Do business interests have to conflict with those of the public good? In light of recent corporate scandal, greed, and corruption, I frequently ask myself this question. As a Social Enterprise major at Kellogg, I believe it is a firm no, but we future business leaders can do more to be better citizens.
The desire to study socially responsible business lured me to Kellogg–while several MBA programs provide students with advanced management skills and functional knowledge, Kellogg’s Public-Private Initiative (KPPI) provides a socially-conscious MBA curriculum. Understanding the responsibility that comes with the power of leading major institutions, Northwestern’s faculty encourages its students to consider the social impact of the challenges and opportunities presented by an ever-changing, inter-connected world.
The intersection between business and policy fascinates me, particularly how both can work together to shape people’s lives. The Health and Human Rights course through KPPI was an opportunity for me to focus on public health, a crucible for public-private conflict and partnership. The course’s readings and lecture components focused on international health issues and the policies, programs, and business initiatives to combat them. In parallel, we worked in groups on research projects to address public health issues for the town of Douentza, Mali, taking our macro content knowledge of public health and implementing it at a micro level.
The course’s project in Mali was an opportunity to pool the wealth of resources from Northwestern and its partner organization, the Near East Foundation (NEF), to implement health initiatives in limited-resource environment. I was eager to test and implement my management and professional skills in a setting that could have such a profound social impact. In a corporate setting, change management and quality of life issues were rarely matters of life and death. With this project, I jumped at the opportunity to implement changes with such gravity, but I also hoped to bring those experiences back with me, allowing them to influence my decision-making as a more socially responsible and compassionate manager.
I was fortunate enough to travel with a group of students to Douentza, Mali, to conduct a project gap analysis with our NEF counterparts, seeing in person where our research fell short and where our public health interventions could have a lasting, powerful impact.
Finally, this trip and this project would not be possible without the resources and dedication of Northwestern University, its dedicated faculty advisors, Juliet Sorensen and Karin Ulstrup, the Near East Foundation, and the members of our project’s Community Advisory Board in Douentza. Thank you.
Annie Conderacci is a Kellogg MBA student.
This article originally appeared on the Northwestern Public Health Review blog, available at http://blog.nphr.org.