2023 Best & Brightest MBA: Martha Buckley, Babson College (Olin)

Martha Buckley

Babson College, F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business

“An optimist, who believes in using business as a catalyst for social and environmental impact.”

Hometown: Essex, MA

Fun fact about yourself: I was a Division I athlete in undergrad – representing Team USA and Miami University as a competitive synchronized figure skater. I continue to give back to the sport as an official for US Figure Skating – spending weekends during the Fall and Winter officiating skating competitions.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Miami University (Ohio) and I was an Organizational Communication Major.

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? I was the Director of Development for Heading Home – a Boston-based nonprofit providing shelter, housing and supportive services to men, women and children experiencing homelessness.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2022? Sunwealth as a Solar Fellow – Cambridge, MA

Where will you be working after graduation? Senior Manager of Investor Development at Sunwealth – an impact investing firm on a mission to finance community-based solar projects that will benefit those who have traditionally been left behind in the clean energy transition.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

Chief of Academic Affairs – Graduate Student Council (GSC) – I was proudly elected by my peers to serve as the Chief of Academic Affairs for our GSC. In this role, I partner with both faculty across all graduate programs and the deans of the Business School to address opportunities for curriculum development, new initiative development, and improving the overall student classroom experience. In that role, I also sit on the GSC executive team. This means that beyond the work I do with Academic Affairs, I am also focused on and contribute to building initiatives to enhance the whole student experience while on campus.

Lead for Food Insecurity Task Force – I am helping to lead a task force addressing mounting needs of food insecurity for both Grad and Undergrad students on campus. Specifically, I led and managed the pilot distribution of groceries and essentials over winter break to nearly 40 graduate students who were struggling to make ends meet between semesters. I am now working with leadership within the college to more formally build programming to address needs at both the Graduate and Undergraduate level.

Student Lead for Grads Helping Grads – I am helping to lead the Class of 2023’s efforts to critical funds from current students and alumni for a needs-based scholarship called Grads Helping Grads.

Presidential MBA Scholar – I was selected as part a top tier of incoming MBA students for being “an exemplary student who takes initiative in and beyond the classroom.”

Campus Lead for Turner MIINT Program – I am proud to have been asked to bring an exciting new program to Babson this Fall for a small pilot cohort of 10 MBAs who want to explore the field of Impact Investing. A full-year experience, our team will have the opportunity to complete company sourcing, due diligence, and present a current social impact business in front of an Investment Committee at the Wharton School of Business in March 2023 – competing against other leading business schools.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? As part of an independent study, I spent four months this past Fall working with the Head of Social Impact at Wayfair – strategizing opportunities for the company to put critical capital to work in Greater Boston and beyond. The company has an opportunity to deploy impact investment funds, and my research will inform the approach that they will take in either investing in the creation of affordable housing units or providing growth capital to BIPOC entrepreneurs in their supplier pipeline. I am incredibly proud of this work because I was able to help the team meaningfully make progress towards making critical investments that are not just great for Wayfair’s business but are impactful to advancing equity within our communities.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I have been fortunate to have had a variety of professional work experiences over the last 10 years. But the work I was most proud of was in my time at Heading Home. In the height of the pandemic, our organization was responsible for the housing and safety of over 2,000 men, women and children experiencing homelessness. Overnight, our leadership team had to become expert in far more than housing. We had to pivot to learn how to facilitate remote learning for kids living in shelter. We had to facilitate last mile food delivery for people housed in over 500 units across Greater Boston – who’s food security was more deeply at risk because of lockdown. We created access to critical healthcare and mental health services without smartphone or computer access for our must vulnerable adults and more who relied on in person services to remain well. We added pop up shelter facilities for overflow shelter needs to keep people safe. There was no time to make a strategy because people’s lives were vulnerable and at risk. I will be proud for the rest of my life for all the ways our team completely pivoted to meet the needs of our clients in ways we never could have prepared for or imagined. It was the ultimate privilege to have had the opportunity to be a leader during that time.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose Babson because of its rich tradition of using Entrepreneurial Thought and Action as a framework for business. And I was also deeply impressed by the Institute for Social Innovation – and the opportunity to collaborate with students focused on creating economic and social value concurrently.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Professor Richard Goulding – I took both Operations and Supply Chain Management with him. I can truly say that he changed the way I thought about the value I could create in the world, and the way that all of us as students should be looking at the role of business in today’s world. His commitment to maximizing students’ experiences, both inside and outside the classroom, is unmatched and my experience at Babson was undoubtedly enhanced by my ability to meet him both as a professor and a mentor.

What was your favorite course as an MBA? Social Innovation Lab – This course is intentionally structured to be self-directed and design-focused. Why I love it so much is that it is an important contrast against other courses where you are expected to hit certain milestones and deliverables following the same timeframe as your peers. In this course, you have a capstone project, but how you get to the finish line is dictated by your own learning goals; what social issue you are hoping to design a meaningful innovation for; and (most valuable) why creating a solution around that particular social issue is most impactful for you personally. It really allows for incredible blue ocean thinking and creativity in a way that I have not experienced in other MBA courses.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? Get off campus more! Particularly being in an amazing area like Greater Boston, there is never a lack of opportunity to attend events, network, and meet other students. It can be hard to balance your time between events/commitments on campus and finding opportunities to attend off campus events. I would highly suggest being really intentional about creating enough time and space to take advantage of off campus opportunities as well as the great ones that exist on campus.

What is the biggest myth about your school? I think because entrepreneurship is so much a part of the DNA of Babson, people believe that you must have a great business idea or want to start your own venture to come to Babson. That is just simply not true. A cornerstone of the Babson experience is learning through Entrepreneurial Thought and Action (ETA). Babson admits such a diverse pool of students from of all types of backgrounds to its graduate programs, that our cohorts graduate a rich tapestry of leaders go on to lead meaningful change in all sectors – using ETA.

What did you love most about your business school’s town? I love that Wellesley is a smaller community where you can easily find ways to connect with Boston business leaders or alumni for a coffee somewhere downtown. You can also easily get involved as a community volunteer, and it is a beautiful place to spend time outside no matter the season.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I was specific about what I wanted to get out of my two-year experience in advance. I then prioritized getting to meet with alumni who had social impact careers post-grad, as well as speaking with the leadership of the Institute for Social Innovation before I even applied. Those conversations helped validate that Babson was a great choice for me, but also, I received targeted referrals to the admissions team as a result.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? There are so many classmates that I admire, for so many different reasons. But one who stands out is Dr. Ellana Stinson. Not only does she have tremendous vision for her haircare business and the impact she wants to create, but she happens to be an emergency room physician by background. Because we were in our program during the peak days of the pandemic, beyond the classroom and building her own business, Ellana was on the frontlines of the COVID pandemic as she worked shifts in the hospital on nights and weekends during our program. She is an incredible human being. She truly not only deserves to be celebrated, but I admire her for her intellect, her passion, and her commitment to being of service during one of the most challenging environments in healthcare. Her leadership and tenacity inspire me deeply.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? I would love to be part of a collective of changemakers who are focused on re-imagining the role of philanthropy and how critical funds are put to work in our communities to move the needle on some of our most pressing social challenges. Additionally, I hope to be a transformational leader who helps as many people as I can, identify and create the kind of change they hope to make in the world.

What made Martha such an invaluable member of the Class of 2023?

The best leaders are on a journey, one that is not always clearly marked but is seen in the kinds of questions they ask, whom they listen to, how they spend their time, the beliefs that guide their decisions and investments.” Judy Samuelson, The Six New Rules of Business.

“This quote is how I experience Martha Buckley whom I first met when she reached out to learn more about Babson’s MBA program. Martha wasn’t looking for just any school to study for her MBA. Martha wanted to be relatively certain that she would be able to have the kind of experiences that would allow her to draw upon her extensive work in the social sector, as well as provide her with new skills, competencies, knowledge and applied experiences to allow her to apply the best of business to addressing unmet societal needs.

I knew if Martha chose Babson that her involvement at The Institute for Social Innovation as well as her contributions to the graduate school were going to be full on and expansive not only for her but for the Babson community.

From day one Martha attended almost every one of our Uncommon Tables. These are gatherings where business leaders from around the world come to share their lived experiences around the challenges and opportunities for leading organizations with the goal of creating economic and social value simultaneously.  I can honestly say that it was noticeable when she did not show up because, whether on a zoom call, or a dinner, or on a roundtable, she was there as much for herself as she was to be in relationship with others and enhance the experience for all of us.

Martha is unapologetic about asking for what she needs and wants. And when she does, it will benefit more than just herself.

Last summer, she and a fellow graduate student approached me about supporting two teams (10 students) for the MBA Impact Investing Network & Training (MIINT) program, an impact investing venture lab designed to give students at business and graduate schools a practical, hands-on experience in being an early-stage impact investor. Throughout the program, students need to create an investment thesis, source and conduct due diligence on early-stage impact investing opportunities, prepare an investment memo, and present on a selected early-stage company. This company must be actively raising a Series A funding round (between $500,000 and $1.5 million) and they must be a business designed for positive social or environmental impact.

This intense co-curricular activity was going to demand 5 hours a week from October to March in addition to an already heavy load of courses in order to graduate in May. It was also going to cost time, money and resources from a faculty advisor. While this was not credit bearing, once the teams began working, they realized that they were giving as many hours to this experience as they were for a full course. At Martha’s instigation, associate deans and faculty were able to create an independent study program which would allow the students to receive credit for this impactful learning endeavor.

One other example is her Inventureship, an Institute for Social Innovation-branded paid experience for students to use the Entrepreneurial Thought and Action® mindset to work with a leader within an organization on furthering social and economic impact. The student invents their experience.  Martha’s project was to provide a creative Tax Equity solution for affordable housing that could be tied to Wayfair’s core business and CSR strategy. Her ability to engage Wayfair, research the problem, design and communicate a compelling and innovative framework was elegant and speaks to her desire to provide broad value to an organization while learning about something that interests her.

It is an honor to write this letter of recommendation for Martha Buckley.   Her contributions to the leadership at Babson, her fellow students, faculty, and staff has been nothing short of extraordinary. Martha’s entrepreneurial leadership style has influenced the MBA program as much as I know it has benefited her. Martha’s proficiency in using who she is, what she has, whom she knows, and what she knows to engage and to create impact is an outstanding example for all of us.”

Cheryl Kiser
Executive Director
The Institute for Social Innovation & Babson Social Innovation Lab


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