The 2014 Program Worked with Local Nonprofit to Optimize Health and Fitness Services for Low Income Women and Children

January 27, 2014

With the end of Wintersession 2014, 12 students from Wellesley College and Babson College finished an intensive two-week consulting project with a Boston nonprofit as part of the Tri-College Wintersession Program. Wellesley students Sarah Carlson ’17, Dai Trang Nguyen Phan ’16, Amy Wickett ’16, and Suh Yoon ’15 participated in the program, while Janna Zimmermann ’14 served as one of its two student coordinators.

The Tri-College Wintersession Program is an opportunity for students to immerse themselves in crossdisciplinary real-world problem solving and teamwork. Students apply during the Fall semester and one student coordinator is selected from each school represented to manage the program. Students live in Babson College dorms and work at Olin College during the day. This year’s program included a group of students with diverse interests and academic concentrations. The Wellesley students' majors include economics, environmental studies, and religion, where declared.

For the 2014 program, the student coordinators selected local nonprofit Healthworks Community Fitness (HCF). HCF hosts two volunteer-driven centers in Dorchester that provide safe resources and empowerment for women and children who lack access to fitness opportunities and adequate health support. They exclusively serve women and children in low-income, and predominantly minority communities. The Codman Square location offers income-adjusted rates for adults and accepts doctor’s referrals for exercise to treat conditions such as hypertension and diabetes.

The Wellesley and Babson students were tasked with the job of analyzing HCF's existing data management system and making recommendations for optimizing its use, with the goal of aiding the fitness center staff in tracking critical information like donor information and class attendance. The students researched and compiled outreach options for marketing and branding, considering effectiveness, user-friendliness, and cost, while also engaging HCF in hands-on ways through volunteering and cooking healthy meals together with staff members.

“Despite my lack of software engineering training,” said Amy Wickett ’16, “I was able to use my economic training to analyze ways to maximize the current system’s efficiency…. It was fantastic to be able to use my training to help such a wonderful organization.” Wickett also enjoyed making new friends through working, eating, and living together with the other students from different academic backgrounds. “The way the Babson students addressed and talked about problems was so different and I think it made me a better researcher to learn and adapt to these different types of strategies,” she said. “I'm so glad I got to be a part of it.”