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Chicago Booth MBAs Lead the Way in Impact Investing

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As a group of Chicago Booth MBA students vote on a $50,000 investment in an early stage social venture, they are getting a hands-on education in impact investing. The students are part of the Steven Tarrson Impact Investment Fund at the University of Chicago Booth Business School’s Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation. One of the largest student-run impact investing funds in the US, the Tarrson Fund, gives Booth MBA students ownership of the entire investment cycle from sourcing and diligence to making final investment decisions and portfolio management, including impact measurement.

Booth MBA students are making pioneering investments through the Tarrson Fund. Recent investments include Harmon Care, a telehealth startup that partners with primary care doctors to provide accessible and affordable healthcare to adults in rural areas; Kadeya, a startup that is taking on the $40 billion single-use plastic water bottle problem with the world’s first closed-loop vending kiosk; and Harvest Thermal, a home heating company whose smart thermal battery system slashes carbon output, lowers monthly heating bills, and supports a fully renewable grid.

The students involved with the fund come from a variety of backgrounds, ranging from experienced investment professionals to domain experts who are new to impact investing. The Tarrson Fund provides a collaborative environment, offering the opportunity to learn from peers, an advisory board of experienced investment professionals, and the CEOs of pre-seed and seed ventures.

We spoke with current students and alumni about their experience with the Tarrson Fund:

How important was the Tarrson Fund in your decision to enroll at Chicago Booth?

Yoel Bublick

Yoel Bublick (MBA candidate, head of the Tarrson Fund Student Investment Committee, prior background in marketing and consulting): As I was looking at business schools, the Rustandy Center and the Tarrson Fund stood out for me. I had no experience in impact investing, and this was intriguing to me.

What are the learning opportunities from the Tarrson Fund?

Sneha Kasuganti

Sneha Kasuganti (MBA ’22; Senior Associate at New Markets Venture Partners, a leading impact venture capital firm focused in education: My involvement gave me hands-on experience with key facets of running an investment fund: defining a fund-level dual investment and impact thesis, establishing processes and systems for sourcing and diligence, recruiting and structuring an investment team, collaborating closely with portfolio company founders, and making investment decisions. We leveraged analysis from the Turner MBA Impact Investing Network & Training (Turner MIINT) competition while making investment decisions on Harvest Thermal. It was a great opportunity to experience the end-to-end investment process, to interrogate the merits and risks of the investment at length, and to work closely with the company’s CEO while tapping into the Rustandy Center’s network for ongoing strategic support.

Yoel: We experienced the whole process, from identifying prospects and interviewing founders to greenlighting investments. It’s remarkable that students are allowed to work with that amount of money. It’s accessible and open to anyone who wants to make an impact. It’s real dollars generating real impact – the responsibility becomes very salient. You go from working in theory to having true responsibilities.

How has the Tarrson Fund helped shape your career?

Ian Heinrich

Ian Heinrich (MBA ‘23; member of the investment team at Ensemble VC, a data-driven early-stage VC firm): As a mentor shared early on, the best way to become a great investor is by investing. Being a member of the Tarrson Fund gave me direct investment experience, providing the opportunity to translate the things I was learning in the classroom into a real-world environment. My experience with the Tarrson Fund ultimately helped me validate that I wanted to build a career in venture capital post-school.

Kelly Thompson

Kelly Thompson (MBA & MPP Candidate; prior background in banking and private equity): The Tarrson Fund opened my eyes to other facets of investing that I hadn’t fully considered but now find equally engaging. Given the opportunity to study business and policy together, I have been able to explore my passions for health equity and affordable housing development. Post-graduation, I intend to join a VC fund focused on impact investing, ideally funding ventures that systematically address health and housing disparities. The Tarrson Fund experience has proven to me that I can materially contribute to my community while genuinely enjoying my work.

How have you been able to apply the Tarrson Fund experience to your current career?

Ian: During my time with the Tarrson Fund, we met many passionate, brilliant people, building for a more equitable, healthy, environmentally conscious world. The Tarrson Fund helped me foster a continued sense of empathy for founders, underlining the point that they are the ones in the arena, and that the role of the VC is to serve.

Sneha: Taking advantage of every opportunity to gain hands-on experience in private fund investing during business school was critical in securing a full-time impact investing role.

How does the Tarrson Fund fit into a dual degree program?

Kelly: The joint MBA/MPP coursework helped me build skills to develop and refine rigorous impact evaluation methods. The program is an opportunity to meld investment acumen with policy reform and advocacy to learn how to address social issues more systematically. In merging coursework with hands-on experience, I’ve had the opportunity to step up as a Managing Partner for the Tarrson Fund and to be a Co-Founder of the Harris Impact Investing Club.


The Steven Tarrson Impact Investment Fund was established with a gift of $1 million from Ron Tarrson ’72 (XP-31).To learn more about the impact investing and the Tarrson Fund at Chicago Booth, please visit:

Rick Melcher
Rick is a Principal at Melcher+Tucker Consultants