These EMBA grads are using Wharton skills to transform social impact organizations, and the Bendheim Loan Forgiveness Fund makes it possible.

Working for a not-for-profit organization, Jodi Reynhout, WG’16, was a bit apprehensive about the cost of Wharton’s MBA Program for Executives. It’s a common concern for students working in the social impact field, as financial sponsorship is usually not an option for employers.

However, the availability of resources like the Bendheim Loan Forgiveness Fund encouraged her to self sponsor. The year after graduation, Jodi, Vice President of Administration for Esperanza, a nonprofit committed to strengthening Hispanic communities through education, economic development, and advocacy, received a $10,000 award from the Bendheim Fund. Graduates can apply once a year during the five years after graduation, and many receive the award multiple years.

Katherine St. Onge, WG’16, Director of Syndications and Institutional Partnerships at Calvert Impact Capital, said that the Bendheim Fund was also a factor in her decision to come to Wharton’s EMBA Program. “Going back to school meant taking on a lot of debt and I didn’t expect to earn a private-sector salary. The Loan Forgiveness Fund helped me decide to come to Wharton and was something I hoped I could benefit from after graduation.”

Last year, Katherine received $15,000 from the Fund and is planning to re-apply for future years. “That basically covered one year of my loan payments, which is very significant. This award shows that Wharton values the change I’m trying to make in the world and alumni pursuing non-traditional financial career paths.”

How They Are Making a Difference

At Calvert, Katherine enables individuals and institutions to invest in organizations that create measurable social and environmental impacts. Her job involves raising capital from a variety of investors, ensuring Calvert’s loan portfolio is sufficiently capitalized, and structuring loan syndication transactions for high-impact organizations.

She points to an affordable housing development that provides wrap-around services like daycare and employment training as an example of the type of investment her organization makes. It also invests in small businesses, lenders and funds that make an impact through financing the deployment of solar panels to off-grid communities in Africa.

At Esperanza, Jodi is making a difference via leadership across a broad portfolio of programs and interventions designed to transform conditions of economic poverty in low-income communities.

Jodi came to Wharton to “address community economic development and poverty alleviation efforts with the level of sophistication they deserve in terms of business approaches. I knew that Wharton would provide the level of rigor I needed to take my own – and my company’s – critical analysis to the next level.”

She added: “Nonprofits need to learn how to incorporate the tools and methodologies of the business world in their approaches to solving social problems, wherever possible and appropriate. We need to learn how to develop more diverse and nontraditional revenue streams, invest money in smarter ways, better quantify our impact evaluation, and make decisions based on data.”

At Wharton, she gained that knowledge and more. “My horizons were broadened in terms of understanding the approaches to effective social impact, whether achieved through nonprofits or other means.”

Katherine also came to Wharton’s EMBA program to gain business knowledge. Having recently transitioned into the impact investing space, she wanted to learn “hard finance skills” to accelerate her career.

Katherine said it was “definitely worthwhile. Wharton fostered my interests in this space and I learned tangible skills that are directly related to my job in impact investing, especially in advanced finance classes like corporate valuation. Impact investing doesn’t have a roadmap so having a good understanding of how traditional markets work makes it easier to translate into the impact space.”

She adds that Wharton also offers extracurricular activities for students interested in social impact like the ability to help plan the Wharton Social Impact Conference. “The School is clearly a thought leader in this area, bringing industry leaders, faculty and students together – and providing financial support to graduates committed to making an impact.”

Meghan Laska

Posted: February 15, 2018

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