I can’t even count the number of times I’ve heard a Sternie describe him- or herself as a “non-traditional” MBA. It’s a testament to the diversity at Stern, both in the backgrounds of our students as well as our post-graduation goals. For a relatively small school – there are 392 students in my class – Stern does a remarkable job at providing extracurricular opportunities for students to pursue their passions. Take my particular interest: social responsibility in the apparel and retail space. Definitely “non-traditional.” However, in the five or so months I’ve been at Stern, I’ve been able to explore this interest in a number of non-academic ways:
When I learned about the opportunity to work with West Elm through the Luxury Retail Consulting Corps, I jumped at the opportunity. I was ultimately appointed project lead on “West Elm Local,” an initiative to engage local communities by including more local “makers” into the company’s product assortment. My team worked with West Elm’s Strategy team to build out an operational scaling plan to address how the initiative would work at scale. Pretty great stuff. I learned a ton about the retail industry and the complexity of implementing social responsibility initiatives in larger companies.
Centers and Fellowships
This year, Stern announced that it was launching the first Center for Business and Human Rights at a business school, headed up by Michael Posner, founder of Human Rights First and former Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. The center’s first topic area is worker safety in the Bangladesh garment industry – a subject that is obviously close to heart. At the beginning of the semester, I volunteered for a symposium that brought together stakeholders from across the garment industry, and I was recently brought on as a graduate fellow working on community engagement and research projects. I have a front-row seat as business leaders, garment factory owners, government agencies, and non-governmental organizations hash out the future of worker rights in the garment industry. It’s a lot harder than I imagined.
Students interested in social enterprise and social responsibility often find it difficult to find paid summer internships in those fields. Enter, Stern’s Social Impact Internship Fund, a fellowship that provides up to $10,000 in funding to students pursuing low-paid or unpaid summer internships at social enterprises, B Corps, and non-profits. I applied for round one of the competition, and I was very excited to learn that I got it! Now when I’m approaching potential socially responsible employers for the summer, I don’t need to worry about how I’m going to pay my rent.
Clubs and Events
Through participation in Stern’s Social Enterprise Association and Luxury & Retail Club, I am on the planning committee for Think Social Drink Local, an annual sustainable fashion show and fundraising event for the Social Impact Internship Fund mentioned above. In addition to serving a great cause, it’s also one of the hottest social events of the spring and a great way to connect my contacts in the sustainable fashion, food, and beverage spaces with the Stern community.
In October, I traveled to California to attend the Net Impact Conference with Stern’s Social Enterprise Association. Net Impact brings together a remarkable collection of students and changemakers who are committed to using business as a force for good. I had the chance to hear candidly from senior executives at Levi’s, Patagonia, Timberland, Gap, and other companies I admire. It was a great way to step back, be inspired, and recommit myself to my chosen career path. And it was even better knowing that I would be returning to an environment that would enable me to push those goals forward.