Funds Help McCombs MBA Students Pursue Social Impact
With the rising emphasis on social impact in recent years, it has become fairly common for MBA programs to prepare their students not just to do well in business but to also do good in the world, and students are on board with this shift in focus. Based on Net Impact’s 2014 “Business as UNusual” guide to graduate programs, 88 percent of surveyed MBA students reported that learning about social and environmental business is a priority.
At the UT Austin McCombs School of Business, peer-generated funds are supporting MBA students in exploring social impact as a career emphasis, starting during their first-year internship.
The Social Enterprise Fund
The Social Enterprise Fund was created by the full-time MBA Class of 2010 as a legacy gift. Its goal: to support first-year MBA students who are interested in working in social impact career fields such as sustainability, nonprofits and other nontraditional sectors.
As an expansion to the fund, the co-founders developed the McCombs’ Social Impact Internship Fund (SIIF), which provides first-year MBA students with financial support so they can explore internships in nonprofit and social impact organizations. These internships typically pay less than those in technology, consulting and financial services, but SIIF helps to offset some of the difference.
That help was especially welcome to Andrew Whiteman, MBA ‘17, who wanted to choose an internship without money driving his decision. He opted to intern with a clean energy startup in San Francisco where the pay was less, but the opportunity to do good was great.
“I was committed to working for a clean energy company and therefore did not recruit with big consulting firms or banks earlier in the semester,” Whiteman wrote in a blog. “With a cross-country move to one of the most expensive cities in the country, the SIIF stipend helped make sure I stayed above water during the summer.”
And, last year, the fund received a boost from SIIFs co-founders, which decided to increase support for students to make a bigger impact. Their goal was to strengthen McCombs’ emphasis on social impact as well as the recruitment of students to that area of work and study.
In the end, thanks to MBA ’17 students Tim Carreon, Silva Gentchev, Margo Hufstetler Gonzalez and Caitlin Goodrich—who co-founded the fund during the spring 2016 semester—and other McCombs’ alumni and faculty, the fund raised more than $33,000, increasing previous funding by more than 600 percent.
“The SIIF allowed me to explore employment at a company with a social impact mission without having to worry about how I was going to make it work financially,” said Teddy Boeddiker, MBA ’17, who interned with small footprint home company Kasita. “This is something that I believe many MBA students are interested in, but few can afford to accept a low-or no-income internship or job.”
McCombs MBA Students Pursue Social Impact
In a recent school blog entry, McCombs shared the internship experiences of MBA ’17 students Andrew Whiteman, Janet Thomassen, Eric Pressberg and Teddy Boeddiker: four students that benefited from the SIIF.
- Andrew Whiteman, MBA ‘17
Whiteman interned at Stem Inc, an energy startup in San Francisco that pairs intelligent controls with energy storage to increase energy cost savings and protect against changing rates. “Working at Stem was a thrilling experience,” said Whiteman, who worked on pricing solutions for the wholesale electricity markets.
“Electricity market participants often face unpredictable price swings and common hedging strategies can be quite costly,” he said. “My final product was a financial model that quantified the economic value in the marketplace, proposing an alternative solution to current hedging strategies.”
- Janet Thomassen, MBA ‘17
Thomassen took an internship in New York City with the social impact consulting firm, Inspiring Capital, which supports the social enterprise sector by connecting talented business professionals with high-potential and purpose-driven organizations. Her role was to work with Goodwill NY/NJ to assess the financial feasibility of a new document management service.
“The feasibility study led me to urge Goodwill not to pursue this additional business line due to a highly competitive market and unattractive long-term financial returns,” she said. “However, I shared lessons on how to think about the market opportunity, operational competencies, and financial considerations when assessing the viability of a new business line.”
- Eric Pressberg, MBA ‘17
Pressberg chose to intern with an environmental conservation nonprofit in Washington, D.C., the Nature Conservancy. As a summer associate, his role was to work with the conservation finance team to help the new aquaculture—fish farming—department.
“We were developing the strategy, [deciding] how to go about raising funds, the story to tell potential donors, and what type of projects we want to have—things like building a tool to decide if a project was worthy of investment, creating some of the PR documents to communicate with potential investors and donors and then actually designing the specific project, which was based in the Chesapeake Bay,” he shared.
- Teddy Boeddiker, MBA ‘17
Boeddiker stayed in Austin for his internship and worked with a small footprint home startup called Kasita. The company manufactures 320-square-foot homes for more affordable housing options. As an intern, Boeddiker spent his time fine-tuning the pitch deck to help the company gain additional funding.
“I spent most of my effort helping ‘Professor Dumpster’ [Jeff Wilson, CEO and co-founder of Kasita] fine-tune his pitch deck as he sought funding to grow the company,” he said. “He was pitching the company to experienced technical investors who expected more detailed information on financial projections and the market size.”
By offering funding and internship opportunities for their MBA students, McCombs has helped to alleviate some of the financial burden for students interested in social impact, and making it easier than ever to enter this particularly rewarding career area.