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We are proud to highlight graduates of the Marshall School of Business and the University of Southern California who are using their degrees to make a positive impact on society and the environment. Find more resources for pursuing a career like these on our Career Development page.
Jyoti Guar, MBA '11
Jyoti Guar's adventurous attitude towards business school makes her a model for non-traditional business students. In her two years at Marshall Jyoti took chances to explore social issues and industries outside of her primary expertise. Each foray into a new field expanded her skill set and gave her a better understanding of how she could use her business skills to positively impact the world.
Jyoti began her academic career as an environmental policy major at the University of California, San Diego. As an undergrad, Jyoti worked with energy and energy-conservation non-profits. She interned for Heal the Bay, a water quality non-profit in Santa Monica. There she promoted education and policy outreach, focusing on the implementation of environmental curriculum in schools. Fascinated by the policy world but frustrated with the financial obstacles she saw the non-profit face, Jyoti set out to understand how to better merge the social aspects of nonprofits with the business savvy of traditional for-profit companies.
Jyoti entered the Marshall MBA program in 2009 and was accepted into the first cohort of Society and Business Fellows. Here Jyoti expanded her interests beyond the environment. The summer after her first year, she interned with the Deshpande Foundation in India. She proposed and carried out a project in telemedicine, using cell phone technology to communicate with HIV positive female sex workers. Her project made a significant impact. Peer education workers were able to remind women to attend doctor appointments, group meetings and important check-ins all through mobile texts.
Through Deshpande Foundation Internship, Jyoti realized the possibilities of social enterprise outside of the United States. She was impacted by her first-hand experience with poverty and returned to Marshall with a broader, global outlook.
Upon graduation, Jyoti received the Clinton-Orfaela Fellowship for a year of work at the Clinton Foundation in New York City. She is currently applying metrics to measure the social impact of Clinton Global Initiative commitments.
What does Jyoti have to say to non-traditional business students like herself? "Don't be intimidated. You have things to offer". From an environmentalist to a burgeoning social impact investor, Jyoti's courage to break into fields outside of her original studies has lead her down a successful path in the social sector.
Molly Larson, MBA '11
Molly Larson is Director of Operations at Chrysalis Enterprises, a division of the nonprofit Chrysalis. In this role, Molly is responsible for the day-to-day and bigger picture operations of the largest street maintenance company in Southern California. She was first introduced to the organization during her MBA internship, during which time she learned about workforce development and the challenges of running a business with a social mission.
Prior to joining Chrysalis full-time, Molly was an Associate at Blue Garnet Associates, a strategy consulting firm that works with clients to create lasting social change. During her time with Blue Garnet, she played an integral role in developing strategic plans for clients and in helping clients articulate their desired impact.
In addition to her experience with the nonprofit and private sectors, she has experience in the public sector, having worked for the City of Malibu as a Recreation Coordinator. As such, she oversaw staffing and programs for community classes, aquatics, and special events for the Parks and Recreation Department. She initiated and fostered partnerships for the City of Malibu with the County Library, Pepperdine University, and Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District.
Molly received her MBA from the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business where she graduated top of her class. At Marshall she was a Fellow with the USC Society and Business Lab and President of Marshall Net Impact, an organization of leaders interested in changing the world through business.
Molly received a BS in Physiological Science from the University of California, Los Angeles, graduating Summa Cum Laude and as a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Society.
She is always happy to talk about her experiences to help out a fellow Trojan.
Kelly Theofanis, (formally Kelly Heintz) MBA '10
After Kelly worked at a social enterprise, a consulting firm catering to nonprofit organizations, and experienced the impact of her work beyond her office and the people she worked for, "There was not another kind of work that would be as satisfying.."
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Kelly had her first taste of the nonprofit sector working at an art gallery during her undergraduate years at Yale College. After receiving her B.A. in English, she worked as a consultant for NPO solutions. NPO Solutions specializes in strategic planning and development, and Kelly worked on financial and business analysis. As a consultant, Kelly observed the need for business skills and training in leadership roles in the nonprofit sector, and returned to USC Marshall to pursue an MBA.
Kelly found the Marshall School of Business to be welcoming, engaging, and enthusiastic about the work she was doing. Although she was involved with Net Impact, at the time it did not have a social enterprise team, so she sought out Adlai Wertman, Founding Director of the SBL, and Abby Fifer Mandell, Director of Education during the formative year of the Society and Business Lab. Through the Lab and its activities, Kelly was able to connect with like-minded individuals at Marshall.
During the summer of 2009, Kelly interned with Education Pioneers, a national program that places graduate students in education reform. She worked at Green Dot Public Schools to create a "management dashboard" to measure the performance of the organization in achieving its strategic goals.
Graduating May 2010, EdTec was the "sweet spot between finding a role for myself that combined passion for education and my business training." EdTec specializes in business and development for charter public schools, and as a Client Manager, Kelly interfaces with charter school clients to support them in reaching their financial goals, accountability standards, and mission.
Kelly is very happy to have found this role in Los Angeles and have the opportunity to work with schools throughout California with EdTec. Several years down the line, she is looking to have a leadership role in a charter school operator or education agency, but before that, she is enjoying learning the business side of public education and life in her hometown.
Deborah Brutchey, MBA '09
Deborah is the Senior Director of Development and Operations at L.A. Works, a non-profit social enterprise in Los Angeles that coordinates and manages over a thousand volunteer experiences each year. She attributes where she is today to the inspiring individuals she "served" while volunteering, and the strong role models and mentors she has been lucky to know.
While an undergraduate student at the Pennsylvania State University, Deborah engaged in many volunteer activities in her community. She became increasingly involved with the university's volunteer center, organizing large-scale service events and recruiting other students to participate in volunteer projects. After several years of involvement, Deborah graduated college early to become the Interim Director of Community Service for the university.
Deborah was "so inspired by the ability of students to make a difference" that she next took a position in volunteer planning and management for Hillel at Stanford University. There she managed a student-run camp for children whose parents have or had cancer. At Hillel at Stanford, Deborah was also fortunate to find an incredible mentor who placed a special emphasis on leadership development and professional growth, allowing Deborah to expand her responsibilities beyond project coordination. This experience set Deborah on the path towards an MBA.
Between Hillel at Stanford and enrolling at Marshall, Deborah raised several million dollars for the Family Service Agency of Santa Barbara via the traditional non-profit funding model of foundation, public, and private donors. Deborah came to business school at USC to "learn about successful models of sustainable revenue generated in the private sector." Deborah was attracted by the strong entrepreneurship program and tight-knit community at Marshall, and started her MBA in 2008.
While at Marshall, Deborah interned at Chrysalis, a non-profit dedicated to helping homeless individuals re-enter the workforce, and got her first taste of a social enterprise. She worked with the CEO of Chrysalis to design a green business plan for Chrysalis Enterprises, the business-arm of the organization. "I loved the fact that I could directly apply skills I was learning in my courses at Marshall to my work there," she says. "I still apply these entrepreneurial skills in the nonprofit sector today." After graduation Deborah returned to her roots in community service to run L.A. Works. She especially enjoys the social enterprise aspect of her work – coordinating and custom designing days of service for businesses. Through this venture, L.A. Works maintains its mission of providing service to at-risk and underserved members of the Los Angeles community
Elizabeth Amini, MBA '08
When most people hear the word NASA, they think of astronauts and scientists, not strategic consultants. For Elizabeth Amini, managing partner at Brighter World Consulting and founder and CEO of Anti-Aging Games, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory provided the perfect launching pad to a career as a social entrepreneur.
Elizabeth's first introduction to the world of strategy consulting occurred at NASA, where she began managing projects after she discovered a numerical data set that rendered her job visually analyzing satellite images obsolete. After researching different career paths, she decided on a career in consulting and began to take on freelance projects.
Finding success, she founded Brighter World Consulting (BWC), which operates under a unique business model: only charging clients a percentage of the revenue increase that results from its recommendations. If the recommendations do not work, clients are not charged. The company also provides free consulting to non-profits, donating a percentage of its revenues to selected charities and encouraging its clients to match donations.
While founding BWC, Elizabeth was also applying to part-time MBA programs. On the advice of one of her mentors, a Harvard Business School Graduate, Elizabeth explored the USC Marshall School of Business and chose to attend for its tight network of alumni and its strong entrepreneurship program.
While at Marshall, classes in entrepreneurship helped Elizabeth focus her business goals. Committed to donating 20% of her pretax profits to solve world problems, Elizabeth looked into several easily scalable, high margin businesses before settling on software. Combining her background in cognitive science with her love for video games, Elizabeth founded Anti-Aging Games, a company that produces games to sharpen concentration, focus, and memory for adults over 35. Developing the concept in class, Elizabeth won the 2008 Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies Center for Technology Commercialization Business Plan Competition, which gave her the capital to start her business. During her time at Marshall, Elizabeth was also very involved outside of the class room. She founded the Trojan CEO Network and the USC-UCLA-Caltech Net Impact Consulting Partnership.
Upon graduating, Elizabeth accepted a position with the Los Angeles office of Bain Consulting. While at Bain, she continued to develop Anti-Aging Games. Elizabeth left Bain, and is now focusing exclusively on growing her two business endeavors.
Margaux Helvey, MBA '08
After receiving her B.A. from the University of Virginia, Margaux spent time working in a nonprofit start-up as well as researching earned-income models, a precursor of where she would find herself in the future.
Margaux chose USC for graduate school due to the unique dual degree in business and social work the university offers. During her time as a student at Marshall, she led initiatives for socially responsible business, including program proposals for social innovation, ethics education, and diversity training for MBA students. In addition, she coordinated MBA student volunteer events for Junior Achievement and Special Olympics of Southern California.
When Adlai Wertman, Founding Director of the Society and Business Lab (SBL), was hired during the spring of 2008, he pooled together a mixed group of students in order to gauge student awareness of social enterprise-related issues. As a MBA in her last semester, Margaux proved to be a valuable asset, providing information about student needs and the resources students did not have access to. After graduating spring 2008, she became the first hire of the Society and Business Lab.
As the Associate Director of the SBL, Margaux managed the overall operations of the Lab. She also spearheaded the development of the Lab's first social venture project, Venture Build. Her work has transformed the SBL from a proposal to a critical resource for students interested in social enterprise.
Margaux left the Lab in the summer of 2010 to become the Director of Strategic Partnerships at the Downtown Women's Center, an organization that provides permanent supportive housing for homeless women as well as an array of other services of which include starting up a new social enterprise. In the Fall of 2011, Margaux was promoted to her current role, Director of Development and Community Engagement, a newly expanded role that includes both corporate and strategic partnerships, as well as fundraising for the organization. Margaux oversees a team of 9 staff whose responsibilities include volunteer and corporate engagement, event planning, grant writing, and donor development. Her MBA-MSW education and experience from the SBL have provided her the tools she needs to successfully perform her responsibilities. Margaux assures she will be "bringing the full value of the Marshall School and the Trojan network into [her] work in the nonprofit sector" and she hopes "to encourage and mentor other students who want to leverage their business skills to impact social issues".
Margaux was a key element in the establishment of the Society and Business Lab. It is certain her talents and skills will continue to make a similar impact at the Downtown Women's Center.
David Hodgins, MBA '08
While David Hodgins came to the USC Marshall School of Business with his heart set on the movement toward sustainable development, he envisioned himself graduating and working for a private firm. The thought of working for a non-profit never crossed his mind.
At Marshall, David's passion for green development led him to become active in student organizations like Net Impact. With his fellow classmate, Sam Reid, David produced the first Green Business event for the Marshall Alumni Association, securing U.S. Senator, Barbara Boxer as a speaker.
While at Marshall, he convinced the School of Policy, Planning, and Development to offer their first class on sustainable development and green buildings. The class is now a part of their elective offerings. He also sat as the only student on a sustainability task force with university administrators, proposing language for a revised and improved master plan for future development. His work paid off and the university's current construction projects have sustainability clearly in focus.
During his second year in the program, David became a Clinton – Orfalea Fellow. After his fellowship experience, David began working full-time in the Clinton Climate Initiative's Energy Efficiency Building Retrofit Program. The mission of this initiative is to accelerate the market shift to energy efficiency in existing buildings. By evaluating the baseline portfolio of a building, his team conducted a feasibility study on energy efficiency and worked to implement a new energy-efficiency strategy.
After three and a half years as Commercial Sector Project Development Manager with the Clinton Climate Initiative's Energy Efficiency Building Retrofit Program, David moved on to found Sustento Group, LCC, a consultancy offering a range of strategic advisory services to private, public, and institutional clients interested in rolling out large scale energy efficiency programs.
David currently manages the Los Angeles Commercial Building Performance Partnership, an ARRA-funded initiative to accelerate the flow of private capital to fund efficiency retrofits of existing commercial buildings, and is consulting to Los Angeles County in the roll out of its Commercial PACE Financing Program. David has consulted on the development of over 50mm square feet of resource efficiency projects on 6 continents, and is currently consulting with various government agencies to develop and implement financing programs to accelerate the commercial efficiency retrofit market.
David's areas of expertise include resource efficiency retrofit finance, retrofit and retro-commissioning project development, portfolio strategy, and environmental policy. David is a LEED accredited professional, and is a member of both the USGBC-LA Commercial Real Estate and Finance and EBOM sub-committees. David holds a Master's of Business Administration and a Master's of Real Estate Development from the University of Southern California, with an emphasis in sustainable development.
Stephanie Ip, MBA '08
While many of her fellow USC Marshall School of Business grads are using their MBAs in the boardroom, Stephanie Ip is using her degree to leave her mark on the classroom.
As a former LAUSD high school science teacher, Stephanie has a passion for education. In choosing a graduate program, Stephanie was looking for a place to learn about best practices in the business sector and transfer those concepts to education. She found what she was looking for at USC Marshall, where the commitment to diversity and strong international presence drew her in. Upon her acceptance to Marshall, Stephanie learned that she had also been chosen as a Marshall Consortium Fellow, a program committed to increasing diversity in business.
At Marshall, Stephanie not only found a way to marry business and education, but also to distinguish herself through her work for Net Impact. Her accomplishments there included opening new schools through the Botswana Project, and serving as an Education Pioneer Fellow working within the LAUSD, where she developed an anti-vandalism campaign.
Stephanie served as Clinton-Orfalea Fellow (a one-year post-MBA program), working to combat childhood obesity through industry, healthcare, and original programs including the Healthy Schools Program and Kids Movement. Her healthcare initiatives have made exciting progress - her organization brokered a deal with healthcare companies to provide on-site nutritional counseling to obese or at-risk children.
In July 2009, Stephanie pursued her dream to start a school by founding a charter school in East New York. The charter school began with 90 5th grade scholars and will ultimately have a middle school that ranges from grades 5-9. She currently serves as the Director of School Operations.
Tying her Marshall experience to the realm of education, she notes that her MBA training was about "Learning how to coach people, [learning] different techniques to draw out the best in others."
Sam Reid, MBA '0 8
Like many other freshly minted Marshall MBAs, Sam Reid was invited to start his professional career with a top consulting firm following an impressive summer internship.
He respectfully declined.
Sam wanted something more. He saw organizations doing good in the world – rural development, microloans, disaster relief – and wanted to use his business skills to help these organizations make the greatest possible impact upon society. Although the consulting firm was offering to pay for Sam's second year of business school and he had no guaranteed fallback option, he decided to forgo job security in favor of finding real meaning in his work.
His first chance came shortly before graduation, when he was accepted to the MBA Enterprise Corps, a nonprofit organization that sends recent MBA graduates from top-50 business schools on one-year assignments to support and grow small businesses in emerging economies.
During the time between graduating from Marshall and working for MBAEC, Sam began to consider how he could continue to use business to change the world after returning from his overseas assignment. He pitched a proposal to McKinsey & Company for a "post-MBA internship" within their Organization practice. Sam was attracted to McKinsey's commitment to the social sector and their proven ability to help their clients make progress on some of the world's most challenging problems – among them, hunger in Africa, climate change and securing New York after 9/11. McKinsey agreed to hire Sam for the summer, and by the time he left for India two months later, Sam had a standing offer to return to the firm after completion of his work with MBAEC.
In India, Sam worked with the Grassroots Business Fund (GBF), a social venture capital fund. Sam focused on building the capacity of a water purification company selling water to villagers at one fifth of the market price, developing a business plan for a rural agricultural company that supported hundreds of female entrepreneurs at the bottom of the pyramid, and helping a variety of nonprofit organizations develop the ability to use for-profit spin-offs to become more sustainable. With each investment, Sam and the GBF were looking for a balanced combination of social and financial returns.
After six months on the front lines in Ahmedabad, India, the GBF promoted Sam to Portfolio Manager for India, Southeast Asia, and Indonesia. When he rejoins his colleagues at McKinsey in late 2009, Sam says he will miss working with the "small, driven, world-changing entrepreneurs" he met in Ahmedabad. Sam is not sure where he will be living or what he will be doing a year from now; but he says that if he can keep looking for meaning in his work, "Everything will fall into place perfectly."
Sam recently spoke at Marshall about making a difference through social entrepreneurship. He started the discussion with an Apple video about 'the crazy ones' who are ambitious enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who actually do. From there, he walked the audience through his journey of pursuing careers that fulfilled his needs and desires, and making difficult decisions and tradeoffs to follow those career choices. He ended with a video that motivated the crowd to make a difference.
Shalinee Thakur, MBA '08
For Shalinee Thakur, working in corporate finance at a Fortune 500 company, just wasn't enough. She needed a more rewarding return on her investment of time. Determined to use her business skills for something greater, Shalinee came to Marshall to get her MBA with the specific intent of moving into the non-profit sector.
While at Marshall, Shalinee balanced the rigor of her MBA core classes with electives in the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies and in non-profit classes from other USC departments. Shalinee was accepted to the competitive Broad Foundation summer internship for MBAs, which placed her in a development and strategy role for high school programs in the Pittsburgh City School District. After graduating, Shalinee continued to work in the nonprofit sector for a community development organization, NCB Capital Impact, where she created access to capital on low-cost lending projects in community health centers and charter schools.
Shalinee was then able to combine her business background and nonprofit experience to work in the field of social enterprise. As a Finance and Operations Manager at the Salesforce.com Foundation, Shalinee is leading part of a new initiative to create sustainable revenue through a business arm of the Foundation. Based on the unique corporate philanthropy model of Salesforce.com, the Foundation is a reseller of Salesforce.com products at a reduced cost to nonprofit and higher education organizations. The earned income is then used to sustain the Foundation operations, enhance the product, and further support the grant-making side of the Foundation. Shalinee focuses on financial strategies and processes for generating revenue for the Foundation through this earned income venture.
With the Salesforce CRM product, nonprofit organizations are able to focus more time on their missions for social change and less time dealing with technology infrastructure. Shalinee has found a meaningful way to spend her time, using her finance and management skills to impact society. According to Shalinee, "There comes a point in your life when you realize that you truly can make a difference in the world. One voice, or excel spreadsheet, in my case, can actually make an impact on the lives of others. It's hard to maintain that focus everyday, but I in my heart I know that is the truth."
Zelinda Welch, MBA '08
Coming from the world of non-profits, Zelinda Welch had not thought about business school as an option until a chance encounter with Net Impact opened her mind to the role that business can play in developing a sustainable future. Now, as a market analyst for the solar industry at Sharp Electronics, Zelinda is finding new applications for solar technology to create a cleaner, greener world.
Inspired by study abroad experiences in Costa Rica and Zimbabwe, Zelinda received her undergraduate degree in international relations and development with an emphasis in environmental studies. She immediately put her degree to use joining Bread for the World, a public policy organization that addresses poverty and hunger issues through advocating for policy change to create more sustainable development programs. During her time at Bread for the World, Zelinda rose to the position of Western Regional Director, where she expanded the program's sustainable development campaigns, which empowers people to become a voice for change.
After five years at Bread for the World, Zelinda was ready to pursue a graduate degree in public policy. When touring campuses, she repeatedly found herself gravitating to business schools where she had engaging discussions on topics like how business can successfully achieve a triple bottom line and the large investments that businesses were making in the environmental sector. Inspired by the people that she met, the belief that she could contribute to the future of Marshall's environmental programs and a conversation with the President of USC's Net Impact chapter, Zelinda ultimately chose to attend USC's Marshall School of Business.
Marshall gave Zelinda a fresh perspective, challenging her to see the world through a business lens as well as a non-profit one. Harnessing her experience and passion from both of these domains, Zelinda immersed herself in the world of renewable energy, interning at Sharp Electronics in its solar division, leading the Environmental Case Competition Team, winning the Nike Women in Business Case Competition and building a yearly Marshall panel on clean energy technology.
In addition to her role as a market analyst at Sharp, Zelinda's new product development function provides her with unique opportunities to impact the lives of those who would be hurt most by global warming. As development costs continue to drop, solar energy solutions, both large and small can be implemented effectively. Electricity can provide a dramatic rise in the standard of living and quality of life for rural, underdeveloped areas, and Zelinda is working to develop products to serve these kinds of applicat ions.
"There are many ways to change the world and it's up to each person to make their own choice on how to give back," she says. For Zelinda, working at Sharp developing new applications for solar technology and leading the creation of Sharp's youth environmental education initiative, the Solar Academy, are just two ways that she can work to create a more sustainable future.
Adam Miller, MBA '05
Adam Miller has one of those jobs MBA students dream about: Senior Vice President, Strategic Partnerships. And, as it turns out, his role is at one of the leading charter school capacity building organizations in California. His role at EdTec is a perfect combination of Adam's passion for public education reform and business acumen.
Adam has always had an interest in education, especially as it pertains to students in California. He witnessed a decline in the quality of students' experiences in public education and wanted to find a role to participate in reform. At the University of California Student Association (UCSA), Adam led teams to address issues affecting over 200,000 students and involving multiple stakeholder groups. In the seat of Executive Director, Adam enjoyed the learn-as-you-go aspects of running a small business and developed skills that helped build stronger policy management and public relations for UCSA. However, he also observed the need for additional MBA-type skills in education and for a mentor to guide him as a manager, and so Adam returned to Southern California to refine and expand his expertise and network in the USC Marshall MBA program.
At Marshall, Adam explored his career options in the corporate world, and even accepted a summer internship in company finance. Even so, he never lost sight of his commitment to education and participated in a Net Impact Service Corps project for Green Dot Public Schools, a charter management organization, alongside his traditional business school internship. His experiences in business school and brief stint in the private sector helped Adam become the Chief Operating Officer at CCSA. At CCSA, he was charged with developing new financial products for charter schools and facilitating membership services that "protect the movement" by moving from an advocacy platform to a model that supports both advocacy and accountability.
At CCSA Adam felt rewarded with several "wins" at work such as the "intellectual excitement of doing something that has never been done before," the "emotional wins of supporting the work of creating opportunity for students, or witnessing entire classes go to college." In February 2012, Adam became SVP of Strategic Partnerships at EdTec and will be focusing on strategy and business development – identifying opportunities for geographic expansion outside of California as well as business line expansion within California . EdTec supports operational and academic quality in the charter movement by delivering the highest value charter school support services and expertise to the developers and schools and by bringing the benefits of our economies of scale to resource-constrained charter schools and developers. For more information about the EdTec, please see http://www.edtec.biz.
Jack Friedman, MBA '10
Jack Friedman believes that undergraduate students must not overlook an opportunity to "do something right now." Jack, a recent graduate from the USC Marshall School of Business with an emphasis in Entrepreneurship, combined his interests in business and education to found a test-prep company called Smart Study Tutors Inc from his dorm room. Study Smart Tutors works with schools, education foundations, and university outreach organizations to provide efficient and effective test prep for low-income and English Language Learner (ELL) families. Jack's primary objective is to help underserved students be admitted into the colleges of their dreams. Additionally, he serves as a role model for aspiring young entrepreneurs by speaking in USC Marshall courses and working one-on-one with entrepreneurship students.
Born and raised in Agoura, California, Jack gained exposure to the test prep industry by tutoring students while in high school and college. After working for two national test prep companies, he realized that standardized test prep curriculum was not suited for every type of learner. This fueled him to develop a test prep system that created long-lasting change among individuals, not temporary success for young adults to "pass the test."
His business plan for Study Smart Tutors was awarded Top Undergraduate Business Plan by the USC Greif Center for Entrepreneurship in May 2010. Jack works with community organizations that receive outside funding to provide test prep for underserved students. By creating an innovative curriculum and tutor training model and using part time staff and teachers, Jack's venture has proved successful. Study Smart Tutors has helped thousands of students improve their scores on standardized tests. Jack is passionate about "changing the culture of what it means to go to college" within low-income communities.
Rachel Tobias, '10
Rachel Tobias, a former Society and Business Lab (SBL) intern, is self-described "inspiration enthusiast," a whale watcher, writer, blogger, photographer, and globe-trotter.
Born and raised in La Cañada, California, Rachel embraced public service from an early age. She was a Girl Scout for thirteen years and involved in student government throughout high school. It wasn't until college, however, that she discovered her passion for social entrepreneurship. During her sophomore year she participated in a TOMS shoe drop to deliver shoes to children in rural Argentina. The following summer she worked in the Global Venture and Fellowship Department at Ashoka. There she worked with fellowship applicants who were working on a spectrum of projects – from protecting tigers in the Indian jungle to implementing survivor networks for those who had been touched by conflict.
Rachel's turning point came after spending a semester in Egypt, where she was awakened to the importance of women's rights and free press. More importantly, she says, she developed "a firm commitment to do something that would leave tomorrow better than today." After returning from Egypt, she began her internship with the SBL. Rachel was involved in creating a social enterprise incubator. Through this project she met Jessica Jackley, the founder of Kiva.
Rachel also interned with the TED.com editorial team, an experience which exposed her to a "constant plethora of inspiration." With a new understanding of idea sharing, Rachel created TEDxTrousdale, a USC student conference at which more than twenty students spoke about their passions, their projects and their ideas to change the world.
Since graduating from USC in December of 2010, Rachel works for Profounder, an online crowdfunding platform founded by Jessica Jackley and Dana Mauriello, that provides tools for entrepreneurs to raise investment capital from their communities. Rachel manages social media and PR for ProFounder. Her experience at ProFounder has strengthened her belief in the power of small business to affect local and meaningful change.
In the long term, Rachel hopes to work on bottom-of-the-pyramid design projects and disaster relief efforts. "The most important thing I try to remember is that the world is made up of great groups, not great men. If I am so lucky to be a part of great groups for the rest of my life, I will be the luckiest person in the world."
Dawn Powell, '10
Beginning her career at USC, Dawn chose to major in international relations due toher involvement in Invisible Children and desire tobe a part of social change. Through USC, Dawn participated in service trips to Costa Rica, Ecuador and Ghana focusing on eco-tourism, micro-finance, and girls' education respectively. In the Fall of 2009, Dawn studied abroad in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil, taking classes in international economics and Portuguese, and working for a Brazilian non-profit. Extracting all she could out of travel opportunities, coursework, and research with USC professors, Dawn began to realize the power of business in development.
Combining her International Relations knowledge and interest in business, Dawn co-founded the USC International Development Association as an interdisciplinary organization focused around intellectual discussion of emerging economies and development challenges. Creating a network of students, professors and other organizations, Dawn hopes to mentor students and provide them with the information and access to opportunities at USC that she has found so rewarding.
Dawn began working for SBL in the Spring of 2010. At SBL, Dawn's eyes were opened to the network of social entrepreneurs in the Los Angeles area. Intrigued by social entrepreneurship, Dawn attended the Starting Bloc Institute for Social Innovation summit in Boston that spring. Dawn was greatly inspired by the all of the young social entrepreneurs and her future plans to attend business school were affirmed.
After gaining a well-rounded education in International Relations, exploring social entrepreneurship, and falling in love with Brazilian life and culture, Dawn applied and was accepted to be a Fulbright Scholar in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In Rio, Dawn is researching Sino-Brazilian relations and its implications for the development of Brazil. In her spare time she will volunteer in side projects with social enterprises addressing poverty in Brazil.
Excited to live and gain valuable work experience in Brazil, in the future Dawn plans to attend business school and hopes to work for or start a non-profit that supports social entrepreneurs.
Belinda Liu, '09
Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Belinda attended USC with a double major in International Relations and Public Relations. At the university, Belinda searched for fields where she could fully utilize her unique skill set. She developed an interest in the potential for people in the private sector to use their expertise to create a positive impact on a global level, or as she says "comparative advantage working for social good".
Deciding a foundation in business would complement her skill set, Belinda sought out the Society and Business Lab and was hired as one of the first interns. The time she spent at the Lab provided her an invaluable experience and the framework and business foundation she would need to achieve her goals. Looking back, Belinda remarks: "What struck me most about SBL is that it's filled with idealists, yes, but they're pragmatic idealists. The world is full of talent; skills-based service is like bottling up that talent and delivering it in concentrated doses to those who need it most. It makes sense. I think it's rather brilliant, actually."
After graduation, she attained a fellowship at the Commonwealth Club of California, the nation's oldest and largest public forum. At the Commonwealth Club, she drove press programs and took the opportunity to hear the most notable of speakers in a multitude of fields from politics to pop culture. After her fellowship ended, she took an internship at Weber Shandwick, the world's largest public relations firm. At Weber Shandwick she was challenged with making successful pitches to businesses as well as working with media relations and strategic planning.
Belinda's work was rewarded with a full-time salaried job offer, but she turned it down for an unpaid yearlong internship at International Justice Mission (IJM). She decided her personal goals and convictions aligned best with IJM's dedication to rescue victims of individual human rights abuse. As a communications intern based in the South Asia field office, she will assist IJM in raising awareness of slavery within India by working with local journalists to develop stories, by monitoring national press, and by developing solution-based and community empowering discussions to rally the population to stand up against slavery.
However, Belinda isn't planning on stopping just yet. Once returning to the States, she aims to attend law school with a focus on international law.
Ashkun Zaker, MBA '12
Ashkun Zaker has always sought to "give back" to his community through donating his time and money. He did not realize that his interest in providing for other people would eventually shape his career and life-long goals. Ashkun pursued a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Managerial Economics at University of California, Davis (UC Davis). After graduating, Ashkun worked at StateStreet Corporation, where he gained hands-on experience in a group managing over 2 trillion dollars of corporate, pension, and foundation assets while assisting with finance, accounting, reconciliation, and client management. During his personal time, he started two social enterprises: the first company served as a carbon negative travel service; the second, a non-profit which aimed to raise money for cancer research through party and event promotions.
Ashkun realized that he wanted to combine his interests in business and the social sector in a more comprehensive way so he set out to gain new experiences in creating positive social impact. He left his job in banking and couch-surfed in San Francisco to help develop two local non-profits – at Sparkseed, a social business incubator for undergraduate students, he served as Director of Engagement and helped advance the program's reach and impact. At Women's Initiative for Self-Employment, a financial literacy program and micro-loan provider for at-risk and under-privileged women, he served as a Microenterprise fellow and assisted with their entrepreneurship courses and also created controls and efficiencies to strengthen and grow their micro-lending portfolio.
His experiences within the non-profit sector made him realize not only that micro-finance can turn around lives and communities, but also that business models applied to the social sector can improve performance and drive increased impact. With this in mind, Ashkun decided to attend the USC Marshall School of Business for an MBA. He was especially attracted to the programs and courses offered by the Society and Business Lab (SBL). He became a Society and Business Lab MBA Fellow and was introduced to Paul Polizzotto, Founder and President of CBS EcoMedia, which utilizes a patent-pending advertising model to connect CBS clients to a network of non-profit partners to provide financial support for environmental, health, and education projects in communities nationwide. Ashkun served as a summer MBA intern at EcoMedia and continued on part-time through his second year, working alongside passionate social entrepreneurs, environmentalists, and others with a history in the social sector.
Upon graduation, Ashkun was offered a full-time position, designed specifically for him, as Director of Sales Strategy and Development at EcoMedia. He now leads many of the company's financial projects and has been instrumental in setting strategy to scale the business as it grows, having more than tripled sales each year since their acquisition. He also creates systems and software to track company finances and builds new relationships for the company (specifically within the Trojan network). Ashkun aims to gain valuable experience within his current position to eventually start a successful social enterprise of his own. Ideally, starting his own micro-finance institution in his family's country, Iran.
Erin Keller, MBA '11
As a high school student, Erin knew that she wanted to become a teacher and dedicate her life to shaping the education system. Erin attended the University of Southern California (USC) where she pursued English and Education. Upon graduation, she accepted a full time position at the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) in Harbor City where she taught high school students. Erin expanded a college access program, Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID), to help provide her students with the skills and experiences to be competitive college applicants. As a full-time teacher, Erin realized that the teachers needed to receive "more professional development and support within the school's infrastructure." She sought increased community engagement among faculty, staff, and students to develop an invaluable learning experience for her students. After teaching full-time for three years, Erin wanted to gain additional training in management and business in order to influence the education system on a greater scale. In 2009, Erin returned to the USC Marshall School of Business to pursue an MBA.
Erin sought to combine her interests in educational reform, social entrepreneurship, and management. She participated in a summer internship at the Fulfillment Fund, a college access nonprofit, to assist with curriculum development and program implementation and strategy. Additionally, Erin became a Society and Business Fellow and served as Service Director for City Year Los Angeles, a nonprofit dedicated to improving urban education. Upon graduation, Erin accepted a full-time position as Associate Director of Recruitment and Selection at the Broad Center, an organization that aims to "develop leaders to transform America's public school systems." She states, "my experience within the classroom and in non-profit management has informed the ways that I encourage people to make education their passion."
Sally Lee, MBA '11
Sally Lee has always wanted to pursue a career through which she could leverage the power of business for social good. As an undergraduate student at USC, Sally received a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. During her undergraduate years, Sally worked for the Corporate Compliance Group at The Walt Disney Company, where she received valuable experience monitoring ethical sourcing practices for various divisions. Throughout Sally's career at Disney, her business unit expanded its scope of responsibility and influence, seeking to not only "protect Disney's brand, but also evaluate the supply chain to ensure that vendors and factories were adhering to the Company's Code of Conduct regarding labor standards." Upon graduation, Sally was offered a full-time position on Disney's International Labor Standards (ILS) team
On the ILS team, Sally supervised policies and procedures from a divisional level and sought additional experience working directly for a business unit within Disney Consumer Products, specifically The Disney Stores. She focused primarily on supply chain management to address labor rights violations by integrating pre-production audit requirements into the production and sourcing process. Years later, Sally returned to USC to pursue her MBA from USC's Marshall School of Business while working full-time at Disney. She was introduced to the USC Marshall Society and Business Lab (SBL), where she became a Society and Business Fellow and participated in SBL elective courses and events. After attending a Lunch & Learn, which featured guest speaker Michelle Yates, Vice President, Corporate Responsibility at Warner Bros., Sally was impressed with the CSR work that other studios were engaged in and wanted to expand her knowledge and experience beyond ethical sourcing.
Upon graduation from Marshall, Sally's colleague informed her of an open position at Warner Bros. within the Corporate Responsibility department. In October 2011, Sally became Director, Corporate Responsibility for Warner Bros. Entertainment. In this capacity, she ensures that the company has a positive social impact on employees, audiences and communities on a global scale. By harnessing WB's key strength – effective storytelling – her department seeks to "shine a light on social issues that are often stigmatized or underreported and use WB's broad media reach to generate awareness." Sally currently oversees WB's largest cause marketing campaign, We Can Be Heroes (WeCanBeHeroes.org), a two-year giving campaign designed to raise funds and awareness for the devastating hunger crisis in the Horn of Africa leveraging DC Entertainment's iconic Justice League super heroes, including Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. By collaborating with celebrities, retailers and three nonprofit partners – Save the Children, Mercy Corps, and International Rescue Committee – the campaign continues to be a success. In her own words, "this campaign is trying to activate DCE fans and convert them into donors while raising awareness about an important social issue. We have the privilege of coordinating all of these activities to tell a great story about how an entertainment company is able to use its storytelling platform to invest in our local and global communities." In the fall of 2012, Sally was promoted to Vice President, Corporate Responsibility at Warner Bros.