New director reinforces the school’s decades-long legacy of focusing on the power of business as a driver of social change
Written on the wall of a fifth-floor office in the Jacobs Center is a list of ways Kellogg students and faculty work to create a better society. The office belongs to Megan Kashner ’03
, who was hired in January as the school’s director of social impact
. From international development to environmental sustainability to civil rights, the ways that future business leaders can address the world’s challenges are endless, and Kashner’s list is just the beginning.
“When we talk about brave leaders who make an impact when they leave Kellogg, we are talking about more than economic impact,” says Kashner. “We know that when leaders bring their values into their career paths, they are positioning themselves to make a difference. Our students and alumni are interested in finding ways they can contribute to their communities and society, and the social impact team is here to support them.”
Because Kellogg believes that business is the dominant social institution of modern society, students view their future careers through a lens of improving sustainability and human outcomes. Kellogg explores social impact areas across the globe, across disciplines and across sectors, and addresses its many facets, including impact investing, education, human and civil rights, international development, social entrepreneurship, and beyond. A focus on impact and outcomes rather than on one particular vehicle or trend keeps the school at the forefront of social impact, where it has been for decades.
“In our vision, social impact is a deep consideration about the interplay between any business or organization and its surroundings,” Kashner says. “Whether this interplay will have a positive or negative effect becomes a foundation for the way business decisions are made.”
For decades Kellogg has been preparing students to become leaders with an eye on social consciousness. That emphasis continues to this day with the social impact pathway
, an integrated, cross-functional sequence of courses designed to nurture students’ passion for creating positive social impact, and help them develop the tools, knowledge, and skills they need to make that happen. Beyond the classroom, more than 75 percent of students participate in one or more of 13 Kellogg clubs that focus on social impact.
In addition to curricular and co-curricular offerings, Kellogg offers a wide range of experiential programs that allow students to make an immediate impact.
- Since 2011 Kellogg has hosted a sustainable investing challenge to inspire teams of business school students from around the world to create innovative financial solutions to environmental and human problems. Read about the 2016 challenge.
- The Kellogg Board Fellows program, now in its 13th year, trains students in board governance and places them as non-voting board members of 50 nonprofit organizations each year.
- In 2014 Kellogg launched the Youn Impact Scholars, which celebrates students and alumni forging positive social change. Named after One Acre Fund founder Andrew Youn ’06, the program’s scholars from the 2014, 2015, and 2016 cohorts convened in Evanston this May to share ideas and inform each other about the work they are doing. This inaugural gathering coincided with the 10-year reunion of One Acre Fund’s founding.
More than a job, social impact is a passion for Kashner, who is the founder and CEO of Benevolent
, a crowdfunding nonprofit that allows donors to help low-income individuals overcome small financial hurdles blocking the path to economic stability and goals. Her passion is palpable as she works to ensure that Kellogg’s focus on social impact prepares students to become business leaders who truly understand the value of making ethical, thoughtful decisions, and who recognize that their talents and skills can change the world for the better, regardless of what industry they enter.
“We have a responsibility to all our students to demonstrate leadership in the world as it is today,” Kashner says. “Questions of sustainability, human and civil rights, environmental impact, community interactions—these are concerns that are now on everyone’s desks, as they should be.”
Kellogg’s focus is reflected in companies like sharEd, a social enterprise launched in 2014 that brings early childhood classroom materials such as books and toys to children in need across the world. sharEd is run by CEO Bobby Powers ’16 and a team of Kellogg and Northwestern students, and was recently recognized for their impact, taking first place at the Quinlan Social Enterprise Competition
. Powers credits Kellogg’s social impact culture as a big part of the reason he was inspired to create the enterprise.
“I’m in awe of the number of students at Kellogg who want to be involved with social impact,” said Powers, a 2016 Youn Impact Scholar. “I haven’t met a single Kellogg student who is solely looking for the highest paying job; they are all interested in careers where they can really make a difference.”
Visit Kellogg’s social impact site to learn more.
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