Off to Change the World

The Inaugural Class of Society and Business Fellows Graduates

May 24, 2011

On May 13, a cadre of socially-minded MBA students were the first Society and Business Fellows to graduate USC Marshall. The fellowship program is run through the USC Marshall Society and Business Lab (SBL).

In all, nine Society and Business Fellows, a.k.a. "Cohort 1," will have completed a program this spring that was launched in 2008 to encourage MBA students interested in poverty, homelessness, education, the environment and health care to attend Marshall. Cohort 1 member Patrick Hodgins MBA '11, who will work in green technology sales with Southern California Edison after graduating, said SBL was one of the key reasons he applied to Marshall.

"I was looking at schools trying to see which ones offered curriculum or support for nonprofit consulting. The existence of the lab and its available resources demonstrated Marshall's commitment," said Hodgins.

"Increasingly, business students have career aspirations in the social sector," said Abby Fifer Mandell, SBL's associate director and director of education. "We are happy to provide students with the educational foundation to lead innovative social ventures."

Students are eligible to apply to be a fellow once they have been accepted into one of Marshall's MBA programs. Approximately 10 percent of the MBA class of 2011 applied for the fellowship. The next year, 15 percent of the incoming class applied, and 12 were admitted. The deadline to apply for Cohort 3 is June 15.

While the SBL—founded by Adlai Wertman, who is a professor of clinical management and organization at Marshall--does offer resources for USC students, faculty and staff interested in social enterprise, the fellows receive distinct benefits: targeted guidance and counseling for finding a summer internship (for which a $2,500 subsidy is available if the internship is with an eligible non-profit organization); priority registration for independent study with SBL and courses taught by Wertman; private opportunities to meet with industry leaders and exposure to best practices in social entrepreneurship; and funding to attend the national Net Impact conference.

For Jyoti Gaur MBA '11, the summer internship subsidy was a catalyst for a shift in focus from environmental to social issues and international business. "The subsidy was the only way I would have been able to go to India," said Gaur, who earned a "Global Innovator" fellowship with the Deshpande Foundation. There, she focused on social enterprise, developing software "for HIV/AIDS organizations working with women and children so they can receive email/text updates about their medical appointments and get the treatment they need."

"My India experience made me interested in working abroad," said Gaur. Once she returned, she applied for and received a Critical Language Scholarship through the U.S. State Department to study Punjabi, the language spoken in Northern India. After graduation, she'll further her interest in international development as a Clinton-Orfalea fellow, which is funded by the Orfalea Family Foundation.

Gaur, whose post-fellowship interests are in social enterprise, will move to New York to serve her one-year fellowship, which begins in October. "While at the Clinton Foundation, I will be exposed to a lot of social enterprises and consulting and investment firms so I will be networking like crazy," she said.

And networking is one of the key components to the SBL fellow program. The skill is encouraged as a way of building a community with like-minded students and also for helping to land jobs and internships. Networking can also result in SBL Fellows helping other SBL Fellows with their career goals through mentorship or simply by helping make a needed connection.