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An Ambitious B-School Social Impact Center Emerges In The Southern U.S.

Associate professor Wes Longhofer will serve as executive academic director of the new Business & Society Institute at Emory Goizueta Business School. Emory News Center

There’s a new player in social impact innovation in the Southern United States, and it boasts two prerequisites for making indelible change: strong financial backing and soaring ambition.

Emory University Goizueta Business School on Thursday (March 4) will officially unveil The Roberto C. Goizueta Business & Society Institute, its new headquarters for initiatives that address business and society’s most pressing challenges. The institute is backed by a “transformational” gift from The Goizueta Foundation, named, like the B-school, for the former CEO of Coca-Cola.

Wes Longhofer, associate professor at the Goizueta School and executive academic director of the new institute, says its goal is to drive the transformation of business to help solve society’s challenges. It will center innovative programs like business accelerators and early-stage financing, as well as new research, with a focus on tackling the big problems, particularly the twin looming disasters of inequality and climate change.

“If business and society are to work together to solve some of our biggest challenges, a good place to start is in a business school like Goizueta,” Longhofer says. “We are excited to continue ten years of social impact work at the Goizueta Business School and honor the legacy of Roberto C. Goizueta through this new institute.”


Wes Longhofer was named one of Poets&Quants‘ Best 40-Under-40 Professors in 2018. Emory photo

The Roberto C. Goizueta Business & Society Institute replaces Social Enterprise @ Goizueta, an academic research center that has been in existence at the school since 2009. The center’s legacy social enterprise programs — as well as the faculty and staff who worked at or with Social Enterprise @ Goizueta — will continue at the institute, the school announced this week.

The rebranding reflects an elevated commitment to social and environmental impact from the B-school. Over time the new institute will feature “a variety of new initiatives addressing the biggest issues of our time, including a strategic focus on inequality and climate change,” according to the school.

“The institute’s goal is to transform business to solve society’s challenges through cutting-edge research, innovative programming, and principled leadership,” says Melissa Rapp, Emory’s associate dean of MBA admissions.

The new institute will create interdisciplinary study “that explores the connections between business practices, market structures, and social and environmental outcomes,” the school announced, with a “call to action” to create stronger communities in Atlanta and globally. Special attention will be given to microbusiness development, specialty coffee markets, and next generation leadership. MBA coursework and capstone experiences will include travel, mentorship, conferences, and consulting projects “that will help students accelerate their business knowledge into impactful roles in the business community locally and abroad.”


Programs in the Goizueta Business & Society Institute will include:

  • Start:ME, which offers an intensive 14-week business accelerator program to the most promising micro-entrepreneurs in marginalized metro Atlanta communities, including business training, mentorship, and early stage financing to develop their businesses.
  • Grounds for Empowerment, which provides female specialty coffee farmers in Latin America the market connections and business knowledge to grow their farms. The program has served 50 female coffee farmers in Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala.
  • Social Enterprise Fellows, which provides Goizueta MBA and BBA students with hands-on education, exposure, and experiences to become the next social impact leaders in their industries.

“New initiatives addressing strategic focus areas of delivering a more equitable and climate-smart world are planned for the near future,” the school announced.


For Wes Longhofer, business school isn’t just a place to learn how to land a posh job or run a growing business, as he told P&Q in 2018 when we named him one of our Best 40-Under-40 Professors. Instead, he views it as a “catalyst” designed to drive change and serve the greater society.

That includes climate change, as well to organizational sociology and NGOs. By 2018 Longhofer’s research touching on all three had already been featured in the American Sociological Review, Social Forces, and Sociological Science and Scientific Reports. At the same time, Longhofer emerged as one of Goizueta’s most respected professors at nearly every level. That year, he received the Emory Williams Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching Award. In 2016, he ran the table at Goizueta, landing the Alumni Award for Excellence in Research, the Adler Prize for Excellence in Teaching, the BBA Distinguished Educator Award, and the Outstanding Faculty Leader in Service Award from Omicron Delta Kappa.

“As professional schools, business schools have the obligation to ensure business leaders do more good and less harm,” Longhofer told P&Q in 2018. “And they are producing some of the best research in my field.”

The official launch event for the new Goizueta Business & Society Institute will include a fireside chat on “Reimagining Capitalism” with Longhofer and Harvard Business School professor and author, Dr. Rebecca Henderson. Published in 2020, Henderson’s book Reimagining Capitalism in A World on Fire “articulates a framework for building a profitable, equitable, and sustainable capitalism grounded in new ways of defining the role of business in society.” 

Register for the webinar launch event here. Learn more about the Institute at http://emory.biz/society.