Stepping out of the Bubble

The flexibility of the Penn curriculum has enabled me to focus my studies on subjects that I did not anticipate. I choose courses from both the College of Arts & Sciences and Wharton and have them count toward graduation requirements. Within my Wharton work, Operations and Information Management (OPIM) is my primary concentration, but I am also pursuing a secondary concentration in Social Impact and Responsibility.

I grew up in a home that placed great importance on contributing positively to the community and world that we live in, and I’ve wanted to effect social change for as long as I remember. Any such passion can be combined with a chosen career path, and that’s exactly what I intend to do in the long run. Thankfully, Wharton has a program that encourages and provides opportunities for interested students: the Wharton Social Impact Initiative (WSII).

It’s great to see more of my peers on campus leaning in this direction, with many of them involved in various social impact clubs on campus, such as Social Impact Consulting Group, Penn Social Entrepreneurship Mentoring, Penn Microfinance or Penn International Business Volunteers.

Last summer, I was one of roughly 15 Philadelphia-based Social Impact Summer Associates, interns who were placed with various nonprofits or social enterprises in Philadelphia, with more based around the world, and who were paid by the WSII. I worked with the Enterprise Center, a nonprofit that provides access to capital, building capacity, business education and economic development opportunities to high-potential minority entrepreneurs. Its portfolio of business acceleration initiatives seeks to better position minority enterprises to compete in the local, regional and global economies.

The Enterprise Center has a long history with Wharton. It was founded in 1989 by the Wharton Small Business Development Center (SBDC) when a Wharton MBA candidate and SBDC consultant realized that local small businesses needed a comprehensive support system in which to incubate and grow. I was one of three WSII summer interns (and four Penn students overall), and two of us had recent Wharton graduates as supervisors.

My time at the Enterprise Center was educational and inspiring. The working environment was energetic and collaborative.

Most importantly, however, it taught me how easy but important it is for us to be active in the Philadelphia community at large. We Penn students live here for four years, but many of us stick within the Penn bubble—at least when food is not concerned. There are so many ways for us to get involved and help to better the community in which we live, and I am grateful that WSII gave me the opportunity to do just that.

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