By Eric Wulf
The Kellogg Net Impact Club recently interviewed Megan Kashner ’03, Kellogg’s new director of social impact. Kashner brings a wealth of knowledge and experience from the social and non-profit sectors.
Kashner is founder and CEO of Benevolent, a non-profit organization that redesigned how people experience the stories of low-income families and how we can act as small-dollar donors and advocates in order to make a real impact on Americans’ lives.
We sat down with Kashner to learn more about her vision for social impact and its application at Kellogg.
Why did you decide to come back to Kellogg in this role?
The opportunity to help shape the world’s next generation of business and social leaders as they ready themselves to lead with impact was simply alluring. Kellogg has always felt like home to me, and to be invited home to lead up the area closest to my heart was truly an honor.
I’ve spent my entire adult life in the social impact space – working with children, families, communities, marketplaces, companies and more. This role will allow me to shape and support our students and alumni who will choose full-time careers in impact, as well as those who will go forth and lead with their values in their business careers.
For me, this is an opportunity to catapult impact thinking and action into every corner of leadership.
You’ve held a variety of roles within the non-profit sector, both before and after your MBA from Kellogg. What do you think is the value of an MBA in the social impact space?
The MBA, and in particular the Kellogg MBA, is a critical tool in the impact space — whether in service to social entrepreneurship, nonprofit leadership, corporate social responsibility practice, impact investing, sustainability in the supply chain or other market-based social influence areas.
Prior to my own MBA experience at Kellogg, I found myself in positions of increasing responsibility and leadership in the nonprofit sector without the tools to truly benefit the organizations and missions I was working for. The Kellogg MBA prepared me — and prepares social impact leaders — to consider impact from a market perspective, complete with dependencies, analytics, leverage and a marketing lens.
In leading my own impact startup, I have found myself using every nuance of my Kellogg experience, from my coursework to my network.
What is Kellogg’s approach to teaching social impact?
Kellogg has a three-pronged approach to teaching and preparing students to lead with impact.
- Robust and cutting-edge coursework and teaching from faculty who are at the top of their game in the space
- An experiential perspective including lab courses, trips, projects, student clubs and activities, speakers and competitions.
- From a career perspective, Kellogg’s CMC (Career Management Center) staff, faculty support and alumni network are unparalleled. Whether seeking full-on impact careers or careers where you have the opportunity to pursue other fields but still influence impact, Kellogg students and alumni are well-prepared and well-supported as they pursue their goals and continuously learn and grow.
Most importantly, though, Kellogg’s approach to social impact learning — at all levels — is a collaborative one where students gain the knowledge and skills to work in collaboration with others to make a difference.
Many students are interested in social impact but don’t plan on entering into that field immediately after graduation. How do you plan on engaging the broader Kellogg community around social impact?
We know that more 75% of students are members of one or more of Kellogg’s 13 social impact clubs. We know as well that a much smaller percentage of these same students will pursue full-time impact positions when they graduate. What this means is that we don’t need to spur interest in the broader Kellogg community; we need to satisfy appetite.
Engaging students who are already interested will involve listening, being responsive and providing the courses, speakers, experiences and content that these students who are interested in leading with their values and bringing impact into their careers and into their lives seek.
I look forward to learning what students are interested in and rounding out our Kellogg offerings with the right content and programming.
What is your vision for social impact at Kellogg?
My vision for social impact at Kellogg is actually a vision of social impact beyond Kellogg. If we build and develop our social impact offerings and experiences well, then we’ll be graduating leaders out into all roles and industries with the knowledge, skills and confidence to bring responsibility, impact and a robust world view into every project, decision and strategy.
Kellogg students and alumni already lead in many impact areas. We’ll be seeing many more social entrepreneurs and business leaders making waves for their ethics and actions, investment professionals leading newly conceived portfolio choices, and more. And it’ll all have a purple tinge and a Kellogg flavor.
Eric Wulf is a second-year MBA student at Kellogg and the marketing vice president of the Net Impact Club. Prior to Kellogg he served in the Peace Corps and worked in public sector finance in Washington, D.C. After his MBA, he will be joining Deloitte Consulting’s Strategy & Operations practice in Chicago.
The Kellogg Net Impact Club is a student-run organization and an official chapter of the Net Impact national organization. The club is dedicated to promoting social impact at Kellogg and shaping some of the world’s most talented socially oriented business leaders.