Above from left, Troy Segala ’16, Chelsea Lefebvre ’16, North Adams Mayor Richard Alcombright, Dr. Tom Whalen and Alyssa Dame ’16 at this fall’s Neighborlies Community Recognition Award Ceremony, where Whalen and his students were recognized for their work with the local affiliate of the United Cerebral Palsy Association.

Students Team Up with United Cerebral Palsy


What began as a project for students enrolled in his operations management course led to additional opportunities for other MCLA students as Dr. Thomas Whalen, an assistant professor of business administration, teamed up with the local affiliate of the United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) Association to provide some much-needed services.

Getting his students out into the community to gain experience is important to Whalen. “People learn by doing,” he said. “Plus, there’s the added benefit of helping out others.”

The partnership with United Cerebral Palsy of Pittsfield started with a project for students who are taking Whalen’s “Operations Management” course, after Whalen learned that the local organization’s executive director, Sal Garozzo, wanted something to assess the quality of UCP’s programs.

As a result, the students are creating a quality assurance program to help the non-profit organization monitor numerous projects and grants.

“I thought, ‘Here’s a perfect opportunity to have my students develop a quality program from scratch, and this will help out a really worthwhile organization that serves not just people with cerebral palsy, but people with other disabilities,’” Whalen said. “It’s a win-win situation for my students and the local non-profit.”

This semester, Whalen’s students are setting up the entire framework for the quality assurance program. This includes tracking the 17 different areas UCP’s employees must be trained in. The students also are creating a way for UCP to keep track of their case records and associated documentation.

In addition, UCP has multiple billing requirements because of the varied funding – such as federal grants, non-profit grants – it receives. So, Whalen’s students are incorporating a method that details how the grants are used. Other areas include “critical incidents,” and a questionnaire to determine clients’ satisfaction with the services they receive.

“Some of these problems are not easy to solve,” Whalen said.

The two-part project will bring in Dr. David Eve’s computer science students next semester.

After Whalen’s business students develop a survey and the various measurements they require, they will create a document that states what a computer program needs to do to implement their plan. The project then will be handed off to the computer science students in the spring.

In addition to his operations management students, others in two sections of Whalen’s marketing course also are involved with a UCP project of their own. The organization plans a benefit concert in March 2016, to be headlined by 1970s band Kansas, who will come to Pittsfield to perform the show.

Corporate sponsors are needed, and Whalen’s marketing students are helping UCP to find them.

After doing some research on UCP, the students – all of whom registered as volunteers with the organization – developed a telephone script and called businesses to set up face-to-face meetings with Garozzo to discuss a sponsorship.

From this experience, the marketing students gained some sales skills.

In October, Whalen and his students were among those from MCLA to be recognized by the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition (NBCC) at its Fall Neighborlies Community Recognition Award Ceremony, after Garozzo nominated them because of the collaboration between MCLA’s Business Department and UCP.

NBCC this fall also honored faculty members Dr. Lisa Donovan (arts management) and Dr. Kerri Nicolls (social work), as well as Spencer Moser, director of the Center for Service and Citizenship, for their work in the community.