Students for a Better World: The Beyond the Classroom Blog

Stories, Resources, & More from the Beyond the Classroom (BTC) Program at University of Maryland


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“We are Wisconsin” Illustrates Lessons in People Power

By Ross Heise, BTC Student

The nonprofit “We Are Wisconsin” continues to advocate for the state’s worker’s rights.

On February 25, I attended Beyond the Classroom’s viewing of the documentary “We are Wisconsin” as a part of the “People Power: Activism for Social Change” faculty and film series.  The film showed the historic events that happened last year in Wisconsin and the people that were a part of it. The film details everything that happened at the state capitol starting from when Governor Scott Walker proposed the bill SB11. The bill was his solution to the struggling economy.  He claimed Wisconsin was in a “budget crisis” and the only way to fix it was to cut benefits and wages for public employees. Not only that, but the most surprising development was legislation that would end employee’s right to collective bargaining. Continue reading

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Internship Provides a Real Life Lesson in Engagement and Advocacy

by Andrea Glauber, BTC Student

Since the Fall 2012 semester, I have been working at an internship in the Department of Public Policy and Advocacy at Save the Children. My work focuses mostly on field policy and global development issues, making the experience relevant to my coursework in Beyond the Classroom.

Save the Children’s international policies have recently focused on two topics: 1) Humanitarian assistance in conflict-ridden areas such as Syria, and 2) The international development agenda after the deadline of the United Nations (UN) Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). My first task as an intern was to plan a roundtable discussion for 60 members of civil society, featuring a panel of experts on the United Nations’ post-2015 development framework. In July 2012, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon appointed a High-level Panel of Eminent Persons to advise him on the issues that should be prioritized in the future. The discussion emphasized the importance of input from civil society in contributing to the framework, a real-life example of the kind of advocacy and citizen engagement we learn about in Beyond the Classroom. Continue reading


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Beyond the Financial Crisis Course Offers New Perspectives

by Dr. Caitlin Haugen, BTC Assistant Director

BTC partnered with the Maryland Small Business Development Center to develop this seminar series.

Beyond the Classroom courses and programs challenge students to reassess the information they learn every day.  Beyond the Classroom, as the name infers, challenges participants to go “beyond” their everyday learning and rethink how they see the world.  This semester’s experiential learning seminar is no exception.  Titled “Beyond the Financial Crisis:  From Wall Street to Main Street, Toward a New Agenda for Prosperity,” the seminar walked students through events and actions that led to the recent financial crisis, the results of the crisis, and then introduced them to the innovations by industry leaders that has led or will lead to new economic prosperity in this country and the world.

The course grew out of a partnership between BTC and the UMD Maryland Small Business Development Center. It was co-taught by BTC’s Director Dr. Jim Riker and Casey Willson, the Retail Industry and Sustainable Program Manager at the center.  Continue reading


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The Potential of Benefit Corporations as an Advantageous Business Structure: An Evening with Laura Jordan

by Shefali Khanna, Beyond the Classroom Student

BTC hosted Laura Jordan who shared her experiece working with Benefit Corporations in Maryland. She has the distinction of incorporating the first company of its kind in the United States.

As a part of the film and faculty series on “Critical Conversations on Civic Issues: Beyond the Financial Crisis,” BTC hosted Laura Jordan, Managing Principal, Capital Law Firm, PLCC on November 14.   Her discussion focused on benefit corporations. According to Jordan, these are corporations that strive to maximize shareholder profits and create a “general public benefit,” which is explicitly included in the corporation’s charter. The specific public benefits could include preserving the environment, improving human health, or providing economic opportunity to individuals and communities beyond job creation. These activities are annually measured against a third party standard that is developed by an independent entity. At the end of each fiscal year, the corporation will deliver an annual benefit report to each stockholder that contains detailed information on ways in which the benefit corporation pursued a general public benefit during the year and an assessment of the societal and environmental performance achieved by the corporation. By law, this report must be made publicly available.

The speaker is an admirable attorney and concerned citizen who helped her clients develop this path-breaking sustainable industry model. Maryland is the first state to have legalized benefit corporations. At the event, she convinced a large part of the audience that benefit corporations increase market efficiency by facilitating a close alignment between the true costs and benefits of consumers’ purchase decisions. The portion of profits spent on activities that provide a public benefit are not taxed, and these corporations now have an extra marketing tool that gives them a competitive advantage. Finally, it is clear that these benefits enhance freedom of choice and limit government intrusion, which would make the concept appealing to policymakers on either side of the spectrum.

The Big Bad Woof, now with two locations in Maryland, was the first benefit corporation in the United States.

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Edited for clarity and length by Dr. Caitlin Haugen, Assistant Director, Beyond the Classroom