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Social Impact at the Marshall School of Business

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When talking about career paths one might pursue after an MBA, most people think of areas like finance, consulting or marketing. Over the past several years, however, MBA students have grown increasingly interested in the business of social impact; according to Business as Unusual, a 2014 Net Impact survey, 88 percent of MBA students report that they’re interested in learning about businesses with social missions and environmental emphases. That’s one reason why the USC Marshall School of Business recently hosted its second annual Social Impact Careers Panel.

Social Impact Careers Panel

The event—hosted by Global Brigades @ Marshall in partnership with Los Angeles Community Impact and the Brittingham Social Enterprise Lab—welcomed around 100 students from across USC to hear from speakers from a wide range of industries. The panel covered everything from education to food security and nutrition, impact investing and corporate social responsibility.

“What we focused on was really explaining the full-spectrum of what we would call social enterprises—social impact organizations,” explained Adlai Wertman, professor of social entrepreneurship and founding director of the Brittingham Social Enterprise Lab. “We talked about how each of these organizations and people try to create social impact using the resources that they have, and how business skills and business students might engage in a career in social impact—how they might fit in.”

Wertman moderated this year’s panel discussion, which included:

  • Kelly Wilson of Warner Bros. Entertainment
  • Erika Taylor of International Labor Standards, the Walt Disney Company
  • Daniel Tellalian of Avivar Capital
  • Vivienne Lee of REDF
  • Kate Doyle of the Wonderful Company
  • Robert Egger of LA Kitchen
  • John E. Kobara of the California Community Foundation

“The panel this year was truly extraordinary,” said Wertman. “More than anything this year, the candor and honesty about the challenges students face when entering into a career in social impact was extraordinary. There was also a true attempt on the part of all of the panelists to thoughtfully give general career advice to students as to what they should want out of their careers. I was really encouraged that they were that thoughtful and caring about the students as a whole person rather than just as a potential hire for their company.”

As for what students got out of the event, the focus was on giving attendees an in-depth look at social impact while illustrating how social impact crosses multiple industries and multiple sectors of the economy. Wertman stated that he wanted students to walk away with the knowledge that business skills can and should be used for social impact, and that a career in social impact covers a full breadth of opportunities.

The career panel is just one piece of the Marshall School’s commitment to social impact for business students. For MBAs in particular, the Brittingham Social Enterprise Lab is another valuable tool.

Brittingham Social Enterprise Lab

Wertman founded the lab nine years ago after spending time working at a homeless agency on Skid Row in Los Angeles. While there, he found that they weren’t getting enough business-trained students applying for their jobs.

“I discovered that the problem was that if a student went to business school and said, ‘I want to work in social impact,’ most of the schools would say, ‘Well, we don’t have anything for you,’” said Wertman. “If a student came, instead, and said they wanted to work for a consumer products company, they had classes, professors, mentors, career services, internships, and more to help them out. So, I proposed to create a Lab at a business school that would offer those same services—both curricular and co-curricular—for students interested in social impact.”

The lab is focused on helping students learn about social impact while also supporting them through teaching and co-curricular programming. According to Wertman, its main goal is to help students figure out how to use business skills for social impact.

“For MBAs, we offer an MBA Society and Business Fellowship Program,” describes Wertman. “We select about a dozen MBAs each year who say that they would like to use their MBA for a career in social impact. Then, we offer them classes that are just like a regular finance class but focus on how to apply that information in a social impact setting. We create a cohort of like-minded students, just like a marketing club, and we do very intense career and professional development. We help them with networking, mentors, internships, and ultimately career services. We provide almost everything a traditional MBA would have but for a career in social impact. It’s a very hands-on, personalized program.”

USC MBA students also have the option to concentrate in Sustainability, Society and Business. The concentration prepares students to shape solutions to social and environmental sustainability challenges. It has two tracks—environmental and social—and requires students to complete at least twelve units. Classes include such topics and Business Law and Ethics, Sustainable Supply Chains and Environmental Law.

“In the past, traditionally, if you wanted to have social impact in your career, the only jobs and training you could get would be to go to policy school or go to social work school—maybe public health. But you never considered studying business would be the way to go,” said Wertman. “Now, you can pursue a business career and partner with social workers rather than having to be one.”

This post has been republished in its entirety from its original source,