Every year, we award one student with the Skip and Carrie Gordon Scholarship. This recognizes the current student who demonstrates an outstanding commitment to solving complex social challenges by leveraging their learning. The 2017-18 recipient was Colleen Hill (MS/MBA ’19). But even before receiving this $5,000 award, she was a Summer Fund Intern, a Ross Open Road Fellow, and a Social Impact Peer Coach. We interviewed Colleen recently to see what it’s like to be completely immersed in mission-driven work while at U-M.
How have you leveraged your time at Ross to best equip yourself to deliver social impact?
Ross has allowed me to pursue a variety of opportunities to solve complex social challenges, and for that I am forever grateful. During my first year at Ross, I joined a small group of BBA and MBA students working with the Center for Social Impact to determine how we could enhance impact offerings at Ross – how we could make opportunities more transparent to the community, and how we could better support students interested in pursuing careers with impact. At the end of last year, we presented to Dean DeRue and had an incredibly productive conversation around changes that could be made and what we can do about it as students. Over the summer we moved forward with many of our recommendations including creating an impact portal on the CSI website and designing curriculum for a “FACT Group +” for impact. This year, I continued our work on these initiatives through Business + Impact with Open Road and as an MBA Peer Coach.
Last year, I was a Ross Open Road Fellow, where I traveled across the country with 3 other team members, working with social entrepreneurs on complex social challenges they faced in their respective communities. We learned about communities outside of the business school bubble, and how to better serve them by understanding their needs and working together. This year, I am a co-lead for the program, not only preparing for and recruiting the next generation of fellows, but also working with centers, institutes, and professors at Ross to determine how Open Road can become a more sustainable operation, and one that has a formal home within the university.
As a Social Impact Peer Coach, I support 20 first year MBA students in their internship search to find career paths in impact-related positions. I was hosting two meetings per week for the group to coach them through off-campus networking, blind outreach, and creating internships that might not yet exist. I am also hosting a workshop for Erb students who are recruiting off-campus, to better support them in their search and provide tangible next steps for how they can get the internship they’re looking for.
Additionally, I served as the TA for BA 612 – Business Strategies for the Base of the Pyramid, where I facilitated meetings with global social entrepreneurs and had discussions with students looking to go into work in emerging markets. Last year, I acted as a consultant with Business Impact Group, where we worked closely with Cynthia Koenig, an alum, on business strategies for her international development company, Wello. I’ve taken courses related to impact including MO 637 – Social Intrapreneurship, and next semester I’m taking TO 560 – Sustainable Supply Chains & Operations.
I have been able to take advantage of and even create new opportunities at Ross to deliver impact, and I am looking forward to many more continued opportunities to do so!
How will the Skip and Carrie Gordon Scholarship support you in becoming a social impact leader?
This scholarship will support me by allowing me to feel more comfortable spending three full years pursuing my dual degree through the Erb Institute; with the extra semester at Michigan, I can become more deeply involved in developing social impact programming at Ross and enhance our network further.
Describe your journey in social impact.
For almost my entire life, I have known that I want to have a positive impact on the lives of those around me. It started in 1st grade with a trip to Egypt, where I saw children living in poverty. It didn’t seem fair that they didn’t have what I had, that a piece of gum could make them so happy. I returned home and decided to come up with a plan to donate coats to the homeless during the winter. From there, I went on to get involved with Habitat for Humanity, building locally and then building in Mexico in high school. In college, I continued my involvement with Habitat for Humanity and expanded more globally to build in El Salvador and Peru. I then interned at a nonprofit working to bring clean water wells to people in Kenya, and another nonprofit who taught HIV/AIDS curriculum in Tanzanian schools and communities. I spent two months in Tanzania working with the local communities on challenges that were important to them – health and education. I spent three winters in Egypt interning with the Supreme Council of Antiquities, and using my time off to get to know local people better and understand the challenges they faced.
All of these experiences led me to want to have a greater impact on the world at large, so I pursued a career in business, and honed my logistics and operational skillsets at Veritas Prep. There, I was able to create a scholarship program for NSHMBA (The National Society of Hispanic MBAs) that allowed 50 minority students to have free access to GMAT test prep and admissions consulting for admissions into business school. I started to understand the struggles that people in our own country face, and realized I can start to have an impact domestically as well.
I came to Ross to learn more about how business can be a positive force for good in the world. My desire for impact has always revolved around other people; my life goal now is to have a career in supply chain operations, where I can work to make supply chains more transparent, and influence businesses to have humane operations and move to more humane labor rights for employees at the beginning of their supply chains. I am fascinated by the building blocks of what keeps the world in motion; I’m interested in learning more about where the tungsten in our phones comes from and where the mangos in our grocery store come from, and also who the people are behind those building blocks. The opportunities I have had here at Michigan and that I continue to have are incredible, and I look forward to continuing my learning over the next year.
We look forward to Colleen pursuing big ideas with a strong vision for social impact in her career!