Doing Well and Doing Good
“I’m really making the most of my education,” Alexander Hovani ’06 says about his new job. Thanks in part to SOM’s Loan Forgiveness Program, Hovani is working at the Nature Conservancy, launching a new effort to allow developing nations to get carbon-reduction credits for slowing deforestation.
When Hovani arrived at Yale for a joint degree program at the School of Management and the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, he says, “I wanted to get started in a career that focused on environmental sustainability as well as poverty reduction and community development.”
While at Yale, Hovani met Bill Ginn, director of the Nature Conservancy’s Global Forest Partnership. After the two met again, Ginn offered Hovani a newly created position, doing “exactly what I wanted to be doing.”
Hovani would not have been able to accept the job, however, without the Loan Forgiveness Program, which makes all student loan payments for alumni working in nonprofit or government jobs and making less than $70,000, and a portion of payments for those above that income threshold.
“I had three years’ worth of tuition and living expenses that I had paid for largely with loans,” Hovani says. “Having to pay that back entirely would have put me in a very different frame of mind when thinking about my options.”
Hovani is one of four recent graduates newly accepted into the Loan Forgiveness Program. The others, all members of the class of 2006, are Amy Blankson, Rochelle Mackey, and Keiva Dennis. Created in 1986 with funds donated by Rod Correll ’85 and Peter Quesada ’85 and later endowed by the classes of 1978 and 1979, the program has assisted more than 300 alumni, disbursing more than $750,000.
When Dennis was looking for a job, she says, “I didn’t want to be limited by salary considerations. The Loan Forgiveness Program allowed me to expand the number of employers and the number of opportunities that I was looking at.” In the end, Dennis found a position as a loan officer for the National Housing Trust Development Fund, which lends money to nonprofit developers.
“My job entails evaluating various nonprofits to determine whether or not they’re good candidates for receiving the funds, whether or not they have the financing to complete the project,” she says. “And then the strategic side of my job is figuring out how to build upon what we already have here, trying to find low-cost ways of capitalizing the fund and making it into something bigger and better.”
Both aspects of the position draw upon Dennis’s experience at SOM. Finance courses taught her to evaluate the financial statements of the nonprofits she deals with. And as she looks at the long term, she says, “I’ve been able to capitalize on my SOM training in thinking strategically. I will need to devise ways in which to take the fund from where it is today to where it needs to be.”
Blankson came to SOM after working for youth development and foster care organizations. “I came to business school specifically to learn how to run an organization more effectively,” she says. “A lot of nonprofits have sloppy business practices that are not a good use of public dollars. I wanted to be able to use the public dollars more effectively and efficiently and help more young people in the process.”
She is now executive director of Friends of the Portsmouth Juvenile Court, an organization in southeastern Virginia that provides mentors and court-appointed advocates for troubled teenagers — those already in the legal system and those at risk for becoming involved. “It’s an adolescent organization,” she says. “We’re trying to dig down deeper roots in the community and to become more developed in terms of strategic planning and development.”
“I don’t think that I would have been able to have as much flexibility in the types of jobs that I was looking for had it not been for loan forgiveness,” she says. “I probably would have still looked for something in the nonprofit sector but now I’m actually doing something I want. I could afford to work for a little bit less because I didn’t have to cover so many of my loans. It was such a huge relief.”
Mackey is also working with young people, serving as associate director of programs at the Children’s Bureau of Southern California in Los Angeles. The 100-year-old Los Angeles organization works to prevent the abuse or neglect of children, through foster care, adoption, and other services.
“My role is to work on their programming,” she says. “That includes resolving problems, evaluating opportunities for expansion, or evaluating changes in programs. And it’s dealing with everything from staffing to finances.”
For Mackey, SOM was part of a process that led her from her previous field — consulting — to children’s welfare work. “I really wanted to focus more on social services and children’s services in particular,” she says, so she went to work for the department of social services in Alexandria, Virginia. But that job mostly consisted of employment work. “That basically fed into my wanting to go back to school and switch fully into that field and really focus on child services.”
When she applied to SOM, Mackey intended to start a new organization. At the school, she says, “I did a lot of consulting projects, and my two summer internships both had to do in various ways with child welfare. I decided that I wanted to take on a role within a larger organization and work to improve what they’re doing instead of starting something new.”
As she searched for the right organization, the loan forgiveness program reduced the pressure to find a high-paying job, Mackey says. “It made me feel free to take the job that I really thought was the right job for me.”
But even more importantly, she points out, the program “liberated me to take the job that will allow me to have the most impact.”