Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) MBA students are gaining hands-on experience and also making an impact in the community through a newly redesigned course that pairs students with community organizations.

“We were able to do something to bring this community together,” says Gwendy Carter, a first-year student in the Master of Business Administration program.

Carter teamed up with her co-worker at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, Dedra Gaines, and Harvey Manley, a manufacturing lead at ConvaTec, to develop a business plan for a proposed heritage center in Winston-Salem’s Happy Hill neighborhood.

At the beginning of the class, Marketing Management (MKT-6321), organizations affiliated with the Enterprise Center, part of the Simon Green Atkins Community Development Corp., made presentations to students. The students then chose an organization, and were tasked, over the course of the semester, with creating either a business plan or marketing plan.

Gaines says her team chose the Happy Hill project first because “it was so different from healthcare.”

“We were drawn to this project from the beginning,” she says. “As we worked all the way through, it got more exciting.”

Their presentation, “Lifting the Happy Hill Neighborhood Story Out of Obscurity,” was presented on Dec. 7. The group presentations were scored by a team of judges, and their project garnered the highest score.

“We just wanted to represent the project,” Gaines says. “It just all came together for the final presentation.”

The heritage center is the dream of Cheryl Harry, founder and CEO of Triad Cultural Arts.

“It was a pleasure to work with these three talented individuals,” Harry says. “They all brought their expertise to the table and freely shared and exchanged information to ensure that the project was a success. They were dedicated and bought into the vision.”

Harry says the work the students provided will be invaluable to the project. 

“The strength of the plan helped us to clarify and make realistic goals and projections. We will have a better chance of attracting funders to provide the much-needed capital for this project.”

The ultimate goal is to preserve an important part of African American history in the South by relocating one of the last shotgun houses and rebuilding another, creating a cultural heritage museum that will anchor a redevelopment of Happy Hill, the oldest African American neighborhood in Winston-Salem.

Shotgun houses date back to the early part of the 20th century and are identifiable by their narrow rectangular form, which is believed to have had its roots in West Africa.

Gaines says her team started from the ground up. They looked closely at the museum industry, researched shotgun houses, researched tourism in the Triad and also talked with city leaders. 

Dr. Notis A. Pagiavlas, associate dean and senior professor of marketing at WSSU, says the students gave 100 percent to the projects.

“It was a win-win for our students and for these precious partners who have a chance to improve the lives of people in the community,” Pagiavlas says.

As an added bonus, each project received $1,000 to help with start-up operational costs. The funding was provided by the BB&T and DataMax foundations.

Other student teams focused on:

* Stroke prevention education for youth
* Senior housing by the Ujima Community Development Corp.
* Camel City Crossfit Gym expansion
* NuArcher Artistic Productions

Gaines says her team plans to continue to support the project.

“No matter, when this semester ends we will continue to see this through til the end,” Gaines says. “It turned into our baby.”

Designed for working professionals, WSSU’s AACSB International Accredited program offers a competitive MBA degree that is among the most affordable in the country. For more information, visit

About Winston-Salem State University

Winston-Salem State University fosters the creative thinking, analytical problem-solving, and depth of character needed to transform the world. Rooted in liberal education, WSSU’s curriculum prepares students to be through leaders who have the skills and knowledge needed to develop innovative solutions to complex problems. Founded in 1892, WSSU is a historically Black constituent institution of the University of North Carolina with a rich tradition of contributing to the social, cultural, intellectual, and economic growth of North Carolina, the region and beyond. Guided by the motto, “Enter to Learn, Depart to Serve,” WSSU develops leaders who advance social justice by serving the world with compassion and commitment.