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Student Stories writer McKenzie writes today about an activity with which she’s involved this fall — an activity that you can join in, too!
It seems like just yesterday that we started the fall semester. Yet here we are, with fewer than 10 days until December and 25 days until the end of the fall semester.
As the saying goes, “time flies when you’re having fun,” and fun I’ve been having! While Fletcher has no shortage of hectic weeks, it also offers ample opportunities to pursue activities specifically related to my career focus. With this in mind, I want to take a minute to tell you about a great opportunity to join the Fletcher Social Investment Group (FSIG) team, which competes in the MBA Impact Investing Network and Training (MIINT) competition each year, and ask for your help.
What is MIINT?
The MIINT is an experiential learning program designed to give students at business and graduate schools a hands-on education in impact investing. As a member of FSIG’s team this year, I’m helping to source, screen, diligence, and ultimately pitch an early-stage social venture to an investment committee in April at the Wharton School. The winning team’s company will receive up to $50,000 towards a total funding round of $250,000 to $1,000,000. While preparing for the competition, we also complete a series of eight online learning modules developed by the MIINT’s main sponsors, Bridges Ventures and the Wharton Social Impact Initiative. It’s a great opportunity to step into the shoes of an impact investor and get first-hand experience identifying and valuing prospective investments.
What kind of companies is this year’s MIINT team looking for?
The MIINT program experience exposes us to the challenges associated with scaling impact investing — specifically, sourcing financially, socially, and environmentally attractive deals. To do this, our team is leveraging Fletcher’s uniquely international network to identify sustainable business models that efficiently deliver key products or services, and improve quality of life for individuals in emerging markets. For more information, check out our investment thesis here.
Excited? Here’s how you can help before even getting to Fletcher:
We have just three weeks left to source the best deals possible before identifying a shortlist of companies on which to conduct due diligence. If you or those in your network know of any companies that meet the investment criteria described on our website, we’d love to consider them for investment. The website also provides more information about our team.
Tell interested companies to complete our contact form as soon as possible to be considered for funding!
Note: Supporting FSIG’s MIINT team is voluntary and has no bearing on admissions decisions to The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.
In the first of the Student Stories posts for 2016-2017, McKenzie reports on her internship in Johannesburg, South Africa this past summer.
Howzit future Fletchies! It was great to return to town after three months in South Africa this summer (or winter, as it happened to be in the southern hemisphere).
Living in Johannesburg, I worked at Edge Growth to expand the 10X-entrepreneur (10X-e) program for scale-up or growth-stage startups across South Africa. Through my job, I helped develop materials for 10X-e bootcamps and facilitated one-on-one growth strategy and execution workshops for portfolio companies of Edge’s flagship impact fund, the Vumela Fund. I also got to support the Vumela Fund directly, helping strategize pipeline development and deal sourcing efforts and contributing to the due diligence of a prospective investment.
Fletcher students use their internship to accomplish a number of different goals. Some use it to “test out” a new career field or to gain practical skills in a specific area, others to explore a new region of the world, and still others to conduct research for capstones. Through my internship, I reaffirmed my interest in pursuing a career in impact investing and gained experience working alongside a fund investing in growth-stage companies in an emerging market setting.
But summer internships aren’t only for professional growth — I took the opportunity to travel and see as much as possible of South Africa over weekends and public holidays. I attended braais (like barbeques), where I feasted with friends on grilled meats and braaibroodjes (pretty much a grilled cheese sandwich with onions and tomato), while discussing local politics and the municipal elections that were to take place in August. I attended my first-ever rugby match to watch South Africa’s beloved Springboks take on the Irish (and win!). I explored food markets in the reviving central business district of Jo’burg. I visited the sobering apartheid museum to steep myself in the rich yet horrifying past, and did yoga on Constitution Hill (a former prison and now the site of South Africa’s Constitutional Court), in honor of Mandela Day.
I was also able to travel to both Cape Town and Durban in the course of my work, and spent time hiking Table Mountain and Lion’s Head or dipping my toes in the Indian Ocean after facilitating workshops for some of Vumela Fund’s portfolio companies. Finally, while in Tanzania for a separate project with an Omidyar Network portfolio company, I met up with a classmate working in Arusha to take a short safari in Ngorongoro Crater and Lake Manyara.
Needless to say, I really enjoyed my summer and was able to find the perfect mix of professional experience and personal growth. While I was sad to leave a country I was only just beginning to know, I’m excited to be back at Fletcher and kicking off my second year. At the same time, I know that each semester goes by in the blink of an eye and I am trying to savor every day. For those of you looking to begin grad school this time next year, remember to enjoy the next eight-to-ten months, in between drafting your personal statements and updating your résumé. The time will be gone before you know it!
The photo is from my favorite hike in South Africa (so far — I hope I’ll get back for more one day…). It shows me halfway up the India Venster trail on Table Mountain, with a view of Lion’s Head and the Atlantic Ocean in the background among the mist and clouds.
Yes, it’s July, but we’re still catching up with the students who are sharing their stories on the blog. Today, let’s read McKenzie’s summary of the first half of her experience in the MIB program.
Wow – what a year! I can’t believe that this time last year I was telling my former company that I’d be leaving to pursue graduate studies. I had no idea of the types of adventures I was embarking upon when I accepted my offer here. As it is for most of us transitioning out of the work world and back into an academic setting, the fall semester was a bit of an adjustment period for me. I had to calibrate how I would prioritize my time between academics, Fletcher friends, my “pre-Fletcher life,” and family.
It seems Fletcher students are up at all hours pursuing all manner of endeavors — from starting businesses to competing in case competitions; from working one, two, and sometimes three jobs or internships in between classes, to traveling abroad to conduct research as part of a capstone project; or from organizing Fletcher’s famed Culture Nights to planning and participating in many other school traditions. It is tempting to jump in and sign up for all of these things at once. I didn’t go quite that far, but I did spend the fall semester enrolled in five courses, leading an advisory project for the Fletcher Social Investment Group (FSIG), competing as a member of a team in a public equity research challenge, working part-time, researching target firms for my summer internship, and attending the numerous great events that happen at Fletcher. I did this while traveling on weekends for a friend’s bachelorette party and wedding, visiting friends and family back home, attending a career trip in New York, and building new friendships with some of my classmates here at Fletcher. Needless to say, I was exhausted by the time winter break rolled around.
At some point after submitting my last final exam on a cold, December morning, I realized that I was running through grad school without fully and completely appreciating the opportunities around me. Over the subsequent weeks, I spent time prioritizing the activities and experiences I wanted to be sure to savor in my two years here and returned to campus in January with a plan to pare down certain commitments to fully value the benefits of others.
As I reflect back on the spring semester, I’m happy to report that I was really satisfied with the new balance I found. Ironically, I was able to feel as though I was doing more by doing less. In January, I took a break from all things academic to go north on the Fletcher ski trip. In February, I went to DC for a two-week intensive training on impact investment and social enterprise management. In March, I began transitioning into my now current role as CEO of FSIG and traveled to India with five close friends from school. In April, I spent more time on the weekends exploring the sights and opportunities offered by Boston. And in May, I survived yet another round of finals, attended the Diplomat’s Ball, and played bubble soccer during “Dis-Orientation” week, which is a collection of activities and events between the end of finals and commencement weekend dedicated to celebrating the end of school for second years.
This leads me to an important aspect of this school that makes it so great, yet can also make it challenging: there is a tremendous diversity of opportunity at Fletcher. The hardest (and most rewarding) task for students is to identify the two to three opportunities that best fit with their career and personal goals. I’ve managed to pare down and focus on those that are most important to me, and it’s been interesting to see my classmates go through a similar process. The most exciting aspect, however, is that even as I have defined the activities I would benefit from or enjoy the most, I have friends at Fletcher whose interests led them to entirely different opportunities. While we’re each invested in our own “flavor” of Fletcher activities, it’s always interesting to learn about the events and happenings of friends studying completely different areas.
With that, my concluding piece of advice for incoming and prospective students is two-fold. First, in addition to the myriad courses that you are undoubtedly considering, know that beyond the classroom are tremendous opportunities to build practical skills and experience in the area of your choice through student activities and clubs. The second is perhaps lost on every generation of ambitious, enthusiastic incoming first years, but to the extent possible, you should prioritize the opportunities most important to you. This is tremendously difficult at Fletcher, but the rewards from focusing on the most essential elements across your classes, activities, jobs, family, and social obligations will make your time at Fletcher that much more special.
I’ll leave you with these thoughts for now. Over the summer, I’m heading to South Africa to work with the portfolio companies of a small firm in Johannesburg, helping them to scale up proven business models and transition from small, unstructured startup teams to more developed, growth-oriented companies. I’ve never been to South Africa, but I am excited to dive in and learn as much as possible about the people and history of one of Africa’s largest economies. For those of you joining us next year, enjoy the summer and we’ll see you in the fall. For the rest of you, thanks for sharing in my experiences here at Fletcher — I look forward to checking back in September!
This week is April vacation week for Massachusetts school children, and I’m going to use that as my explanation for turning the clock back to the March spring break for Fletcher students. Student bloggers McKenzie and Tatsuo will each describe their travels far from campus. First, McKenzie writes about the trip she planned with friends.
I’m back from a brief blog hiatus these past few months and want to share an update from an amazing spring break trip I took at the end of March. Along with five other Fletcher friends, I traveled to New Delhi, India for what was one of the more action-packed yet wonderful spring breaks I’ve had.
After 22 hours of travel, our crew arrived in hazy New Delhi at roughly 5:00 a.m. on Saturday morning. Unsure of the time and date, we hopped in a car sent by a classmate of ours who grew up in the city and we sped toward her family’s home, where we were greeted with hot showers and a wonderful, homemade breakfast.
Soon we loaded back in a car and headed just outside the south side of Delhi to a garment factory in Faridabad. A classmate on our trip who previously worked at Gap arranged the visit, as the factory was the first in Gap Inc.’s network to launch the PACE (Personal Advancement & Career Achievement) program, designed to empower women working in the factory and and to provide leadership development to enhance their careers and build confidence. After learning about the program’s origins, we met with some of the women who had attended the program and since advanced to line management positions. Then, we got to tour the factory and see the production first-hand. The experience overall was a lot to take in, but it was truly a Fletcher-esque opportunity.
Following the factory visit, we returned to our friend’s home in time to change and head to her cousin’s house to watch what we learned was a very important cricket match. If my understanding is correct, India-Pakistan cricket matches of the type and level we got to watch are not very frequent, which meant the celebration was on par with some of the better Super Bowl parties I’ve heard about back in the States. At around 11:00 p.m. that night, we returned home for some much-needed sleep. And that was just the first day.
Over the next few days, we traveled to Agra and Jaipur to see several famous monuments, treat ourselves to some fabulous Indian food, and browse Jaipur’s famous fabric and other markets. On Wednesday afternoon, we drove back to New Delhi in time for one of the greatest national holidays I’ve had the privilege to experience: Holi.
Holi is a Hindu religious festival that, from what I was told, celebrates the conquering of good over evil and the coming of spring. The night before Holi, many people light a bonfire, which signifies the burning of Holika. Our hosts also tossed wheat chaffs into the fire as a symbol of thanks for the impending harvest.
The next day, we had the opportunity to “play Holi” with our friend’s extended family, which consisted first of a short Hindu ceremony with all the family present. The ceremony ends with some tame additions of colored powder to the foreheads of those present, after which the family moves to an outdoor courtyard and the fun really begins. While you start the day in pristinely clean clothes, you end up covered in pink, blue, green, yellow, red, and orange dye – in your clothes, in your hair, on your face, and in my case even in your contact lenses (one of mine was bright yellow!). Everywhere. I promise, it’s a great time. The most wonderful part of Holi is that truly everyone participates. Young and old, men and women, everyone joins in and plays. The kids of the family even developed a full attack plan complete with code words: they hoped to distract us by shouting “hamburger!” then lure us “with words” to be subsequently doused by water balloons and water guns. I suppose they have a few more years to learn the finer points of diplomacy and international affairs…
The day culminated in what has to be a family-specific tradition: each of us in turn was dunked in a barrel drum of homemade, bright yellow flower dye. Even three weeks after Holi, there were still minor tints of that yellow in my hair. It was a great reminder of a wonderful trip, and is a great example of the many ways that Fletcher students contrive to fill their time with enriching yet adventurous trips during their time away from school.
Time to return to the first-year students who I hope will be two-year bloggers, sharing their Fletcher stories with you. Today we’ll meet McKenzie, who describes her path to the MIB program and her first two-plus months in it.
Hi everyone! My name is McKenzie Smith. I’m thrilled that I will be sharing my experiences in the Master of International Business (MIB) program over the next two years. To get started, let me share a bit about where I come from, where I’m going, and how I plan to use my time at Fletcher — the things I imagine you’re considering yourself. In short, I’m here at Fletcher to explore the growth and adoption of impact investment that helps develop emerging markets. In particular, I’m interested in the role that capital flows can play in encouraging businesses to consider their environmental, social, and governance impacts on society in the course of their operations.
Before Fletcher, I spent four years as a consultant helping public- and private-sector clients solve complex challenges related to strategy and operational efficiency, organizational design, and large-scale program management. I also supported business development efforts for multiple projects in Sub-Saharan Africa and Indonesia. Prior to that, I taught kindergarten in Colorado after studying international development and international politics at Georgetown University. One thing I’ve learned from my varied experience is that tackling multi-dimensional challenges necessitates interdisciplinary solutions. Leveraging finance to build vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystems and promote economic transformation requires a complex set of actors, from investors to academics, NGOs to businesses, who must work in a coordinated manner to enable citizens and businesses to create economic value. Achieving this through a lens of social impact can be even more challenging as investors and entrepreneurs seek to create social value that does not cause a loss of financial returns.
Yet, while facilitating the growth and adoption of impact (or “socially responsible,” or “Environmental, Social, and Governance/ESG”) investing is fraught with obstacles, I find myself saying, “Challenge accepted!” In fact, individuals around the world can and are finding innovative ways to blend social value with financial returns. A growing number of investors from the millennial generation are demanding it, and more and more institutions are devoting resources to research and fund development that creates opportunities for investors to “put their money where there values are.”
I could keep going, but I’ll jump to the question you’re likely asking at this point: in light of these goals, why Fletcher? In short, I came to Fletcher to focus on international finance and social enterprise in emerging markets because Fletcher offers the right mix of rigorous MBA-type skills and an understanding of the multiple social, political, and economic issues inherent in conducting business around the world.
In terms of core business and finance skills, this semester alone I’m taking courses in corporate finance, global investment management, and financial statement management. I’m building concrete skills in valuation, financial analysis, portfolio construction, and strategic decision making.
In terms of social enterprise in emerging markets, I’m taking a course called “Emerging Africa,” which examines the role of capitalism, entrepreneurship, and the private sector in African economies’ transformations. This course is unique at Fletcher, especially for MIBs. While many of us considered traditional MBAs and could have found similar courses in those programs, we would not have had the chance to take these courses alongside friends focused on human security, development economics, negotiation and conflict resolution, security studies, or environmental and energy policy. Because the growth of entrepreneurship in emerging markets is intimately intertwined with an in-depth understanding of many of these issues, the Fletcher experience for students interested in international business cannot be beat.
As before, I could certainly go on. In some ways, it’s hard to believe I’ve only just arrived! At the same time, already in the second half of my first semester at Fletcher, it’s hard to believe how quickly time flies. I can’t wait to share the rest of my experiences with you as the year progresses.
Until next time,
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