SBSI 2.0: A New Decade of Impact-Oriented MBAs

This blog post was written by Fuqua MBA ’17 Christa Register. Prior to coming to Fuqua, Christa spent two years working in rural Africa with the Peace Corps, followed by two years at a social-impact consulting firm in Washington, DC. She is currently pursuing a career in investment banking to better understand the inner workings of capital markets.

How do you eradicate malaria? What is the right educational structure in the US? How do you engage local farmers in food security?

The last decade has seen a steady increase of MBA students interested in harnessing the private sector to make an impact in these issues and more. Whether that impact is by pursuing a career with a social venture, serving on the board of a nonprofit, volunteering in their spare time, or simply bringing strong ethical practices into the workplace, MBAs more than ever want to feel that their lives are contributing to the greater good.

A New Decade of Impact

Barbara Bush Speaking at SBSIThe Fuqua School of Business has witnessed this shift in the last ten years. This year, the Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship (CASE) and Fuqua Net Impact Club hosted its 11th Annual Sustainable Business and Social Impact (SBSI) conference. The theme of the conference was SBSI 2.0: A New Decade of Impact.

Over 500 students and professionals registered this year, a record number for the conference. Attendees were able to hear from Barbara P. Bush, Founder of Global Health Corps; Rose Marcario, CEO of Patagonia; and a myriad of experts on panels focused on education, global health, social entrepreneurship, impact investing, community development, design thinking, and sustainable food and agriculture.

There was a buzz in the air as students and professionals conversed during breaks. Attendees were engaged and challenged through the panels. People from different backgrounds brought different solutions and ideas to the table.

For example, during a global health discussion on the Zika Virus, attendees were separated into groups representing different perspectives (eg. field-based implementers, policy makers, educators, etc.). Each group was then able to discuss and to share their ideas on their solutions to the Zika outbreak. One “field-based implementer” suggested teaching locals in Zika-infested areas to make their own anti-mosquito lotion using local products. Someone else in the group pointed out that if a few people learned to make and sell the lotion it could also be a profitable business venture.

This is just one example of many. The conversation of the entire conference focused on engaging the private sector to solve pressing issues with innovative solutions.

The New MBA Student

I am tired of the stereotype of business school students as unconcerned citizens, looking to make a profit no matter the cost to society. The SBSI 2.0 conference really opened my eyes to the desire of MBAs to do more with their careers. The number of attendees, the energy in the building, the deep engagement of students; all of these things furthered my idea that the time has come for MBAs to demand more from their school, their colleagues, and their employers.

There is a fundamental shift in the way business school students want to interact with the world around them. Profits at the expense of employee well-being, the environment, or social equality are no longer enough. There is a new decade of consumers and a new decade of MBAs who believe that companies can do well and do good in the world.

I left the conference feeling inspired and remembering the reason I came to business school in the first place – to learn to harness the power of the private sector to solve today’s most dire social problems.