Ravi Subramanian, a professor of Operations Management, understands that students enjoy and benefit from hands-on learning. If that education can also make a positive impact on communities, that's a clear “win-win.” In 2018, when Ravi met Garry Harris, president of the Center for Sustainable Communities (CSC), at a Serve-Learn-Sustain event, the two had a feeling that they could join forces to do something special. Ravi had recently developed an undergraduate course, Business Decisions for Sustainability and Shared Value, in which students learn how companies address fundamental human needs while at the same time finding business value in doing so. Ravi thought, What better way for students to learn than by applying their newfound knowledge (and Georgia Tech-ingrained passion for problem solving) to real challenges being addressed by CSC?
The nonprofit had been charged with providing recommendations for ECO District Hampton Roads—a revitalization project that aims to foster community, increase prosperity, and promote health and well-being in a Virginia community. Ravi and Garry proceeded with developing class projects that would give students access to real-world learning while helping CSC tap Georgia Tech talent to address these important objectives. First in Spring 2019, and then once again in Spring 2021, teams of students in Ravi's class researched and pitched revitalization projects, which have been enthusiastically received by ECO District stakeholders. In the 2021 class, students presented plans for energy-efficiency education, career opportunities in offshore wind, a food cooperative, a resilience hub, and more, which could help the district reach its goal of making prosperity for all a reality.