How Northwestern Kellogg Became A Social Impact Hub

Kellogg Board Fellows is a 20-month program that connects 100 top Kellogg students to Chicago-area nonprofits for an opportunity to work in board service. After a $3.5M gift from Golub Capital announced today (April 22), the program will be known as the Golub Capital Board Fellows Program.


Kashner believes that Kellogg’s alumni network is crucial in helping social impact students navigate their careers; past students serve as examples of career pivots and successful career trajectories in any direction, and many come in as guest instructors in classes and at Social Impact Days. “Alumni are an incredible resource because a social impact career path is almost never going to be typical or linear. It’s always going to be creative, so having that diaspora of support is important,” she says.

Plus, 80 alumni make up a group called the Youn Impact Scholars, which is a close-knit community dedicated to collaboration and constant peer-learning, as well as networking within the impact community. Ten alumni who are recognized for their passion and drive to create social impact are added each year.

“As you get into your 50s you start asking, what have I done of significance? The Youn Impact Scholars group is a way alumni can plug back into this mindset,” says Chen.


Kellogg’s evolving social impact curriculum has resulted in several pathways in which those passionate about making a difference can choose from.
In 2015, Kellogg launched its Social Impact Pathway, which is a cross-functional series of more than 34 courses — seven of which center onr real-world experiential projects — that help students define social value and learn how to influence social change in many different sectors. These courses cover a range of social impact-related topics, such as sustainability, impact finance, nonprofit organizations, global health, public health, global development, and corporate responsibility. This pathway is not a major, but rather an “a la carte menu,” as Kashner describes. This means that students get the opportunity to learn and focus on specific areas of interest.

In addition to the Social Impact Pathway, the school also offers pathways in Energy and Sustainability, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Healthcare, and Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Each pathway intersects and aligns around social impact, and students can choose more than one pathway in which to enrich their learning experience. “The pathways are less about gaining credentials, and more so about helping students navigate the curriculum and learn relevant ways of creating impact through business,” says Kashner.

While many schools’ social impact curriculum focuses on the nonprofit sector, impact investing, and social entrepreneurship, Kellogg goes one step further by integrating social impact in all aspects of business. “Every student who graduates from Kellogg is going to bring their values and social impact learnings into their industry, whether that’s finance, consulting, management, social entrepreneurship, or impact finance,” Kashner explains.


For students like Schiller who are committed to becoming an impactful entrepreneur, Kellogg has a robust array of funding to support them

For example, the school’s social impact team provides students up to $5,000 of funding per quarter to cover expenses related to launching and scaling a social venture, which Schiller benefited from; his team used this money to pay for contractors, licenses and software build their products.

“Kellogg has an incredibly strong and robust suite of courses and support for entrepreneurs,” says Kashner. “Social entrepreneurs at Kellogg have the double benefit of all of Kellogg’s social impact courses as well as funding. Sometimes the mainstream entrepreneurs get a little jealous because we have a little bit more funding that can be dedicated to social entrepreneurs.”

The school also awards each student $2,500 per year to cover expenses related to social impact competitions, conferences, field research, and executive shadowing. This helps each student have the potential to explore social impact and find out how it fits into their professional lives.

Plus, the school offers financial support for students pursuing social impact post-graduation. Social entrepreneurs are eligible for a competitive $75k award intended to help them get through their first year of operating their business after graduation. Students going into impact roles in any sector are eligible for Loan Assistance Awards, which are merit-based awards of up to $75k for the reduction of student debt. They’re also eligible for the more traditional Loan Forgiveness Program, which will cover up to $15k of loan obligations per year, for up to 10 years.

“We sometimes make awards of 20, 30, or 40 thousand dollars to help pay down the corpus of their debt in those first two years after graduating,” says Kashner. “This helps students to make the right choice for their careers without worrying as much about personal finances.”

Sam Schiller, second from left, and Carbon Yield Fund co-founder Claire Pluard at the 2019 MS Investment Challenge


According to Schiller, Kellogg supports MBA students in finding their passion for social impact, no matter what their unique journey looks like. He strongly believes that an MBA is a great degree for those who are passionate about making a difference in the world.

“There is money available for things that both create financial and social return. But it can be a wrestling match for folks trying to prove that there’s an appropriate amount of risk for an investment and a social return. To be able to do that is fundamentally an MBA task.”

Weber believes that everyone in business should connect with social impact initiatives, not just those wanting to become a social entrepreneur or work directly in impact. “We think of social impact as something that’s achieved through business, not something that’s separate from it,” says Weber. “Every student that gets an MBA needs to think about the social impact that they want to have.”

Weber says that many of the social impact courses are experiential for this reason; it helps students to integrate sustainability, for example, with core business and strategy decisions. “You need the MBA to be a good manager. And you need the social impact orientation and content to be a good manager, too, regardless if you specialize in a particular sector,” Weber continues. “The MBA degree is designed to give management expertise and train students to be effective leaders.”

Kashner echoes Weber’s thoughts, emphasizing how those working full-time in social impact need a wide breadth of tools in their toolkit. “So many of us who will shape our careers in social impact have already learned the education, social work, or public policy sectors. What you get out of an MBA is learning finance, management of organizations, negotiations, operations, and marketing. These are essential skills for working in social impact.”

She adds that social impact is intertwined with and dependent on business and markets. However, students don’t have to work full time in social impact to be a social impact student at Kellogg. “Students can go work at McKinsey, Deloitte, Morgan Stanley, or Goldman Sachs and bring this depth of knowledge and ability to their work,” says Kashner.


According to Kashner, those combining their MBA with a passion for social impact are choosing a strong (and popular) path; one fifth of incoming MBA candidates are interested in social impact. “The MBA at Kellogg provides a robust opportunity to pivot into impact and do it in a targeted way,” she says. “We’ve seen students coming into the program who are making dramatic pivots from consulting to impact investing, or from education to corporate leadership. Whichever direction they’re pivoting, Kellogg’s social impact community is going to embrace and support them.”

Kashner advises those interested in social impact to use resources such as the career management services, social impact team, and alumni. “Whether it’s an interview prep group to help students find their summer internship in a social impact field or supporting students in finding a post graduate role, we’re here to support students in their individualized paths.”

“At Kellogg, we believe that the world needs more socially responsible leaders who can recognize and address the complex challenges that intersect management and society,” she continues. “We create and cultivate those leaders setting the standard for leadership, imbued with values for people, communities, businesses and markets.”


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