NEXT GEN VOICES: Introducing CASE Scholar Michael Pukala

Michael Pukala

Having grown up in a suburb of Chicago my entire life, I would have never imagined I would have spent most of my career thus far in the Middle East, living in three different countries. I have spent the last eight years of my life living with and serving marginalized populations in the Middle East. I worked in a nonprofit that promoted the upward mobility of university students through our education training and mentorship program.

In my role, I led the American operations and served as an academic, emotional and spiritual mentor for young people. I have helped young adults become exemplary employees, and more importantly, catalysts for change within their own communities. In many developing economies, students need to be near the top one percent of academic performance to secure a quality job out of college. This is a significant challenge on its own. However, achieving this goal can feel impossible for students who come from limited resources and homes impacted by trauma. We built a program that taught students emotional resolve on top of excellent academic and organizational skills. We were able to see students pass through our program to become leaders in local businesses, workers at refugee camps and change agents in their communities.

My experience has taught me that achieving a major social impact is an inherently interdisciplinary endeavor. Among these disciplines, business skills are unique because they have the power to help magnify social impact by scaling an organization. I am excited to learn skills that will ultimately help me scale human flourishing. Developing these skills during my MBA at Fuqua will allow me to continue my life’s mission on a bigger scale with an even greater impact. I am confident Fuqua is the best school to prepare me for a career in social impact.

Why Fuqua?

When I applied to business school, I knew I needed a school with both an excellent interdisciplinary business education and a commitment to social justice. Fuqua stood apart in both of these areas. The main reason I chose Fuqua was because of the Center for Advancement in Social Entrepreneurship (CASE) and its social impact curriculum. Of the many programs that CASE provides, the experiential learning piqued my interest most. Fuqua on Board (FOB) and Fuqua Client Consulting Practicum (FCCP) will provide experience relating to my short-term and long-term goals after I graduate. Opportunities like these will also allow me to engage directly with experts in social entrepreneurship. In the future, I will be able to rely on this network for advice and guidance as I try to scale my own organization. I have already been amazed by Fuqua alumni and the CASE network being willing to talk with me. I know Fuqua will help me become a social entrepreneur who both understands the complexities of working directly in marginalized communities while also possessing the analytical rigor to create, test and scale big picture solutions.

What impact do you hope your Fuqua education will allow you to have on the world? 

Fuqua will prepare me for both my long-term and short-term goals. I hope to start an organization that focuses on economic development in marginalized communities by providing education and employment. Through my education and experiences at Fuqua, I expect to build the skills I need to successfully scale a social enterprise in the developing world. I hope to make a major positive impact for communities around the world that desperately need help.

Share one of your 25 facts from your application essay.

My wife and I love hosting people and building friendships over homemade pasta and a good glass of wine. Hospitality is a value I have learned from my Middle Eastern friends. One of my fondest memories is traveling two hours into the Omani desert to visit a Bedouin friend’s home. He and his family slaughtered the fattened calf and prepared an enormous feast to welcome us.