By Josh Nathan (JD-MBA 2021)
My name is Josh and I’m a Third-Year in the JD-MBA program at Kellogg — though if you had told me several years ago that I would be here today, I would have been pretty incredulous.
I graduated in 2010 from Amherst College with an English degree, and thereafter embarked upon an eight-year career in education — first, as a Teach For America corps member teaching 8th grade English in urban Boston, and later, as academic director for a company operating charter schools in the developing world. Needless to say, business school never featured prominently in any of my professional plans. I wasn’t a consultant or finance type, didn’t know the first thing about income statements, didn’t read the Wall Street Journal, and math never came as naturally to me as public speaking or debate. Rather, I wanted — and still want — to spend my career supporting extraordinary interventions that change the lives of those systematically denied the opportunity to succeed. As such, when I did look into attending graduate school, programs in law or public policy seemed like a better fit to me — at least, at first.
The path to the MBA
It took me few years to change my mind. First, a number of old friends started to pursue their MBAs, and I began to realize that business school isn’t just about consulting or finance — it’s about connecting with a diverse array of people, and gaining broad skills towards solving global challenges. Second, as my own professional duties grew, I found myself more and more responsible for managing teams, determining strategies, marketing, and understanding funding streams – all skills at the core of an MBA education. These professional experiences made me realize that getting an MBA would open many doors, and would equip me with skills to communicate with and manage teams of stakeholders across government, industry, and the nonprofit space, pursuing the causes I care about most. An MBA increasingly felt like the right next step for me.
Social impact at Kellogg
When I took the plunge and decided to attend Kellogg’s three-year joint JD-MBA program, I was gratified to find that I was not alone in coming from a non-traditional background. As it turns out, there is a substantial community at Kellogg of students from non-traditional backgrounds, and an even larger community eager to go into such fields upon graduation. We all fit under the broad umbrella of social impact, but amongst us are widely divergent interests: some of my classmates are interested in impact consulting or impact investing; others are interested in venture capital work to support companies in underserved communities; still others are focused on philanthropy or public policy. Together, we form a robust network of Kellogg students – and Kellogg has, in turn, provided us with a wide array of resources to enrich our MBA experience:
- Classes. The Kellogg Public Private Interface department offers tons of classes in the social impact space. My very first quarter at Kellogg, I took a course with Professor Megan Kashner called “Social Impact: Designing for Change,” in which I worked on an impact consulting project with the YWCA of Greater Chicago. There, I learned about inequities in Chicago’s real estate market, and also had a chance to leverage some of my recent learnings from my core finance class to benefit my client. This coming quarter, I’m excited to take Professor David Besanko‘s class on public economics for federal decision makers, as well as Professor David Chen‘s class on impact investing and sustainable finance. For every class I have taken, there are three that I wish I had time to take.
- Clubs. Kellogg’s social impact community is organized under an umbrella club called Net Impact. I’ve been fortunate enough to serve on the professional development team for Net Impact for both of my years at Kellogg, which has given me opportunities to support fellow classmates recruiting into roles in social impact, even as I have networked in pursuit of career opportunities for myself. One of the most magical parts of being a business student is having a “.edu” email address; it’s meant that potential employers are super eager to respond to e-mails. As such, I’ve had fascinating conversations with dozens of people in industry, and have shared those connections with my Kellogg classmates when appropriate.
- Competitions and internships. Being in business school is like a two-year opportunity to explore whatever you’re fascinated by. For me, that has included pursuing case competitions between Kellogg and other business schools, taking on externships at companies, and also starting companies of my own through Kellogg’s amazing entrepreneurship classes and community. For me, this has included entering the country’s largest education case competition, interning at a Chicago tech startup and an innovative finance nonprofit in Boston, and starting a company through Kellogg’s new venture classes. I’m planning this coming quarter to enter several additional case competitions focused in the retail and innovative finance spaces, and sponsored by companies such as Patagonia and Morgan Stanley.
- Community. Kellogg’s community is incredibly outgoing, collaborative and supportive. I’m constantly in touch with classmates to share recruiting ideas and best practices, and to connect classmates to those working in industry. The networking experience here feels like a bit of a firehose at times, with so many people to stay in touch with. However, I feel confident that these connections will last me a lifetime, such that when I’m ready to start my own company or am looking for my next career shift, I’ll have a deep phonebook of Kellogg people to call for advice, job opportunities, and support.
If you’re from a non-traditional background and are wondering if an MBA is right for you, I hope that hearing about my journey has proven useful. Most importantly, feel free to reach out! I would be happy to chat with you about your interests, as would any of my Kellogg classmates focused on social impact.