Goizueta MBA Alumni in the News: Two Up-and-Coming CEOs

Goizueta Female CEOs

At Goizueta Business School at Emory University, one of the MBA program’s goals is to develop and support entrepreneurship in its students at every stage of their careers and venture creation. “This includes those not only supporting those who plan to start a business but also enhancing entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial thinking amongst all Goizueta students, through educational content, intellectual engagement and infrastructure,” explains the website. To this end, the School offers 16 entrepreneurial-focused electives, co-curricular options, the yearly Emory Entrepreneurship Summit, as well as partnership opportunities with alumni, mentors, and industry experts.

Today we’re highlighting two Emory alumni – Louise Wasilewski and Qaadirah Abdur-Rahim – whose Goizueta MBAs helped them become CEOs and change the status quo.

Louise Wasilewski, ‘13 EMBA, CEO of Acivilate

Louise Wasilewski, a 2013 EMBA graduate from the Goizueta and CEO of Acivilate, is on a mission to reduce recidivism with her cloud-based communication platform. The goal is to make it easier than ever to track a newly released prisoner’s progress and to send out an alert to the necessary organizations when they require support or intervention. Acivilate cuts down on paperwork, decreases missed meetings and makes the re-entry process into society far easier.

Acivilate started with a passion for the criminal justice system. Wasilewski’s father had a troubled past and she had a burning question; “How can I create second chances for people like my father, who has a criminal history?” From there, she started looking at the U.S. justice system and asking some tough questions.

After speaking to hundreds of individuals from organizations within the system, from nonprofits to social service agencies, she discovered that they were all dealing with the same problem—a lack of communication between the different sectors—and that it could be easily solved with technology. Thus, Acivilate was born in 2014.

How Does Acivilate Work?

Wasilewski explained Acivilate’s work in a recent article on Hypepotamus: “The problem that we’re solving is when a person gets out of prison or they are going through drug court, they usually need help finding housing, finding employment and others … All of these different agencies can’t work together and help the person because privacy rules get in the way. So what we’re really doing is making it possible for those organizations—the workforce, the housing, the probation, the behavioral health and the community service organizations—to work together to help these people get their lives back together.”

Acivilate is a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) company that provides a secure cloud dashboard that “synchronizes existing cross-silo human services delivery while managing privacy rules.” It’s mobile friendly and built to encourage self-sufficiency and accountability.

Gwinnett and DeKalb counties in Georgia have already started using the platform and Wasilewski has plans to rollout in Utah and Maryland next month. Acivilate was also a finalist in the Amazon Web Services’ Public Sector Summit Challenge.

About Louise Wasilewski

After earning her Bachelor’s Degree in Aerospace Systems Engineering, Wasilewski spent 25 years in business and technical roles. She has expertise in media and communications technology innovation, helping to introduce streaming TV and operating secure cloud-based services. Throughout her career, she’s worked at KPMG Consulting, Cox Communications and more. Beyond her MBA from the Goizueta Business School at Emory University, she holds four patents and has been published in Policy and Practice.

Qaadirah Abdur-Rahim, ’11 MBA, CEO of Future Foundation

For 12 years, Abdur-Rahim has been the CEO of Future Foundation, an organization dedicated to helping Atlanta’s youth by providing quality education, health and life skills programs. Since becoming CEO, she has grown the company from a team of two to a staff of 40, recruiting more than 30 board members and raising over $25 million in revenue. The Future Foundation now has four locations and serves 11,000 students.

Abdur-Rahim has allowed two simple goals to drive her success: to learn as much as she could and to work hard every day. “Those two idealistic goals evolved into more formal goals like increase revenue, increase the number of children served, and go to business school,” she told the Atlanta Tribune. Currently, Future Foundation participants have a 100 percent high school graduation rate compared to just 70 percent of their peers, and she earned her MBA at Goizueta in 2011.

Abdur-Rahim’s History

Abdur-Rahim grew up as one of five siblings in Atlanta’s South Side. From there, she attended the University of California Berkeley on an athletic scholarship, and earned a bachelor’s degree in social work. She then earned a master’s degree from UC San Francisco before returning to Atlanta and joining the Future Foundation as a program director.

As for her work and success, Abdur-Rahim said: “I have always imagined myself using my career to help people. I am happy about where I am professionally and completely excited about the position I am in to do more. I continue to have the most enriching development experience leading and significantly growing a start-up nonprofit.”

Abdur-Rahim was recently named one of America’s Leaders of Change by the National Urban Fellow Program, which is a leadership development program particularly focused on helping people of color and women become leaders and change agents. In addition, using the Future Foundation as a laboratory of innovation, she developed and implemented the “Theory of Change,” which addresses how poverty can be disrupted and alleviated by giving children access to family, education, health, relationship and life skill support.

The Future Foundation

Currently, the Future Foundation is going through a strategy development process, which will fundamentally shift the vision of the organization. The goal is to move from individual-level impact to system-level impact.

“Understanding the world is rapidly changing, and success is occurring across broader business ecosystems, I pushed our board to reexamine our strategy,” said Abdur-Rahim. “Our new strategy allows us to scale our work and provide thought leadership … Disrupting business as usual is always a risk and continues to challenge me in ways I never imagined. However, the outcome of stronger communities is worth the challenge, and I am up for it.”

The new strategic plan was launched in January 2017 and has required drastic changes in communication, work and growth. And it hasn’t been without a few problems.

“I learned that it’s not enough to collaboratively lead a process to get buy-in; you need to find creative ways to constantly communicate the shared vision and reinforce the details,” Abdur-Rahim explains. “We are overcoming the challenge by having a series of ‘heartfelt conversations’ to improve culture internally and build stronger partner relationships.”

For now, the Foundation is continuing to focus on empowering youth and their families to break the poverty cycle.


About the Author

Kelly Vo    

Kelly Vo is a writer who specializes in covering MBA programs, digital marketing, and personal development.

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