platform, empowering students to become change agents, and crystallizes for them that they do not have to wait until they graduate to lend their voice for change,” said Alleyne. “They can do it now.” 

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Greg Gatlin
Office of Public Affairs
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