Student Profile: Social Enterprise
Giovanna Masci '08
Coleader, Global Social Enterprise and Economic Development Clubs
Post-MBA position: Kiva
I've been interested since high school in issues of economic development and poverty alleviation, specifically in Latin America. I to went Yale as an undergrad and majored in economics. I got interested in microfinance specifically, and after college I went to work for an organization called Acción New York, which provides small loans to small business owners in New York and New Jersey. There were people at Acción with MBAs, and I saw the benefit that they provided to the organization because of the way that they approached problems. I also felt that many economic development organizations could benefit from the business training of an MBA.
When I started looking at MBA programs, Yale was not at the top of my list. I thought that since I'd been there before. I should try something else. But as I was looking at schools, I found that my interview at Yale was the only one where it wasn't an uphill battle explaining why my background was relevant for an MBA. It became clear to me that this was the right fit.
I didn't really get the new curriculum until I came for Welcome Weekend, when I got to see what a big step it was. Listening to faculty speakers and hearing about the ideas behind the change, it became much more clear and much more exciting. The interdisciplinary aspect was something I'd always been interested in — to me that was what microfinance represented within the world of economic development: this idea of bringing business tools to the social sector.
The new curriculum was exciting because it was something new for us, but the really cool part was that it was new for the faculty. There was this energy. I remember Art Swersey, before class, giving a five-minute monologue about how amazing this was and how the school was going places, and how he was really excited about it. There was a sense of community - that we're all in this together.
The core did a really good job of bringing things together and being interdisciplinary. We could really tell that the professors were talking to each other. They knew that in State and Society we had talked about the Merck case in one way, so they would bring it up in Customer and say, "Okay, you talked about Merck in this way, but how does it relate to this course?" I learned a lot more that way.
I'm in the Global Social Enterprise Club, which does pro bono consulting for nonprofits in developing countries. My project during my first year was with an organization that does youth empowerment in the slums of Rio. They work with youth and try to get them involved in cultural activities from their Afro-Brazilian background so they don't get involved in the drug trade. They came to us saying that they wanted to start a microfinance program.
It turned out that they really didn't have the capability to start a microfinance program. But we helped them create a pilot program to get the youth interested in entrepreneurship. We helped them think about what they could do that would help kids be economically self-sufficient outside of the drug trade.
In looking at this organization I was able to apply many of the skills I picked up in the curriculum. The curriculum helped me to think about questions like, What is the mission of this organization? What are strategies that they could implement that make sense to achieve that mission? Is the organizational structure there to support that? I was able to think differently because I had been taught in an interdisciplinary way; I wasn't just thinking of pieces in isolation, but really approaching the problem from a lot of different angles.
Interviewed on March 26, 2008.