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U-M Ross MBAs to Make a Positive Difference in Detroit with Back-to-School Fair

8/26/2013 --

MBAs to concept, create, and host a back-to-school fair as part of annual RLI Impact Challenge.

Ann Arbor, Mich. — The University of Michigan's Ross School of Business kicked off the school year in dramatic fashion today by announcing to the incoming class of 450, first-year MBA students that they have exactly four days to concept, create, and host a Back-to-School Fair at Detroit's Eastern Market for Detroit Public School students. The fair will be the culmination of the annual Ross Leadership Initiative (RLI) Impact Challenge, which introduces MBA students to Ross' mission to develop leaders who make a positive difference in the world and commitment to action-based learning.

The week-long RLI Impact Challenge begins with presentations and speakers that profile a "day in the life" of Detroit-area children and the educational environment. The MBAs will be grouped into teams and tasked with creating products or services that help ready Detroit youth for success in the upcoming school year. Each team has a budget of $2,500. The teams will use design thinking to develop innovative solutions and work to brand and market their ideas for the back-to-school fair.

Throughout the week, keynote speakers including Alison Davis-Blake, dean of U-M Ross; Peter Thum, founder of Ethos Water; Dave Brandon, director of intercollegiate athletics for the University of Michigan; Brian Quinn, Deloitte Consulting, LLP; Ari Weinzweig, founder of Zingerman's Deli; and Stas' Kazmeirski, director of ZingTrain, will provide MBAs with insight and inspiration.

On the morning of August 29, the MBA students will be bused to Detroit's Eastern Market to set up the back-to-school fair, which is created in partnership with Detroit Public Schools and Detroit Parent Network, with generous support from General Motors, Quicken Loans, the Sean Anderson Foundation, the Office Depot Foundation, and Peter and Sharon Faricy.

"The back-to-school fair is first and foremost about helping Detroit youth prepare for success," said Scott DeRue, professor of management at U-M Ross. "At the same time, Ross MBAs are learning by doing. They learn how to lead teams, how to innovate, and how to use business as a force for both economic and social value creation. The RLI Impact Challenge is the essence of action-based learning."

A judging panel, led by Dean Alison Davis-Blake, will select a winning team based on each portfolio's desirability, feasibility, and viability. There will also be a People's Choice Award, chosen by kids and families who vote for their favorite products or services. GM will recognize the team with the most visionary portfolio, most innovative product or service, and most compelling booth display.

The back-to-school fair will be August 29 from 3:00 p.m. 6:00 p.m. at Detroit's Eastern Market in Sheds 2 and 3. The event is free and open to the public. Follow the RLI Impact Challenge throughout the week on social media using the hashtag #RossImpact.

For more information, contact:
Tamra Talmadge-Anderson, (734) 763-2419,