01 Oct 2002
Making a Difference
Social Enterprise Summer Fellows Pursue Career Interests
It's not often that an MBA student's research involves a helicopter
drop-off to survey glaciers or tracking wolves to gain a better understanding of
their migratory patterns. But that's just what Josh Haacker (HBS '03) did,
in addition to strategic planning and numbers-crunching, as an HBS Summer Fellow at
the Alaska Conservation Foundation, which placed him in Denali National Park.
Haacker was one of more than seventy HBS students who participated in the HBS
Social Enterprise Summer Fellowship Program, which gives financial support to MBA
students who choose to work in the public and nonprofit sectors during the summer
Sponsored by the Initiative on Social Enterprise and funded by the School and
alumni donors, the program aims to expose students to the rewards and challenges of
the public and nonprofit world, while providing the communities and organizations
they serve with the benefits of their HBS training. It attracted more HBS students
than ever in its 21st year, with MBAs dispersing across the globe to put their skills
to work on issues related to the environment, education, the arts, health care,
poverty, and economic development.
In the United States, fellows worked in diverse organizations such as the
National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, the
Public Broadcasting Service, the White House Office of Management and Budget, and
Teach For America. Fellows also did their part for organizations and governments in
several other nations, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mexico,
Yugoslavia, Canada, and Singapore.
A former operations manager at Procter & Gamble, Haacker loves the outdoors.
His goal at Denali was to explore a potential long-term career in environmental
conservation and to get a sense of how nonprofits and government agencies work.
Everybody tells you that working in private industry is like night and day
compared with working in a nonprofit, he remarks. I wanted to see for
myself how different or similar they really were.
Haacker's excursions across the six-million-acre park enabled him to spend
time with the park's managers and scientists. It helped me to learn what
park personnel do and what their frustrations are, says Haacker, who worked
closely with the Research and Resource Preservation Division to improve its strategic
planning and cohesiveness in the face of dwindling resources.
Tapping his work experience and HBS training, Haacker designed a plan to help
managers maintain the park's mission of preservation and access.
That's been the biggest similarity between private industry and the
nonprofit world, he observes. When you get down to it, everyone's
trying to address the issues without enough people, money, or resources.
Jennifer Dimas (HBS '03) made a similar discovery as a fellow at
Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Working in the nonprofit art world is
far more complex than I thought it would be, says Dimas, a former planner
at Sotheby's who holds both a bachelor's and a master's degree in art
history from Columbia University.
At Sotheby's, it was the profit motive, pure and simple, she
notes. At the museum, it's more complicated. There's a legacy to
think about, multiple constituencies, and competing priorities. Everything has an
impact on everything else. They have to work in an increasingly competitive
environment for money, time, and resources.
Dimas's project focused on creating, analyzing, and implementing a visitor
survey to learn more about how the museum could enhance its programs for a wider
audience. The fellowship has helped her decide just where in the art world she'd
like to pursue a long-term career. After previous experience in both the commercial
and the academic sides of the arts, her summer at the Gardner has convinced her that
her future lies in museum work.
At the end of the day, I just feel proud that I'm doing some-thing I
believe in, something good for the community, Dimas states. This past
summer has shown me that there is a lot of room to make a difference and that it can
be very rewarding.
— Margie Kelley