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Students during KelloggCares
Clear intentions: KelloggCares members, from left, Margot Peters, Amit Bouri and Kristen Jolly (all '07) wash windows for a local preschool last fall.  Photo © Bruce Powell

Focus on philanthropy:
Student leaders give back

By Aubrey Henretty

The rain begins as if on cue.

Eight Kellogg students and three student affairs administrators have committed this Saturday afternoon to window-washing and garden-tending at Shore Home East — an Evanston housing complex for the developmentally disabled — and the first drops fall just as they are about to get started. The team's leader is a Chinese student who has been in the United States barely two months yet has already discovered a way to play a part in the Kellogg School culture. The rain doesn't let up, but the KelloggCares team finishes an hour ahead of schedule.

Student involvement at Kellogg has long been a hallmark and source of pride, and as students choose in greater numbers to focus their extracurricular attentions on bringing business savvy to those who need it most, their energy and enthusiasm has become a great resource for the larger community.

"People come in [to Kellogg] with a zillion charities they want to work with," says Jenny Mehlman '06, president of Business With a Heart, the umbrella group that organizes KelloggCares. The club, one of more than a hundred student groups at the school, keeps the Kellogg community informed about upcoming service opportunities and coordinates and secures corporate sponsors for Chicago-area service projects.

Mehlman says community-focused clubs encourage busy Kellogg students to look beyond their next exams and help their less-fortunate neighbors. "It's easy to get caught up in the Kellogg experience and forget that there are people out there not in your shoes," she says, but it's also easy to connect with community-minded faculty happy to discuss social enterprise.

According to Chris McMillen '06, the marketing chair for Kellogg Corps, some faculty members offer more than just helpful advice. When asked, they may also provide valuable professional contacts and even fundraising assistance. "I was shocked by how much money they were able to help us raise this year," he says.

Kellogg Corps brings Kellogg-caliber business acumen to nonprofit organizations around the world, particularly those in developing countries. "We see a real chance to take our business skills and make an impact," says McMillen, adding that the corps is a great opportunity for graduates who intend to pursue careers in the for-profit sector but still wish to effect lasting social change.

In the 10 years since four intrepid second-year students founded the group, Kellogg Corps has sent 230 freshly minted Kellogg graduates to nearly 30 countries including Ghana, Peru, Nepal, El Salvador and Lithuania. The volunteers have worked with local branches of large nonprofits such as Save the Children and with the only branches of many smaller groups seeking to improve living conditions and local economies.

Neighborhood Business Initiative executive partner Ralph Haberli '06 is also interested in local economies, specifically the businesses that drive them.

The Neighborhood Business Initiative is a collective of Kellogg students who work pro bono as consultants for small local businesses and nonprofits. According to Haberli, NBI currently boasts around 130 members. Like Kellogg Corps, NBI creates a symbiotic partnership with its clients; members benefit from the real-world consulting experience while clients benefit from the high-quality free advice.

"There are a lot of great ideas and very eager people [out in the community] who don't have the right toolkit," Haberli says.

NBI provides that kit. The group's 2005 project list brimmed with a variety of clients and objectives. Student teams worked with such diverse interests as The Childcare Center of Evanston, Cook County's Connections for the Homeless, the Lupus Foundation of Illinois, Gary Poppins Popcorn in Evanston and SCORE Chicago, a nonprofit that coaches current and aspiring business owners on the finer points of entrepreneurship.

Haberli says community work is a uniquely valuable piece of his education: "It really augments the Kellogg experience to get out and do real work with real people."

©2002 Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University