Net Impact Gold Chapter at USF Growing for Good
USF’s Net Impact Gold Chapter has reached a record number of students, with over 28 participants at this year’s launch session. Poised for growth, the Graduate Student Senate recently approved the School of Management MBA club to be open to all graduate students at USF.
Net Impact is a nationwide nonprofit organization that empowers student-run chapters, job seekers, and business professionals to use their careers to drive transformational change in the workplace and the world. The USF chapter has chosen to narrow their focus to sustainability and resource recovery. “We get invited to participate in clean-ups and other sustainability focused events. This is where the networking naturally happens,” said Max Wechsler, former USF Chapter President and MBA student. “We can meet people in our field, with our interests, while we work toward mutual goals.”
The new development in the club’s status gives benefits, such as university funds to cover activities like going to the Net Impact Conference. It also boosts the club’s exposure on the USF website and allows for undergraduate members. “This is great,” Wechsler said, “Because Net Impact is essentially a networking opportunity.”
MBA student Mackenzie O’Donnell says the club has taught her how to be creative when it comes to problem solving and making connections. “Net Impact has reshaped my views and showed me people need to work together using the tools they’ve been given to provide tangible results. It was an opportunity to work with like-minded people and come to a consensus. There were no wrong answers.”
The organization’s opportunities do not stop at the university level, as members have the chance to move to a professional chapter after graduation. “The club is one of the most active on campus, it is always progressing and a very valuable experience. It goes beyond the university and into the rest of your life,” Wechsler said.
Eight club members and MBA students had the opportunity to attend the “Breaking Boundaries” 2014 Net Impact Conference in Minneapolis, representing one of the largest contingents from any university. The students networked with colleagues from over 300 universities, participated in learning sessions, and listened to keynote speakers, all as an opportunity to further their potential careers.
“If you can, imagine a place where everyone is working together to fight poverty, solve inequality problems, and to protect the planet,” said M. Fernanda Lopez Ornelas, a graduate student in Environmental Management, “that’s how I lived during the weekend of Net Impact.”
The annual conference is in its 22nd year and invites chapters from the Net Impact community to connect over their shared mission to work toward a more sustainable future.
“Attending the conference opened my eyes to how much taking myself more seriously as a young person can make an impact,” said O’Donnell. “We can be seen as more than the youth generation; we can be seen as a generation that’s making a difference.”
The attendees heard from keynote speakers such as Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, and Dan Pallotta, Founder and President of Advertising for Humanity and Charity Defense Council. Wechsler was particularly impressed with Temple Grandin, a woman who has autism, yet has made great leaps in agricultural science. “The theme of the conference was breaking boundaries and she definitely has done that,” Wechsler said. “She was engaging and informative.”
Students were also able to partake in boot camps, workshops and mentor office hours.
Gabriela Alessio Robles Orozco, MBA ’16 and Net Impact Club member, said she particularly enjoyed the workshop element of the conference.
“I took one workshop on the possibilities of technology serving those who earn less than three dollars a day,” said Orozco. “I was thrilled to be able to casually chat with two amazing people who are revolutionizing light supply for people who are not on the grid.”
USF professor and club advisor Jennifer Walske also moderated a session titled, “How to Fund Your Social Venture,” with panelists from Indiegogo, IMNPACT Angels, and Chapul, a social enterprise funded recently by the entrepreneurship-focused television show Shark Tank. “(Walske) has a no-frills attitude,” said O’Donnell. “At the panel, she kept things lively and asked heartfelt questions. There wasn’t a dull moment. She’s very valuable to have as our advisor because she is well-connected.”
For Wechsler, the highlight of the conference was getting to see so many people interested in topics similar to his own professional interests.“There were too many good events going on simultaneously,” he said. “That is what I call a good problem.”
Net Impact promises to keep growing at USF with events like the Women in Finance meeting at the downtown campus on Feb. 19, 6-9:30 pm, and a push by club members to bring even more students to the 2015 conference.