MBA Students Support Colleagues Doing Good

Jenni Tonti will spend the summer helping connect graduate students with education-focused internships. Gordon Chan will support a nonprofit that targets homelessness. And Brian Busch will work with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory researchers to implement arsenic remediation technology in West Bengal, India, and Bangladesh.

For Tonti, Chan, and Busch, all MBA 12, these highly worthwhile, but less-than-lucrative pursuits are made possible by Haas for Students, a fund that provides grants to full-time students who accept summer internships in the nonprofit or public sectors, often organizations that cannot pay a “typical” MBA salary.

Funding comes primarily from first-year Berkeley MBA students. This year 40 percent of them donated one day of their own summer internship salaries, contributing to a total of $53,375 raised. Applications were still being reviewed at press time, but MBAA VP of Community Jennifer Burns, MBA 12, anticipates that 13 so students will receive grants.

Chan will be working with REDF, a venture philanthropy organization that supports nonprofits in starting and growing their own social enterprises. He’s been assigned to the Weingart Center Association in Los Angeles, which helps individuals break the cycle of homelessness. “My role is to help the center develop a marketing and implementation plan for a new social enterprise that provides front-desk services at low-income housing units,” says Chan.

He says he is pleased to be working with a leader in the field and the only organization in California to be recognized by the White House’s Social Innovation Fund. “Their approach to measuring impact and nurturing social enterprises is studied not only in our classes at Haas, but by other organizations I’ve spoken to as well,” says Chan, who says he returned to business school to make a transition into the social sector. He is considering social impact consulting as a career and says the strategic nature of his internship will allow him to maintain his consulting skills in a professional setting.

Busch’s project aims to address the naturally occurring arsenic in ground water affecting 60 million to 80 million people. “Haas for Students effectively narrows the gap between what I'd like to do over the summer and what I have to do to get by,” he says. And “it draws the attention of the entire student body, who contribute to the fund, but more importantly, go out of their way to offer contacts, resources, and support for the projects."

Chan agrees: “I listened to Bill Gates’ speech at Berkeley last year, and he raised the challenge of attracting more people to the social sector, of directing the best minds to the world’s most pressing problems. I think Haas for Students takes a solid step toward meeting that challenge by alleviating some of the financial burden of working in this sector. It also helps to shape the path-bending leaders that Haas aims to develop.”