Abby Fifer Mandell wants Brittingham Social Enterprise Lab alumni to know: “We’re coming to town to say hi and to buy you a drink!”
That’s right. BSEL Executive Director Fifer Mandell, BSEL Founding Director Adlai Wertman, BSEL Associate Director of Programs Michelle Chow and BSEL MS in Social Entrepreneurship Director JJ Lee are celebrating 10 years of the Center of Excellence at the USC Marshall School of Business by hitting the road to catch up with graduates and re-connect.
Their first stop was in New York City on Oct. 3. They’re headed to San Francisco in November and are so enthusiastic to meet with program alumni they will even brave Chicago… in February.
“It’s about creating a network of people who have impact-oriented jobs. Everything we do is aggressively trying to help students find the kinds of jobs and careers they want. We do that deliberately and strategically.”—Abby Fifer Mandell, Executive Director, Brittingham Social Enterprise Lab
The BSEL attracts a special kind of student, interested in careers that make a social impact. Through education, community building and career development, the BSEL equip students with business skills and resources to create sustainable, market-based solutions to the world's most pressing challenges.
The BSEL Road Trip came about because last year Fifer Mandell initiated a quantitative survey of alumni to find out “What are they doing now?”
“Once we had all that information, we said, ‘This is amazing! They’re doing all of the things we hoped they would do.’ We wanted to see them and say, ‘thank you’ and ‘we care about you.’ That’s what we’re doing with the Road Trip.”
It’s an alumni event meant to continue the work the BSEL does with its students, maintaining a network of people who have impact-oriented jobs.
Fifer Mandell was very impressed with the turnout for the New York event. Of the 50 people who RSVPed, all but one of them showed up on a cold and rainy night (and that one person who couldn’t make it texted Fifer Mandell that she had an emergency at work).
“People were so excited to see each other and connect with each other,” she said. “It was really neat to see people spending time together from across generations, people who hadn’t been in the program at the same time but felt a warmth toward one another. It was a wonderful night.”
So good, in fact, that the bar they rented out until 9 p.m. was still jamming at 11 p.m.
One of the highlights of the New York event for Fifer Mandell was hearing about everyone’s careers. “We now have people in the room that are hiring other people in the room,” she said. “One alumna took my design class a couple years ago and is now designing systems for first responders to make 911 response times more efficient. What she learned in my class about human-centered design she’s directly applying to an issue that matters a lot to her, which is public safety.”
Another alumna has been working at the Clinton Foundation for several years, having got her foot in the door through a fellowship program run by the BSEL while she was a student. Yet another alumnus works with the Acumen Fund, an impact investing firm, doing work around food justice initiatives.
“We are a student-centered center,” Fifer Mandell said of the BSEL. “Everything we do is to help our students be seen and let them know: we value you, what you do matters, and we want to help you be successful.”
“It’s about creating a network of people who have impact-oriented jobs,” she said. “Everything we do is aggressively trying to help students find the kinds of jobs and careers they want. We do that deliberately and strategically.”
That strategy includes a mentoring program, sending out job emails, taking students on site visits, bringing people in to lecture on the kind of work they do, guest speaker events and office hours.
“Every single time is like the first time I’m being asked for help by students,” she said. “Every time, it’s ‘yes, I’ll introduce you to this person,’ ‘yes, you should think about this organization,’ ‘if you’re moving to a certain city, you should meet these alumni there…’
“And it works.”
Upcoming BSEL Road Trip events:
Nov. 2 San Francisco
Feb. 8 Chicago
March 5 Los Angeles – a gala event open to alumni, students, advisory board members, friends, mentors and senior fellows