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Business as a Force for Good: Making Bad Guys Good Again (Part 2)

“We are helping people who are invested in making themselves better for society and their families,” Michele Gagne EMBA ’03 said of her volunteer work with the Prison Entrepreneurship Program. 

March 03,  2017

By Elaine Cole

[Excerpt from Neeley Magazine]  –  When dozens of TCU Neeley undergrads went to prison as part of Dr. Garry Bruton’s strategy class, two EMBA alumni and one MBA student went with them, not for class credit, but because they have a passion and a purpose. 

Keith Bird EMBA ’06 began volunteering with the Prison Entrepreneurship Program four years ago. On his first prison visit, “I walked in nervous, wondering what I was doing. By the time I left I was overwhelmed by how sharp the inmates were and hungry to change,” he said.

Now Keith teaches 24 sessions that focus on the primary issues that shape a man’s life. Twice a week for 12 weeks, Keith arrives at the Estes Unit in the dawning hours of the day, leads the class till 8:30 a.m., and then heads to his job at Alcon as vice president of global engineering and manufacturing strategy.

Michele Gagne EMBA ’03, project manager for Novartis, met Keith when she sought out other TCU alumni at the company. Keith told her about his work with PEP, she attended a session in May 2015 and has been volunteering since.

“I’m not an entrepreneur; I’ve always worked at a big company,” Michele said, “but I can share with them my practical business sense and my experience hiring contractors or other services.”

Current TCU MBA student Helen Tannehill heard about PEP from Dr. Bruton during the MBA Study Abroad program to South Africa, which he leads.

“The entrepreneurial aspect of the South Africa program and the prison program triggered a purpose within me,” Helen said.

Helen was so inspired by the prison visit that she volunteered to be a business plan advisor to share the skills she is learning in the MBA program.

“When I looked over my PEP participant’s business plan I was impressed with how much he already knew about the industry, and when I saw that he was a military veteran like myself, it compelled me to support him even more,” she said.

Helen also volunteered as a judge for Pitch Day, February 3, and recruited two of her TCU MBA classmates, Randy Lyne from the Professional MBA program and John Hurdle from the Full-Time MBA program.

“I was impressed that two of my classmates took the time off from work and studying to do this,” she said.

Helen, Randy, John and the other volunteers listened to pitches, asked tough questions, and then rated the men on professionalism, content and delivery.

“I feel confident that these men can do great things,” Helen said.

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