When Quinlan Professor Linda Tuncay Zayer received news that her infant nephew had been put on a waiting list for a heart transplant, she took the issue to where she knew she could have the most impact: her classroom.
Students in Zayer’s consumer behavior class (MARK 310) were eager to help. With Ashton Scorza, 10 months old, on the waitlist at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Zayer called on her class to create public service announcements, or PSAs, for Gift of Life Michigan, an organ and tissue donation program.
By collaborating with real-world clients, Zayer puts business theory into practice and exposes her students to various stakeholders—in this case, a group charged with an explicit social mission.
“What I try to teach students is that society is a stakeholder and the environment is a stakeholder,” Zayer says. “They also get to see how they can use their skills to make society a better place.”
Two of Zayer’s classes, composed of 10 teams each, participated in the organ donation project, with representatives from Gift of Life Michigan picking their favorite spots.
“It was a unique opportunity,” says Jennifer Tislerics, special events and partnerships coordinator at Gift of Life Michigan. “It seemed helpful to get the perspective from current students and find out what speaks to them—what kinds of things get their attention.”
For senior Lucy Glaser, that means using business as a force for good.
“Sometimes marketing is seen as very pushy, manipulative, and sales oriented,” Glaser says. “So it is good to be able to use the skills we’re learning in class to really make a difference in someone’s life.”
Glaser’s team, Lifesavers, was among the winners. For its spot, the team used animation software to produce a message that appealed emotionally to parents and their children.
Senior Fran Homan narrated the Lifesavers’s PSA and, like many of her classmates, says the project motivated her to become a registered organ donor herself.
“We talked with a lot of people who weren’t organ donors and didn’t know why or how to sign up,” Homan says.
Then, midway through the semester, unfortunate news came.
More than a month into waiting for a donor, Ashton was in declining health. After several professional opinions, the family opted to take Ashton off the list in Michigan to move him to Boston Children’s Hospital for heart surgery.
Sadly, while Ashton’s surgery was successful, he died from an infection on October 21, just eight days shy of his first birthday.
In spite of her loss, Zayer has not given up hope for others.
“We came up with this project with the hope of getting as many people in Michigan to register to be organ donors,” Zayer says. “I guess I just hoped that maybe one of those people would be the one. One person’s donation can save up to eight lives, and of course, their tissues can help many more, so each person who is an organ donor has a big impact.”
Zayer’s lesson has had a similar effect.
“Professor Zayer’s story had a very strong impact on the entire class,” Glaser says. “In the first day of class, she made the note that she really wants us to appeal both with our minds and our hearts. This project certainly did that.”
To register to become an organ donor, visit donatelife.net.