Humanitarian class models the refugee program after visiting teaching

Written by: 
Kelsy Simmons

Students in the Organizational Development and Change class (BUSM 467) organized a program designed to help refugees in Kitee, Finland adjust to their new lives.

The instructor, Helena Hannonen, professor of business management, said Kitee has 500 to 600 refugees. “The client is a community. They have asked us to help them, so we’ve been working with them this semester.”

The program was modeled after the LDS Church’s visiting teaching and home teaching programs, said Autumn Butler, a senior human resource major from Florida. She said the program is designed for people to go visit other homes, build partnerships with families, and learn together as a community. “Locals are paired with refugees similar to how a home teacher would be paired with a family to help them get familiar with aspects of the community,” she said.

The class does research in Hawaii and creates training packets and PowerPoint presentations to give to the volunteers in Finland. The slides include information about local sports, languages, religions, and are sent to community leaders, other officials, and universities. The slides are geared towards helping refugees learn about the new area where they live.

“You don’t have to physically be there for somebody to help them,” said Kiana Adams, a senior from New York studying hospitality and tourism management. “You can do it from a distance, which is basically what we do here.”

Greg Hale, a senior human resource major from Utah, said they came up with the idea while brainstorming to find the most effective way to get community members involved. “If you come from the outside telling people what to do, it becomes authoritarian. We began wondering if we could have the refugees and members pair up, which would create the connection between the local and refugee,” he said. 

Hale even compared the companionship to job shadowing because the companionship helps the family being taught and the refugee companion.

Gana Tsogo, a senior human resource major from Mongolia, said visiting teaching is “simply” not enough to help the refugees. She said empathy and understanding towards refugees is also required to make a difference. “It’s really easy to say being a refugee is hard and we are going to help them,” she said, “but do you really understand how they actually feel?”

While Tsogo lived in England she said she witnessed refugees come in from all over Europe. She described the attitude of the English people towards the refugees as: “Oh, you know we are helping you, but just always remember you’re [living] in my place.”

Even though the refugee project is a large portion of the class, students say they still spend a good majority of their time working on learning skills they can use in human resources.

The class uses DISC, a major learning module that stands for dominance, influence, steadiness, and compliance, according to Uka Bater, a senior from Mongolia studying accounting. Bater said the test is taken to help individuals understand more about themselves so they can work better as a team.

“Everyone here has different ways they deal with information, characters, and behaviors. The whole DISC Program helps us to know how to increase dominance or decrease influence so that everyone in the class can participate,” she said.

Tsogo said she enjoyed the DISC test. “I got to find out what my strengths and weaknesses are.”

Even though students will leave this program behind when they graduate, they all said the class helped them learn valuable skills, such as organizing, leadership, teamwork and human resource basic, all of which they can expect to use during their professional careers.

According to the BYUH catalog, the BUSM class “Addresses system wide applications to assess, develop, improve, and strengthen strategies, processes, and structures to achieve organizational effectiveness in constantly changing organizational environment Additional topics include: nature of change, roles associated with leading and managing change, issues of organizational culture, design models, and organizational behavior challenges.”

Date Published: 
Saturday, March 4, 2017
Last Edited: 
Saturday, March 4, 2017