01 Dec 2014
Opportunities Realized Through FellowshipsTopics:
The Sky is Not the Limit
Ruth Cenat (MBA 2015) plans to change America—one community at a time. “In disadvantaged areas,” Cenat says, “if local businesses thrive, the neighborhoods flourish. There is a stronger tax base, parents have jobs, and the schools receive greater support. This is key because education provides the leverage to change people’s mindsets and enable them to be successful.”
Cenat believes that business can be a catalyst for social change, and she is deeply grateful for the HBS financial aid that has set her on a path to realize her dream. “Because it reduces my debt, this fellowship gives me the freedom to pursue my passion for helping suffering communities.”
Cenat’s desire to give back stems from her own experience. Her parents immigrated to the United States from Haiti when she was a child, and her father drove a taxi to support the family. By the time she was 12, both of her parents had passed away, and Cenat faced a difficult future. But her second-grade teacher urged her to pursue her studies, and she eventually received a college scholarship from the Gates Foundation.
Now, Cenat hopes she can use her HBS education to inspire young people confronting similar challenges. “I want to succeed in business and become a philanthropist so that I can help others in the same way,” she says.
Until then, she is already having an impact as a role model for peers in her hometown of Pleasantville, New Jersey. “I tell them that even the sky is not the limit.”
Moving at Entrepreneurial Speed
For Peter Michailidis (MBA 2011) the financial aid he received while attending HBS made it possible for him to follow his dreams and make a difference in the world. “The fellowship reduced my debt, so I could build a business instead of working for an established firm,” he says.
While in high school, he and his father invested in an apartment building that Peter managed while attending Ohio State University. After briefly exploring a career in medicine, he decided to return to his entrepreneurial roots and applied to HBS.
“HBS really helped me realize my goals,” Michailidis says. “I studied with incredibly competent people and two of them became my business partners. We founded Pushpins while we were still at HBS.” The Pushpins application enables users to scan items in grocery stores and receive instant savings coupons on their mobile phones.
Michailidis notes that HBS provided the ideal preparation for launching a new company. “You become familiar with all the roles in a startup, from CEO to HR director,” he says. He and his business partners also benefited from HBS faculty advice. “It’s like having a team of top consultants right on site,” he observes.
Today, Michailidis, who was the 2011 MBA Fellowship Dinner speaker, appreciates the impact his fellowship has had on his ability to make a contribution to society. “By starting my own company, I have helped consumers save on groceries and enabled them to buy more nutritious food,” he remarks. “A number of mothers have thanked me personally for Pushpins. We created a successful enterprise, bringing value to society and to our investors, and that’s a model I want to repeat again.”
Michailidis has designated his own gifts to HBS to fund fellowships. “I’d like to see everyone who is interested in entrepreneurship support HBS fellowships.”
Class of MBA 2011, Section H