Appalachian Collegiate Research Initiative

Hello everyone! My name is Franny Adams (she/her), I am a sophomore at Pitt’s College of Business Administration majoring in Finance and Business Analytics, minoring in Economics and pursuing a certificate in Entrepreneurship & Innovation. Outside of the classroom, I work as a Professional Development Consultant in the Career Development Office editing student’s resumes, conducting mock interviews, and organizing Pitt Business events. Additionally, I work as an Othot Intern through Professor Andy Hannah’s division within Liaison, working to develop products and services in critical areas of the higher education industry.  

I have blogged on WordPress many times throughout my time at Pitt Business- first, through the Haller Global Honors Fellowship and secondly through Pitt’s Plus3 program. Throughout the Haller Global Honors Fellowship, 6 other students and I traveled to Dublin, Ireland to engage in a consulting project with a small local startup: DoOrder. Thanks to Pitt’s Plus3 program, I was presented with the amazing opportunity to travel to The Netherlands and learn about supply chains and sustainable business practices by meeting with leaders in the floriculture, cocoa, airline, and precision agriculture industries. Through these experiential learning projects, I have gained familiarity with consulting practices and am excited to implement the skills I’ve learned into the real world through the Appalachian Regional Research Initiative. 

This multidisciplinary research based course has the ultimate objective of facilitating collaboration with community partners in Fayette County, Pennsylvania. Supported by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), an agency that focuses on economic development within the Appalachian region, the central goal of this project is to improve the economic condition of Fayette County through the development and deployment of an asset map. Our cohort is tasked with the finalization and ultimate implementation of the asset mapping project. The map will serve to inventory the assets of Fayette County, ultimately allowing the Appalachian Regional Commission to focus economic development on highly opportunistic areas that will generate the most value for community partners. 

I feel that this project is incredibly important considering Fayette County’s recent economic decline despite historical association with flourishing coal mining and steel manufacturing industries throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Recent economic shifts created job losses within the United States as manufactures move production overseas. Many factors, including changes in energy markets and environmental regulations contributed to the current economic status of the Appalachian region. The Fall 2023 cohort of student-consultants will implement the asset map within Fayette County in order to prioritize the efficient and effective use of assets. Correct execution of deliverables will serve to uplift Fayette County community members and allow Appalachian Regional Commission leadership to designate assets productively. 

Gaining experience in community-based research and the ultimate implementation of deliverables will serve to support my future career in the product development industry. Through my current internship at Liaison, I manage the product launch timelines for Data Science, Product Marketing, Legal, Sales, and Client Success Management Teams. Working on the Appalachian Regional Research Initiative will allow me to execute my project management skills in a consulting capacity within a community-based setting. Working to encourage economic development within a small and close knit group will add immense value to my skill set relating to effective communication and collaborating with small teams. Through Othot, I am responsible for all communication related to the LIFT process including email communications with idea generators, company-wide updates, scheduling meetings with the executive committee and managers, and interviewing, hiring and onboarding new talent. My position in the Appalachian Regional Research Initiative will teach me how to interpret community based research and solve real-world business problems. The ability to communicate with different clients, all facing different challenges is an obstacle that I will undoubtedly face throughout my career. Gaining this invaluable experience of engaging with a small community like Fayette County will allow me to gauge a deeper understanding of economic development on the micro level- adding to my education as an Economics minor and business student as a whole. 

I decided to join this project for many reasons. As an out of state student, I have never engaged with a rural community like Fayette County firsthand. I spent all my life in Rhode Island up until I began my undergraduate career at the University of Pittsburgh. I grew up in a small suburban town just 10 minutes away from the biggest city in RI. Rhode Island is a small state where everyone knows everyone, but not in the overwhelmingly ‘old-timey’ way that everyone in Fayette County seems to know everyone. I believe that getting involved with this community through the Appalachian Regional Research Initiative will be a life-changing experience that will open my eyes to the typically overlooked communities within both Pennsylvania and the United States as a whole.

Additionally, I was drawn to the Appalachian consulting project because of the amazing experience I had with the Haller Global Honors Fellowship project-based class. Through this project, I completed a 2-week long course in Pittsburgh and spent 2 weeks in Dublin, Ireland meeting with DoOrder company founders, DoOrder investors, and the company’s biggest competitors all before my first-year of college began. Through the consulting process, I recommended that DoOrder market themselves as a female founded company, implement a 2-week delivery model and establish an eco-friendly packaging service to most effectively appeal to their target audience of working women shopping for luxury goods. As a member of the business development team, I created a deliverable analyzing the best practices of delivery companies to improve DoOrder’s business model and presented findings to DoOrder founders in a formal exposition based on industry knowledge from 4 weeks of research. I hope to implement the technical skills I gained through the fellowship to the Appalachian Regional Research Initiative in order to lessen the long-term effects of emigration from Appalachia. 

From this experience, I hope to effectively implement the transferable skills commonly associated with consulting: adaptability, teamwork and time management. Working with a cohort of individuals from varying educational backgrounds will allow me to experience consulting in a real-world setting enabling me to test out the consulting industry and see if it is something I want to pursue in the future. Practicing project management skills as a sophomore will be incredibly beneficial to my professional development as I learn how to construct a scope of work document, deliver formal presentations to community leaders and implement an asset map within Fayette County. Perhaps the most important transferable skill I hope to gain through this experience involves learning how to communicate with small community based organizations. This skill will be essential to my success as both a professional in the business world and as a member of a community myself.

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