Sanat Daga is passionate about the intersection of housing and racial justice.
His interest was spurred by his upbringing; In the mid-1980s, his parents immigrated from Rajasthan, India to Chicago, Illinois; witnessing the sacrifices they made for him and his sisters impacted Daga in profound ways. “I think everyone should be able to get access to basic needs and community without having to work 80 hours per week and barely see their families,” he says.
As an undergrad, Daga studied economics and global poverty and practice at the University of California-Berkeley. He also worked at an elementary school as a director of a literacy program, where he realized how much privilege impacts opportunity.
“Each year, the number of students would decline due to no fault of their own,” he says. “It made me think a lot about why I’m able to have access to those resources that others aren’t given.”
CHOOSING KELLOGG TO FUEL HIS IMPACT CAREER
By the time he graduated from Berkeley in 2015, Daga knew he wanted to pursue a career in social impact. He became a project manager at Dalberg Advisors, a social impact consulting firm, where he gained experience working with foundations, nonprofits, and private sector accounts.
“We got to work on everything from youth unemployment in Rwanda to digital inclusion in San Jose,” he says. “But my main takeaway was how hard it is to scale social impact and make it sustainable.”
Interested in learning how to encourage bottom-up, community-driven decision making processes between society and nonprofits, he applied to Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management for his MBA. “I knew if I wanted to pursue a social justice career, I couldn’t just be making PowerPoint slides all day. I had to get some more experience and learn from people who’d been doing this work for a long time,” he explains.
Accepted into Kellogg’s full-time MBA program, he joined the school’s Board Fellows program — a rigorous 20-month experience that allows Kellogg students to engage in board service for a nonprofit organization.
“I grew up in the Chicago area. In some ways, going to Kellogg was a nice kind of homecoming,” he says.
ABOUT THE KELLOGG BOARD FELLOWS PROGRAM
Operating since 2003, the Board Fellows program connects 100 top Kellogg students to Chicago’s nonprofit organizations. Each year, it chooses 50 students as ‘fellows’ from Kellogg’s full-time, evening/weekend, and dual enrollment MBA programs. These students serve as ex-officio board members for nonprofit organizations and get to take two courses on board governance.
After students go through the program, they experience what it means to be a board member and leader in their community, according to Allison Henry, Adjunct Professor of Social Impact. “It helps students build confidence that they have the skills they need to contribute. Then, when they enter the real world again, they can confidently pursue opportunities to engage with their communities and make a difference.”
Since the program’s conception, over 700 students have been prepared for civic leadership and over 200 unique Chicago nonprofits have been served. This year, a record number of applicants — one third of the student body — applied and attended the information session. Plus, because of Covid, it was able to launch a pilot program that allowed students to work with nonprofits virtually outside of the Chicago area.
Recently, the program received a $3.5M gift from Golub Capital, who saw potential in Kellogg’s efforts to drive social impact. With hopes to strengthen the program even further, the school has added two social impact awards and will be hiring several postdocs to support faculty research.