Nduka Nwankwo, WG’19, plans to use the skills he cultivated as a Lipman fellow to drive new projects for the Prize, which awards organizations for outstanding achievements in the social sector every year.

Nduka Nwankwo, WG’19, will tell you: “So much of innovation is iteration. I learned from writing a novel in undergrad that every first draft is bad. Sometimes, only one line survives — but that one line makes all the difference to the final work.”

It’s only fitting that Nduka, a second-year MBA student studying finance at the Wharton School, has iterated upon his experience as a fellow and is now serving as a graduate assistant for the Lipman Family Prize, an annual global award that celebrates social impact leadership and innovation. 

An Education in Nonprofits and Diversity

When he was a first-year MBA student, Nduka became interested in the Lipman Fellows program because it was “an opportunity to spend a year studying nonprofits in the way one spends time studying business.” He had previously served as the board treasurer of a nonprofit in Oakland, CA, but struggled to find time to understand the organization’s sector and model.

Lipman Family Prize Fellows support the selection of the prize finalist, developing their leadership skills while learning about the social sector and working with a multidisciplinary team recruited from various schools at Penn. The Lipman fellowship was a perfect opportunity for Nduka to dive deep into nonprofit models. Equally important, it gave him space to work on his leadership development through self-reflection and feedback from peers, as well as tackle problems with teammates from different academic and professional backgrounds. Bringing all of these perspectives to the table, Nduka said, was “a microcosm of what a Wharton education is.”

Working within a diverse learning community has helped him better appreciate of the value of different work styles. “Now I see, even in a fast-paced environment, a lot of value in being slow and counter-cyclical. It’s about pausing, and getting everyone’s ideas to the table, because if you have a diverse team but can’t get ideas to the table, you still lose.” Nduka learned to pause by acknowledging his tendency to speak first and changing his behavior to let others speak before him. As a result, he’s improved at harnessing the power of diverse teams, while gaining extra time to internally workshop his own ideas before sharing with the group.

New Contributions to the Prize Community

As he entered his second year at Wharton, Nduka decided he wanted to lean into his personal development. Once again, he saw the Lipman Prize as the perfect place to continue that work. As a graduate assistant, he hopes to strengthen his ability to see a project through its full lifecycle, and to drive with Lipman fellow alumni, honoree organizations, and current fellows.

One example of a project he’s working on is the development of a comprehensive alumni engagement strategy. In the future, he also wants to design new ways to connect honoree organizations to new opportunities.

To Nduka, his ongoing service to the Lipman Prize is both a capstone to his Wharton experience and a launching pad for his future career in business and as a nonprofit board member.

— Mariah Casias

Posted: October 26, 2018

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