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Driving Social Impact – The Chicago Booth MBA – Poets&Quants

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How does a company build a sustainability strategy that weighs short and long-term tradeoffs and the risks of acting or failing to act? As the world grapples with climate change, students at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business are tackling one company’s ESG (Environment, Social, Governance) challenges through the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Social Impact Practicum. Fifty years ago, UChicago economist Milton Friedman famously declared that the primary responsibility of business was to its shareholders. Now, Booth’s Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation is equipping MBA students with business fundamentals, backed by research, and focused on broader questions about financial and social impact. Whether you enter the private or public sector, we believe doing good is worth doing well.

Every day, employees, customers, partners, students, and society as a whole remind us of the urgency of social responsibility – whether in companies or in enhancing the outcomes of nonprofits. You’d be hard-pressed to find an investor or a business leader who isn’t thinking about ESG – from climate change and sustainability to diversity and community engagement.

From our home in Chicago, we combine Booth’s discipline-based approach to business education with research and experience-based learning in one of the world’s most exciting cities. With our global reach, we provide insights from research and hands-on learning opportunities around the world. The Rustandy Center is the social impact hub for people committed to helping solve complex social and environmental problems. 

Our faculty and alumni are exploring the delivery of life-saving malaria prevention equipment in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They are researching how accurately US companies measure their CSR. The capstone of our social entrepreneurship program, the John Edwardson, ’72, Social New Venture Challenge, has jump-started dozens of new companies, including BallotReady, bringing voter information to nine million people across the US, and AIM Clinics, delivering autism therapy to children in rural communities across the country. Students are deeply involved in hands-on community and economic development projects in collaboration with partners in Chicago’s South Side neighborhoods.

Even if you do not go directly into a social impact career after graduation, you can apply the principles of social impact in the corporate sector or as a member of a nonprofit board. The Rustandy Center is a dynamic resource for classes, research, and programs for Booth students, alumni, faculty, business, and nonprofit leaders, impact investors, and social entrepreneurs – anyone committed to making our world more equitable and sustainable. Students have access to people who are a part of their journey, leaders in the for-profit and nonprofit sectors. 

How We Deliver Impact 

A Curriculum For Future Leaders:

Our social impact courses complement Booth’s curriculum in finance, economics, and operations with real-world experience, preparing students to develop effective and sustainable solutions to complex problems. Courses encourage students to think about the role of a firm in today’s world and to look at the broader business environment, including politics, regulation, firm norms, and ethics. You can take advantage of classes in social sector management and strategy, impact investing, corporate social responsibility, social entrepreneurship and innovation, and more. 

Supporting Social Entrepreneurship, Innovation, And Impact Investing:

The Rustandy Center strives to become the leading university-based launchpad and knowledge center for game-changing social entrepreneurs, their ventures, and the people who fund them. A cornerstone is the Social New Venture Challenge, which has helped fund more than 100 nonprofits and companies, from the solar-powered light company LuminAID to the Nairobi-based tractor-leasing company Hello Tractor. We are home to one of the largest student-managed impact investing funds, the Steven Tarrson Impact Investment Fund, allowing Booth MBA students to gain hands-on experience in impact investing and make connections with early-stage impact investors.

Strengthening Nonprofit Strategy And Governance:

Nonprofits and their boards of directors drive social and environmental change. We match Booth students with local nonprofit organizations, bringing valuable pro bono business skills to nonprofits while giving students experience in nonprofit management and governance. For professionals in nonprofit organizations or the government who plan to remain in the sector, Booth offers substantial scholarships through the Civic Scholars Program, which also provides specialized programming in partnership with the Rustandy Center. 

Translating Research:

Our research addresses the most pressing social issues of our time, and we share findings with leaders in the for-profit, nonprofit, and public sectors to increase their impact. Over the past year, our work on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on US households found that existing income, gender, and race inequalities have worsened and Americans’ trust in institutions has diminished. A new case study examined how a public-private partnership transformed the historic Pullman neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side. 

You Can Be Part Of Something Big:

The Rustandy Center advances social innovation and equips bold thinkers and doers with the knowledge and practical tools necessary to create a positive impact. If you have any questions or want to learn more, sign up to hear from us.


CBP2122 250x150 logoCarolineGrossmanHeadshotCaroline Grossman is the executive director of the Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation at Chicago Booth and an adjunct associate professor of strategy. Grossman has led efforts to pursue research partnerships worldwide, driven student and alumni engagement across the University of Chicago, and developed strong relationships across the social sector ecosystem in Chicago and beyond. An experienced educator and business leader, she has designed and taught Booth courses that explore the role of the firm in society, corporate social responsibility, and global impact, sustainability, and diversity and inclusion efforts.

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