Graziadio Social Enterprise Program
This time of year first-year full-time MBA students at the Graziadio School are narrowing in on summer internships. Full-time MBA students looking for experience with companies and organizations affecting social change, and alumni seeking such talent, will find a perfect fit with the Graziadio Social Enterprise Program that is offered through the Office of Alumni and Career Services.
The school’s Board of Visitors has underwritten a limited number of funds that are allocated into stipends for qualified students who wish to spend their summers applying business management skills to solutions to social problems. These highly-selective internship opportunities might involve a CSR or sustainability initiative within a corporation or support the social mission at a non-profit.
“The way the stipend program works is that a student identifies and competes for the chance to secure an internship based on their interests,” says Kristin Strange, Assistant Director of the Career Services Center and Chair of the Social Enterprise Program.
The stipend program is also an opportune way for other students and alumni to engage with the Graziadio School and support its mission to develop values-centered leaders. Employed students and graduates whose firms have sustainable and socially responsible initiatives can affordably hire MBAs for the summer through the Social Enterprise Program or recommend the program to such organizations in need of financially-supported MBA interns.
Three Students’ Social Enterprising Summer
Last summer, nine MBA students took advantage of internships through the Graziadio Social Enterprise Program. One such student, Mike Pelletier, dedicated 8 weeks of his summer running one of the Summer Business Institute sites offered by the Academy of Business Leadership (ABL). This social entrepreneurship venture exposes impoverished inner-city kids to business practices and stewardship from professionals and community leaders. Mike taught a six-week intensive course on business and leadership to 32 disenfranchised youth whose ages ranged 11-18.
“I have a passion for personal development and giving back, so this seemed like a great opportunity,” said Mike. “Many of my students do not have successful people in their lives that they are able to go to for advice, so it’s been very rewarding to fill that need in the lives of these young people.”
Fellow Social Enterprise Program participant Susan Mak went all the way to Hong Kong for her internship. This opportunity was made possible through the Graziadio School’s partnership with the Globally Responsible Leadership Initiative (GRLI), a pioneering group of 60 business schools, learning institutions and companies representing five continents. Their goal: develop the next generation of globally responsible business leaders who can successfully deal with the economical, societal and ecological challenges the world is facing.
Susan joined GRLI’s inaugural international internship project. She collaborated with students from the University of Mannheim (Germany) and Welingkar Institute of Management (India) on environmental projects involving two partner companies, Li & Fung, a multinational group of companies, managing supply chains for major brands and retailers worldwide, and Arcandor, the German mail-order, retail and tourism services holding company.
“It was very interesting and meaningful how Li & Fung and Arcandor are addressing climate change and CO2 emission,” observed Susan. “It was inspiring to see people start projects such as carbon foot-printing and HIV education for factory workers.”
MBA student Patric Rayburn, Pepperdine BS 2000, completed his summer internship working with Grameen America, the recently launched US-based microcredit lender that rescues women entrepreneurs from poverty by providing small loans for start-up businesses. Building upon the success of 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winners Grameen Bank and its founder Muhammad Yunus in Bangladesh and Africa, Grameen America has lent out over $1.2 million in income generating loans to 500 poor families in Queens, New York with a repayment rate of over 99%.
For 12 weeks, Patric worked alongside Isabel Maxwell, the senior advisor to Grameen America, in Malibu. ”I had the opportunity to contribute ideas and strategic direction to the organization at a critical phase in Grameen America’s launch,” he said. “I learned a great deal about building strategic relationships in order to bring an organization to life in an extremely difficult political and economic environment.”
The value of summer internships is in the authentic employment experience that rewards both the graduate business student and the organization they served. For Mike, Susan and Patric, their social enterprise internships provided added rewards.
Mike gained invaluable experience in leadership and public speaking. But moreover, his summer at ABL working with disadvantaged youth also affected him personally. “I had students get mugged on the way home from class and it’s really eye-opening to see the difficulties that many of them go through and also the extreme pressure that some of them are under. It really helps put my ‘problems’ into perspective,” he said.
Mike graduated with his MBA in December 2008, but not before classmates awarded him the school’s Social Enterprise Award. Now Associate Brand Manager at Activision, he still keeps in touch with many of his ABL students and continues to help them with life decisions, “It is great to see how much the students value my help and what a big difference I can make in their lives.”
Susan appreciates socially responsible companies much more after completing her GLRI internship with Li & Fung and Arcandor. She learned from supervisors who had strong work and social ethics and valued working with people from around the globe.
“We often talk about ethics and CSR at the Graziadio School,” Susan reflected. “But I realized CSR is very challenging for companies for various reasons; such as cost, cultural difference with suppliers, compliance, etc. Also, CSR should not be a department in a company, but part of the corporate culture that everyone can take part.”
Patric gleamed similar insights from his weeks working with Grameen America. He put it this way: “Contributing to the development and progress of the communities in which we live must not be a marketing tactic or a public relations ploy; it must be the way business is done in order to achieve long-term profitable growth for all stakeholders.”
He added, “Microfinance is a phenomenal concept that uses the power of entrepreneurship and the capital markets to bring about positive social change. These (causes) are the very reasons I returned to earn my MBA. So when the opportunity presented itself, I grabbed it.”
Finding your Social Enterprise Internship
The Graziadio Social Enterprise Program will be awarding stipends again this summer. Interested full-time MBA students should consult with Kristin Strange or the Office of Alumni and Career Services. Likewise, the school is interested in hearing from its employed students and alumni with ties to socially responsible organizations or whose firms are engaged in CSR and have internship projects that the program might underwrite.
Candidates must have a demonstrated aptitude for both a life of service and advancing responsible business practice. Selection is a special recognition that Dean Livingstone and the Board of Visitors intend to inspire all students and graduates to harness their own and colleagues’ business skills and assets towards effective social change.