Beth Bafford (MBA ’12) serves as the Senior Officer of Strategic Initiatives at the Calvert Foundation, a social impact debt fund that provides innovative financial products to increase capital access to underserved communities. While at Fuqua, Beth was actively involved with CASE through CASE i3, Fuqua on Board and the MBA Net Impact Club.
This interview is part of the Fuqua Q&A profile series. The original post can be found on Fuqua School of Business – Alumni Connect.
What do you do professionally?
I work for an impact investing fund (confusingly called Calvert Foundation, despite the fact that we’re not a foundation), that raises debt capital from retail investors through our Community Investment Note that we pool and lend to community and international development organizations. Right now, my focus is on developing our domestic and global health investment strategy, as well as our place-based initiative called Ours To Own that allows individuals to invest in community development efforts in their city.
What is the most enjoyable part of your job?
I love visiting and working with our borrowers and hearing about the impact they have on their communities. One of them works across four African countries to increase the flow of debt capital to small and medium-sized health clinics, while ensuring they have the technical assistance necessary to improve the quality of care for their patients. Another works with low-income families in Baltimore to reduce the asthma triggers in their homes, which decreases emergent health episodes and allows them to go to school instead of the hospital. Each one has a unique and incredible story.
What is the biggest challenge you face?
We have a lot of challenges! A big one is how to assess risk in new or complex transactions. Our mandate is to plug financing gaps that exist because of market imperfections, which tends to mean that there is no blueprint for how to look at and adequately mitigate risk (how’s that for a nerdy b-school answer?).
What sorts of interesting places has your position taken you? Do you have a favorite?
I recently had the privilege to attend an Institute of Medicine workshop in Bellagio, Italy, on how to strengthen the health system by empowering nurses and midwives to take a more active role in primary and preventative care. We had fascinating conversations during the day, and fabulous wine at night!
What is the best professional advice you’ve received?
Trying to define your ‘path’ or ‘5-year plan’ is almost always completely worthless (unless you are a doctor). Always keep your eyes open to new opportunities and trust your gut.
Aside from your current role, what is your dream job?
CEO of a city (AKA mayor), without the campaign and negative attack ads.
What do you like to do outside of work?
Usually, I love going for long bike rides, seeing friends, trying new DC restaurants, and playing with my nieces and nephews, but recently it has been a lot of wedding planning with my fiancé, Dan Yeoman MBA ’11!
What is the most important thing you learned during your time at Fuqua?
Doing is so much more fun (and educational) than tacitly learning. I loved a lot of my classes and professors, but the things I did outside of the classroom—working with CASEi3, volunteering for local non-profits, drinking wine with friends at six plates—taught me a million times more about myself and what my passions were in life.
Who was your favorite professor?
It is a tie. Greg Dees, who we lost suddenly last year, was the kindest, most modest genius I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. While he left way too soon, he gave the world the most amazing gift—an army of gentle, passionate change-makers who are empowered by his teachings to make the world a better place. I think about Greg and his class nearly every day.
Tied for first is Cathy Clark. I had the great fortune of teaming up with Cathy early on in my Duke career and tried not to leave her side for my two years in Durham. She is a force—a massive intellect paired with the biggest heart—and she has mastered the grey space between academia and practice, where she is wildly valued and respected by both. Plus, she is the greatest mom, and has taught me so much about how to kick butt in the office and at home.
What is your favorite Fuqua memory?
My minor role as Tami Taylor in the hit Robb Stey production, Fuqua Night Lights. Robb, if you are reading this, I think it is time to make it big in Hollywood so you can support all of us little people.
What does Team Fuqua mean to you?
Our shared experience of the culture created a lasting, mutual admiration and respect that I don’t think will ever fade away. I’m pretty excited to raise my kids in a Team Fuqua household so they get indoctrinated from day 1.