Entrepreneurship student D’Andre McBride wants to launch a social enterprise that focuses on helping disadvantaged people with career and professional development, and, for the last two semesters, he’s been learning how to run one from the ground up, thanks to the UAB Academic Small Business Alliance’s Bridge to Success Project opens a new website.
The ASBA project provides paid internship opportunities to UAB students with Birmingham-area small businesses and organizations based on their field of study and interests. Students are paid $2,250 per semester and work 12-15 hours per week.
McBride spent his first semester with the ASBA project interning at Urban Impact, Inc. — a nonprofit dedicated to assisting Black entrepreneurs in the Birmingham area. He’s back for a second semester helping businesses set up a point-of-sale system and organizing their inventory.
“I got to meet business owners, property owners and go into open spaces where people were coming up with ideas,” he said. “That was my first time being in that environment and meeting all these different people.”
ASBA started in 2014 as a think tank focused on facilitating growth for local small businesses by involving students, according to Demetria Scott, ASBA Project Administrator.
“The business owners expressed that they needed students but didn’t have a lot of time to interview students,” Scott said. “They asked could they provide a job description, and we match students’ qualifications.”
Collat School of Business Dean Eric Jack saw the potential early and was the first UAB dean to get behind the program. The school invested $50,000 into the project to help get it off the ground. About that same time the business school announced a new experiential learning requirement, which helped create a sustainable pipeline of student interns.
“We’re just so appreciative to Dean Jack, because if he had not caught the vision, we’d still just be kind of lost,” Scott said. “He got it and he put money behind it. Even when he was building a new building, he still saw the need in what we were trying to do.”
The project has since expanded to serve students in three other units on campus: the College of Arts and Science, the School of Health Professions, and the School of Engineering. Over the life of the project, more than 200 students have found internships.
Rita Stewart-Hampton, director of the Collat Career Center, serves as the project liaison for business students. She posts opportunities via Handshake, meets with interested students, then matches them with small businesses.
“They’re learning a lot,” she said.” A lot of the students who apply to the project want to be entrepreneurs or work at small businesses. So many of our students are community-driven and really want to help. That’s where they want to start their career.”
McBride said he’s learned more about working in a professional environment.
“Working closely with our project manager, I learned the ins and outs of business,” he said. “I learned how to be more professional when talking to someone and to have an agenda when meeting with someone.”
ASBA Recruitment and Community Liaison Brandon Cleveland calls the project a purposeful partnership. He works with the 30-plus businesses involved in ASBA.
Participating businesses not only get manpower, but they also get information about other opportunities available to UAB partners. Students get to learn about Birmingham.
“There are students who would probably never go outside of that bubble if they didn’t participate in the ASBA project,” he said. “Having the opportunity to work local and seeing the things that are going on in their environment is a great opportunity.”