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Peer-Created Fund Allows MBAs to Pursue Social Impact Internships

The summer after his first year at the McCombs School of Business, Andrew Whiteman, MBA '17, decided to intern with a startup in San Francisco. The pay was less than a traditional MBA internship, but money was not what drove his decision. "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," he says.

That work experience was made possible by the financial support of McCombs' Social Impact Internship Fund. "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," Whiteman says.

MBA students at McCombs traditionally spend their summer internships working in technology, consulting, and financial services — the well-paying industries where most will eventually accept job offers.

But for MBAs like Whiteman who intern with organizations that emphasize social good over profits, covering summer living costs can be a challenge.

The SIIF seeks to remedy that situation. McCombs students Tim Carreon, MBA '17, Silva Gentchev, MBA '17, Margo Hufstetler Gonzalez, MBA '17, and Caitlin Goodrich, MBA '17, co-founded the fund during the spring 2016 semester. Fellow first-year MBAs can offer support, including pledging a "day of pay" from their own internship salaries to benefit SIIF.

"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," says 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."

The SIIF expands the Social Enterprise Fund, created by the MBA class of 2010. Last year, SIIF co-founders took action to increase financial support for students interning with nonprofit and social impact organizations. The co-founders simultaneously aimed to strengthen McCombs' emphasis on social impact and its recruitment of students with that interest. Other top business schools have similar programs in place, such as the Berkeley Haas Social Impact Fund and Stanford Management Internship Fund.

With those goals in mind, the co-founders designed the fund, secured funding, and awarded four SIIF fellowships.

Their efforts to support classmates were successful. MBAs, along with McCombs alumni and faculty, raised more than $33,000, increasing the previous funding available to social impact interns by more than 600 percent. "We believed, and the first year of the SIIF showed, that when our colleagues intern in low or unpaid positions with organizations that create a benefit for society, their peers are eager to support them," Goodrich told Poets & Quants.

Through that financial assistance, SIIF allows MBAs to test alternate career paths. "We want to be that bridge between the first and second year, to continue to explore and use this time to expand your horizons," says Marcella Viktorin, MBA '18, one of the current SIIF co-chairs.

Below, meet MBA students selected as the inaugural class of SIIF fellows.

Andrew Whiteman in front of Stem logo

Andrew Whiteman, MBA '17

Where I worked: Energy startup Stem Inc. in San Francisco

The company: "Working at Stem was a thrilling experience. Stem is promoting major innovations that are paving the way to a more decentralized, renewable energy-friendly electricity grid."

What I did: "I identified a proprietary solution to price volatility in wholesale electricity markets. Electricity market participants often face unpredictable price swings and common hedging strategies can be quite costly. 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 (bottom row center in brown skirt) with IC interns and staff

Janet Thomassen, MBA '17

Where I worked: Social impact consulting firm Inspiring Capital in New York City

The company: "The company aims to accelerate the 'integration of profits and purpose,' by matching talented business students and professionals with social impact organizations, helping them to find more sustainable ways to finance their work."

What I did: "My specific project was with Goodwill NY/NJ, to assess the financial feasibility of initiating and growing a viable internal 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. 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 checking oyster growth in the Chesapeake Bay

Eric Pressberg, MBA '17 

Where I worked: Summer associate with environmental conservation nonprofit the Nature Conservancy in Washington, D.C.  

The company: "The Nature Conservancy is the largest environmental nonprofit in the world and they hire about three to four MBA students every summer under their conservation finance team. They were building a new aquaculture — or fish farming — team, and they wanted someone from the conservation finance team, so, that's the role I played."

What I did: "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."

 

Teddy Boeddiker (seated) and Carl Sagan at Kasita's bring your cat to work day

Teddy Boeddiker, MBA '17

Where I worked: Small footprint home startup Kasita in Austin

The company: "Kasita is an Austin-based startup that designs and manufactures 320-square-foot homes. [Kasita CEO and co-founder] Jeff Wilson came up with the idea for the company while living in a dumpster," Boeddiker wrote in a blog.

What I did: "I spent most of my effort helping 'Professor Dumpster' [Wilson] fine-tune his pitch deck as he sought funding to grow the company. He was pitching the company to experienced technical investors who expected more detailed information on financial projections and the market size. I had just taken a New Venture Finance class taught by Finance Lecturer Josh Alexander, where we went through the process of building a pitch deck for a new company and discussed the items that investors need to see in a deck. The lessons from that class were very valuable as I worked to ease any doubts that investors might have about the company."

Become a SIIF Impact Investor by making a donation.

Comments

#1 There is no greater "Social

There is no greater "Social Impact" than creating jobs. Cary Michael Cox University of Texas at Austin '86

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