University of Southern California

Have Need, Will Travel
USC Marshall MBA Students Mobilize to Provide Water Filters to Rural Afghanistan
March 15, 2013 • by News at Marshall

In small, remote villages in the mountains of Afghanistan, people benefit each day from the entrepreneurial drive of USC Marshall MBA students.

Stephanie Soltis MBA ’14 and her classmates developed a plan to provide rural Afghanistan with water filters, essential for clean water in places without central water sources, after a site visit to Hurley, where they initially went to learn about career options.

Hurley, an outdoor lifestyle brand that focuses on surfing, skateboarding, music and art, has partnered with the non-profit Waves for Water program to provide water filters to people in need throughout the world. The program initially was established to have surfers bring water filters to places ranging from Indonesia to Nicaragua during their travels.

Soltis, a surfer, a reserve major and a pilot in the United States Air Force, periodically flies C-17 cargo planes to Afghanistan on missions to support troops. She knew that she would be flying to Afghanistan in December 2012, and offered to bring some water filters for distribution to complement her mission.

“There aren’t waves there, but there is clearly a need for clean water,” said Soltis, who has flown about 260 combat missions during her service in the Air Force.

Soltis and fellow MBA students immediately began a short-term fundraising drive to purchase water filters for the people of Afghanistan. Their initial goal was to raise enough money to purchase 20 filters; in a few days, they had raised enough money to purchase 32 filters—enough to provide clean water to over 3,200 people for up to five years.

“It’s tough asking people for money around the holidays, especially college students,” said Soltis. “It was amazing to see how my fellow Trojans rose to the occasion and contributed to this cause.”

With the small, portable water filters in a backpack, Soltis headed to Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan in late December. Then, in a testament to the power of networks, she connected with a college classmate and A-10 pilot, who coordinated with both the U.S. Army units that his squadron supports and Air Force security forces patrols to distribute the filters in villages.

The experience has been clearly uplifting for Soltis, who saw how the power of the Marshall network could be mobilized to address real needs in the world. She wrote to her classmates soon after she returned from Afghanistan: “I can attest from the ground level that you can and should feel very good about the fact that you very directly helped people in need. I couldn’t be prouder to be part of this amazing Trojan Family than I am right now. You are truly exceptional people, and being associated with you is a gift and honor.”

About the USC Marshall School of Business
Consistently ranked among the nation's premier schools, USC Marshall is internationally recognized for its emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation, social responsibility and path-breaking research. Located in the heart of Los Angeles, one of the world's leading business centers and the U.S. gateway to the Pacific Rim, Marshall offers its 5,700-plus undergraduate and graduate students a unique world view and impressive global experiential opportunities. With an alumni community spanning 123 countries, USC Marshall students join a worldwide community of thought leaders who are redefining the way business works.