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This year I was honored to be one of five students named Kellogg Youn Impact Scholars, and earlier this month we had the incredible opportunity to sit alongside 17 other Youn Impact Scholars and discuss the opportunities and challenges present at the intersection of social impact and business.

What exactly is a Youn Impact Scholar?

Youn Impact Scholars are an elite group of Kellogg students and alumni who, since 2014, have been recognized for their passion about social impact. Highly regarded for their intellect, commitment and drive, these innovators draw upon their business skills to create positive change in the world.

The Scholars in attendance this month work in diverse industries — from impact investing and education to international development and non-profit consulting — and traveled from all over the world to attend the event.

Our day started with introductions. Megan Kashner ’03, Kellogg’s new Director of Social Impact, paired attendees up and instructed each person to introduce his or her partner. Her reasoning? Besides making the introductions more fun, people tend to be modest with their own introductions. I was extremely impressed with the caliber of representatives in the room, and it was fun to hear the details people chose to highlight about each other.

After introductions we had lunch with Kellogg faculty and the Combe family, whose generous gift in 2013 funded the Youn Impact Scholars program. After lunch we gathered to discuss current challenges scholars were facing, with everyone offering their diverse viewpoints and experiences on the problem. The gathering provided a safe and private forum to conduct honest discussions and feedback.

With graduation coming up, the day allowed me to reflect on the ways Kellogg has helped me become a stronger socially responsible leader. As I look back on my experiences at Kellogg, I am most grateful for the following:

  1. The experiential learning opportunities that allowed me to gain real-life experience in impact investing while sparking my interest in understanding how MBAs can scale social enterprises
    During my first year, I participated in the MIINT competition, which stands for MBA Impact Investing Network and Training. (Our team was fortunate to win “Best Impact Investment” at the event, and we reflected on the experience in this blog post.) Like my teammates, I came to Kellogg to further explore the world of impact investing. In particular, I was interested in exploring whether investments could generate both financial and social returns. I also wanted to understand how to measure something as broad as “impact.” Participating in MIINT allowed me to see what being an impact investor really entailed while helping real impact-oriented companies raise capital. This experience, along with Project Impact funding, helped me land a summer internship at an impact-focused investment management firm called Sonen Capital. Further, the MIINT experience made me realize just how much a company’s success depends on its ability to acquire customers and scale, an area where MBAs can really make an impact.
  1. Meeting like-minded best friends who share the same mission-oriented values
    Social Impact at Kellogg is strong, not just because of the program itself, but because of the passionate and diverse students who make the community. As Co-Director of Learning Experience for the school’s Net Impact Club, I’ve had the chance to collaborate with classmates who want to use their business skills to better the world, and in the meantime, made lifelong friendships that would define my Kellogg experience.
  1. Being a part of an institution that has a long history of inspiring socially conscious global leaders
    My Kellogg experience has been filled with dinners with Net Impact alumni and alumni happy hours, but being at the Youn Impact Scholars event reminded me of just how deep social impact runs within Kellogg’s history and alumni network. While at the gathering, I learned that the fellow next to me, Jim Schorr ’94, currently CEO at Social Enterprise Alliance, was a co-founder of Kellogg’s Net Impact Club, and that Mandy Taft-Pearman ’03, currently Partner and Chief Operating Officer at The Bridgespan Group, was good friends with Kashner from business school. Both Mandy and Megan were attracted to Kellogg given its nonprofit focus.

Seeing the new connections in the room between people of all ages who were passionate about leveraging business skills to have an impact on the world was a tangible reminder of the power of the Kellogg network.

Learn more about social impact at Kellogg.

Jamie Lu is a second-year student in Kellogg’s Full-Time Two-Year MBA program. Her prior experience includes investment banking at Citigroup and endowment management at the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.