01 Dec 2001
Reaching OutRe: Jonathan Hodgson (MBA 2002); Ipsita Dasgupta (MBA 2002); Bob Halperin (MBA 1982); Nat Foote (MBA 1981)by Garry Emmons and Julia HannaTopics:
HBS alumni often describe
the MBA Program as a transformational
experience. That observation especially rings true for students such
as Meredith Weenick, Neera Nundy, Abdu Mukhtar, and Jonathan Hodgson
who participate in the Nonprofit and Public Management Summer Fellowship
Program. Through their work, nonprofit fellows contribute to and witness
transformations in the lives of others — with lasting effects on
their own lives as well.
One day last August
in rural Kharagpur, India, Neera Nundy (HBS '02) accompanied
a middle-aged bakery worker named Suchismita on a life-altering
mission — Suchismita had resolved that she was going to open
a bank account.
Nundy recalls, "Suchismita spent hours in preparation, bathing
and dressing up as if for a wedding. As we drove to the bank,
she told me it was the first time she'd ever been in a car.
When we arrived, she literally started shaking. Banks don't
want to serve poor women as customers, and Suchismita had asked
me to go along in part because she was afraid. But she also knew
that without a guarantor, the bank would turn her away.
first," Nundy continues, "the officer would not address
Suchismita directly. But I asked him to do so, and the more she
answered his questions and talked about her money, the more she
straightened up in her chair and the more confident she became.
It was wonderful to see — a moment of empowerment happening
right there. Now Suchismita — who has a fourth-grade education
— is handling all the bakery's finances."
For her part, Nundy, an intern
in the HBS Nonprofit and Public Management Summer Fellowship Program,
was equally energized by her experiences during her twelve weeks
of service in India. She spent the first six weeks performing
a financial analysis for Women's World Banking, a global
institution devoted to expanding low-income women's economic
access, participation, and power. The second half of her summer
was devoted to fieldwork with ImpactPartners, a venture philanthropy
organization that assists nonprofits in India. "This was
an 'off-track' summer for me," says Nundy, who
has a background in nonprofit service and worked as an analyst
at Morgan Stanley before coming to HBS. "The fellowship gave
me the confidence to try something completely different."
"The summer internship
program is a great way for students to test their interests in
a fairly low-risk way, with significant rewards," says Stacey
M. Childress (MBA '00), director of the School's Initiative
on Social Enterprise (ISE), which coordinates the fellowship program.
Childress, herself a former fellow who worked with the Boys and
Girls Club of Boston, explains, "One of our overall goals
is to offer MBA students a range of possibilities for interacting
with the social sector, both inside and outside the classroom.
Participating in the program provides students with the opportunity
to build their general management skills and explore an area that
interests them while experiencing the deep satisfaction of applying
their learning to a problem about which they care a great deal."
Funded by the School principally
through generous alumni gifts and supplementing what employer
organizations can pay, fellowships enable students to earn a summer
salary closer to what they would receive in the private sector.
Founded by two enterprising students, Robert R. Halperin (MBA
'82) and Nathaniel W. Foote (MBA '81, JD '82),
the program, which has had more than 350 participants, recently
marked its twentieth anniversary, with many former participants
attending a celebratory dinner hosted by Dean
Kim B. Clark on the HBS campus in October (click
here). This year's fellows numbered 53, the highest participation
level in the program's history. While the business community's
commitment to the nonprofit sector is well established, Childress
observes that the past ten years have seen a growing shift in
the way society at large views the role of nonprofit organizations
and their management. "There's a growing willingness
to work together across the nonprofit, business, and government
sectors to build systemic solutions to problems," she notes,
citing the participation of businesses with nonprofits in job
training programs associated with the government's 1996 welfare-to-work
program and IBM's education initiative as examples of this
model. "We still have work to do, but there's been some
breaking down of the suspicions and negative stereotypes between
sectors. For some of our biggest challenges, we need to have everyone
around the table.
"The current generation
of MBA students is thinking about global citizenship in a completely
new way," continues Childress. "They've grown up
in a world that is very connected, where almost anything seems
possible if you have the right people working on a problem."
The burst of entrepreneurial activity that occurred throughout
the 1990s has also stimulated innovation in the social sector,
she notes, and unprecedented wealth creation has forced people
to recognize the widening gap between the world's wealthiest
and most impoverished populations. "Many people want to spend
their productive years doing something that they care about, and
one way to do that is to work through the social sector on issues
that markets alone don't always address," Childress
A Two-Way Street
MBA student interns bring significant skills to a nonprofit organization,
they do so with the full expectation that the experience will
further their own development, both personal and professional.
When Meredith L. Weenick (HBS '02) arrived at HBS, she had
seven years of full-time experience in the nonprofit sector. "I'd
headed programs, served on a board, and given out grants —
I wanted to add something new to my skill set," says the
Texas native. As an intern at The Home for Little Wanderers (HLW),
a New England agency that serves at-risk children, their families,
and communities, Weenick worked with the organization's vice
president of finance to analyze budgets for HLW's dozens
of programs. She also created a revenue-forecasting model for
its residential services. "Finance is an area that interests
me no matter what sector I go into, so it was a good way to get
direct, hands-on experience right from the beginning," she
"It was also interesting
to see what it was like to work in a big, established nonprofit,"
Weenick notes. "I had all sorts of stereotypes in my head
about how a larger, older organization would be run, but I learned
that it's possible to create significant internal change
from within an organization." Over the course of the summer,
Weenick recalls, one of HLW's program directors gradually
began to use some of the "business-y" vocabulary she
had introduced concerning issues of quality and efficiency. "It
was instructive for me that it was not an 'ah-ha' moment,"
she says. "As time went on, his orientation changed naturally.
That's what you want."
Abdu S. Mukhtar (MBA '01),
who worked for the National Kidney Foundation of Singapore (NKFS),
became a nonprofit fellow the summer after he graduated from HBS,
an unusual but not unprecedented move. He agrees that avoiding
the role of "b-school expert" is a key factor for an
internship's success. "It's important that people
see change as their own idea," he says. "In dealing
with people from another country, I try to be open-minded."
Mukhtar, who was born in Nigeria, attended medical school and
practiced as a doctor in his native country before completing
a Ph.D. in pathology and molecular biology at Boston University's
School of Medicine. Intrigued by his experience with pharmaceutical
companies and the role of business in drug delivery, he enrolled
at HBS one month after finishing his doctorate.
he had earned his MBA, his HBS classmates urged him to take a
well-deserved vacation, but the indefatigable Mukhtar found the
opportunity to work at NKFS too good to pass up. "With its
seventeen state-of-the-art dialysis centers, the organization
is the largest nonprofit dialysis provider in the world,"
Mukhtar says. "Relying wholly on public donations, it raises
more funds per capita than any other nonprofit in the world —
one out of two Singaporeans contributes to NKFS." In part
because it is already so successful with its marketing and management
of treatment programs, NKFS is focusing more on kidney-disease
prevention. This approach is particularly interesting to Mukhtar,
based on his experience as a physician in Nigeria, where medical
treatment is essentially unavailable or unaffordable for much
of the population.
"One cohort in Singapore
that is highly susceptible to hypertension and diabetes —
and subsequent renal problems — is taxi drivers," Mukhtar
notes. "They are typically an older group, and their occupation
by its nature is a sedentary one." The drivers' diet
is poor (too many irregular junk food meals consumed on the go),
working conditions are stressful (traffic jams, grumpy passengers),
and the hours are long. After researching the issue, including
spending the better part of two days riding in taxis as an observer,
Mukhtar came up with an idea. With drivers compelled by law to
take their cars to special inspection centers every six months,
his plan was to place informational brochures and videotape loops
in the waiting rooms where drivers sat until their cars were ready.
Better yet, while their cars were getting the once-over, drivers
could be given blood and urine tests.
"It's been a
terrific success," says Mukhtar. "Awareness among the
drivers has increased tremendously, and they're spreading
the word to their families, friends, and customers. It's
quite amazing when such a simple concept can have such a big impact."
The reordering of mindsets
and attitudes toward life can work both ways, interns find. Neera
Nundy is a Canadian citizen whose parents, both engineers, emigrated
from India in the 1960s. Nundy attended boarding school in India
and later worked there during college summers. Her years in India
have caused her to reexamine her priorities. "For me, closing
a billiondollar merger transaction between two large corporate
clients is no longer as satisfying as working for a social mission
and helping underprivileged people," Nundy explains. "Once
you get a taste of that, it's hard to feel fulfilled doing
anything else. I see myself working in the nonprofit sector for
the long term." (For graduates who want to make a full-time
commitment to social enterprise, an endowed loan-forgiveness program
was created in 1992 to ease some of the immediate financial challenges
posed by the relatively lower salaries paid by nonprofit organizations.)
Prior to her enrollment at
HBS, Nundy, along with a colleague at Morgan Stanley in New York,
founded ImpactPartners, a fund that has invested in six nonprofit
organizations around India. Nundy spent the second half of her
summer internship with these groups, which are involved in issues
such as mental health programs, education, and outreach to street
children. It was at one of these organizations, Disha ("Direction"),
an education and microenterprise program for poor women and girls
founded by Nundy's mother, that Nundy met Suchismita, whose
successful trip to the bank became the talk of her village.
While some fellows elect to
enter the private sector after graduation, the ISE's Stacey
Childress notes that a significant number of those who do take
part in the nonprofit sphere in some capacity, frequently as a
member of an organization's governing body. "Students
who participate in the program become better board members and
philanthropists as alumni because they've spent some time
on the ground — they have a clearer understanding of the
issues a nonprofit can face," she observes. "Even though
it's not a full-time position, governance is a critical piece
of the nonprofit landscape.
involvement with a nonprofit might be, it quickly becomes apparent
that trying to create social change with limited resources is
hard to do," Childress continues. "There isn't
a single, focused goal, such as net income or earnings per share.
However, those very challenges — working on the multifaceted
issues that face nonprofits, in a less well-defined performance
space — can create better overall managers down the road."
As Jonathan W. Hodgson (HBS
'02) discovered, an internship in the nonprofit sector can
indeed offer a valuable perspective on private-sector management
challenges. Hodgson, a Cambridge, Massachusetts, native, worked
with Common Good, a venture philanthropy organization based in
Waterville, Maine. His work at two of Common Good's partner
organizations — Stone Soup Foods and East End Kids Katering,
both in Portland, Maine — focused on evaluating new business
opportunities and developing marketing plans to maximize each
program's cash flow. "Working in the nonprofit sector
develops your ability to think about more than one thing at a
time," says Hodgson, who held positions at Deloitte Consulting
and Nextera Interactive before coming to HBS. "There's
a balancing act involved between the bottom line and the social
mission which isn't as prevalent in the private sector,"
Hodgson plans to enter the private
sector after graduation, but intends to continue his involvement
in social enterprise. "Participating in the fellowship program,"
he says, "has convinced me that I can have an impact in the
nonprofit sector, even if it's not a full-time job."
Adds Abdu Mukhtar, "It's one of the best things I've
ever done. I learned that a well-managed nonprofit can do a lot
of good. Ultimately, I'd like to be involved with a nonprofit,
probably in Nigeria, perhaps devoted to the fight against AIDS."
experience opened up a huge range of possibilities for me,"
comments Meredith Weenick. "It was really rewarding to walk
into an organization and immediately start using skills I'd
learned in school, while also making a direct contribution to
HLW's operations and strategic planning." Neera Nundy
agrees: "I would recommend being a fellow to everyone. If
HBS is about leadership and making a difference, these experiences
either change your beliefs or cause you to reflect on why you
believe what you do. It makes you a richer person."
further information about the Nonprofit and Public Management
Summer Fellowship Program, call 617-495-6421 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now in its twentieth year,
the Nonprofit and Public Management Summer Fellowship Program
has come full circle as its alumni take advantage of the
opportunity to employ interns from the current generation
of HBS students. Jessica D. Porten (HBS '02) spent
her summer working with former fellow Dan Katzir (MBA '91),
director of The Broad Foundation, a Los Angeles–based
venture philanthropy organization that funds innovative
efforts to improve governance, management, and labor relations
in large urban school systems.
Both Porten and Katzir share
a passionate commitment to K–12 education. Before he
attended HBS, Katzir worked on a pro bono education project
at Bain & Co. "I found it fascinating that the
business skills I was learning at Bain were so applicable
to public education," he recalls. "I wanted to
come to HBS to build on those skills and continue to work
on the issues facing education today." Katzir spent
his fellowship summer interning at the newly founded Teach
for America and joined the organization after HBS as its
first COO. After working with other education management
programs, he was tapped for the top spot at The Broad Foundation
when it opened its doors in 1999. Porten's interest
in The Broad Foundation stemmed from her own commitment
to education, coupled with the desire "to work with
an organization that was really trying to change things."
Her internship included working in the field with some of
the Foundation's grantees, as well as developing an
internal system to evaluate their success and that of the
Foundation as a whole.
Highlighting the mutually
beneficial arrangement that characterizes the relationship
between nonprofit organizations and HBS fellows, Katzir
states, "We needed help evaluating the success of our
grants and the Foundation's overall portfolio. Our
goal was that an intern would take away a sense of how strategic
philanthropy works in education, in addition to feeling
that she was part of a fun, hardworking start-up organization
committed to improving K–12 public education."
By all indications, Porten's experience was just that.
"It made a big difference to me that Dan went to HBS,"
she remarks. "It was amazing to watch him in action
and learn that an organization can maintain a social mission
while managing its day-today activities in a businesslike
way. He made it easy to feel that what I was doing was having
a significant impact on society."
20th Anniversary Dinner Marks Milestone
dozens of nonprofit fellows from years past returned to
HBS, joining many of last summer's fellows for a gala
dinner celebrating the program's twentieth year. In photo
at left are Professor Regina Herzlinger, an early advisor
to the program's founders; John Whitehead (MBA 11/'47),
provider of initial funding and ongoing support for the
Initiative on Social Enterprise (ISE); Robert Halperin and
Nathaniel Foote, who together started the program while
HBS students; Stacey Childress, director of the ISE; and
Dean Kim Clark. In photo at right are nonprofit fellow Ipsita
Dasgupta (HBS '02), who worked with Women's World
Banking last summer, flanked by her fellowship's donor,
Fred Weintz (MBA '51) (at right), and his son Karl
Class of MBA 2002, Section D
Class of MBA 2002, Section E
Class of MBA 2000, Section E