For 10 years now, students have been working as learning buddies for kids and teens in institutions run by Caritas Vienna. The volunteers help the kids with their school work and organize fun activities. The 2020 anniversary of the program was celebrated with a ceremony attended by around 200 guests and supporters.
10 years of “Lernen macht Schule”
- 240 kids and teens are supported in institutions run by Caritas Vienna.
- 115,000 hours of volunteer work
- 2011 - award for innovation at WU
- 2013 - finalist for the ERSTE Foundation’s Social Integration Award
- 2019 - “Wirtschaft hilft!” award of the Fundraising Verband Austria
- Learning Buddy program: Students assist children and young people with their learning and spend free time with them.
- Summer camps: Students work as counselors at summer camps intended to provide disadvantaged kids and teens with shared positive experiences and help them build relationships.
- Music Buddy program: Under artistic guidance, students form a choir together with the kids and teens in the program. During weekly rehearsals, they develop a choral repertoire and hold several performances a year.
- German courses for refugees: Course participants learn the language skills they need to study in Austria.
From learning buddies to distance buddies
The COVID-19 pandemic was a major challenge for WU’s Learning Buddy program. In March, we had to switch to providing digital support only due to the lockdown. To help our volunteers adjust to the shift to distance learning, we created a training module on how to provide effective digital support.
In the spring of 2020, WU’s distance buddies were named official partners of the new initiative #weiterlernen established by the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research and the Innovationsstiftung für Bildung (ISB). The initiative is intended to provide kids and teens with digital learning support.
Learning to Take Responsibility
Through its graduates, WU has an impact on business, the economy, and society as a whole. Because of this, sustainability features heavily in all of our curricula. Together with some of our partner universities, we even go one step further and have made the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) the subject of a joint course. In the SIGMA Global Virtual Course (GVC), students learn about the background and social implications of the SDGs from experts from top international universities, as well as about theoretical and practical tools they can apply in business practice. WU developed a module for this course that focuses on “Responsible Global Leadership.”
Since the 2018/19 academic year, the GVC has been offered each winter semester at the following SIGMA Alliance universities: University of St. Gallen, Copenhagen Business School, Université Paris Dauphine, ESADE Business School, Singapore Management University, Hitotsubashi University, and WU (Master’s in International Management/CEMS). WU is responsible for administrating the course, for coordination, and for communicating with the partner schools. In the 2020/2021 winter semester, 135 students participated in the course.
Regular surveys of WU students have shown that many students work at least part-time in addition to their studies. Such jobs are often at or below the marginal income threshold, making these students ineligible for financial aid. With the beginning of the spread of the coronavirus in Austria and the accompanying lockdown measures in the spring, many students lost their jobs and had no income.
It was for cases like these that WU created the “WU Helps” campaign. In cooperation with a tailor in Salzburg, we designed protective face masks that could be purchased online and on campus. The net proceeds went into a fund for students in financial need. The target group of the fund was WU bachelor’s students who had earned at least 16 ECTS credits in the previous academic year, had held jobs they lost due to the COVID-19 crisis, and were not eligible for government assistance. Seven women and four men met the criteria and were each provided with €1,000 from the “WU Helps” fund.
The story behind the WU face masks
The protective face masks were produced by WU student Ahmet Bozkurt and tailor Onur Erkan, two school friends who decided to combine their skills to collaborate on this project during the coronavirus crisis. Onur Erkan produces the masks, made of 100% cotton, in his tailor’s workshop in Salzburg. Ahmet Bozkurt is responsible for the young start-up’s marketing and for legal aspects of the business.