Meet the Ross students, including a +LAB fellow, out to prove that business can change the world

July 19, 2017

As a recent alum, Praveen Loganathan, BBA ‘17, is very familiar with Michigan Ross’ emphasis on using business to make a positive change in society. Instead of waiting until he graduated to do that, he and several other students began the work their junior year, launching the Change Agents Internship Program. Created for students, by students, Change Agents is an organization designed for Ross BBAs interested in careers related to social impact.

Students participate in a one-week orientation, followed by a nine-week summer internship with a social impact organization. During the orientation, they engage in networking sessions, volunteerism, presentations, and hands-on activities and are tasked with four goals: lead with empathy, innovate with passion, explore with confidence, and learn with excitement.

Richard Nguyen found out about the organization after meeting Loganathan in the Preparation Initiative (PI), an outreach program for BBA students. He says the orientation helped him express his complete self.

“It’s a group where it’s ok to be yourself and not fit inside a box,” said Nguyen. “Professionally, I think it helped me feel like I can impact the world and do something bigger than myself. Hopefully, it will allow others to continue the road of impact.”

This year, nine of the 19 students were selected to work among four companies, Focus:HOPE, Spellbound, DC3, and a special impact consulting project that’s working with several clients including the YMCA and The Entrepreneurship Center at Washtenaw Community College (WCC). Change Agents has partnered with the Center for Social Impact, which provides each student with a stipend since the internships are unpaid.

Loganathan, who is now working for the Peace Corps in Botswana, notices that an increasing number of students are interested in social impact, but many are hesitant to turn it into a career because they believe internships and jobs in social impact are hard to come by for business students.

“A lot of times people think, ‘Oh, I have to work a few years in consulting, and then I’ll be able to have my dream job in the impact space,” says Loganathan. “I was like, no, if you work on projects throughout your junior and senior year, then by the time you get to senior year, impact companies will come and find you.”

BBA junior Avantika Tiwari agrees. She and Nguyen are currently business development interns at Spellbound, a startup that makes augmented reality technology for children undergoing medical treatment. She’s interested in getting more women into the gaming industry and her intern experience this summer will help greatly.

“Change Agents was able to place me with an organization that is in line with my goals and interests,” said Tiwari. “This is a support group and a home for people that feel like maybe they don’t want to pursue a traditional business career, but know a cause they’re absolutely passionate about.”

Charlene Franke, +LAB fellow at the Center for Positive Organizations and BBA junior, is interning at Detroit Creative Corridor (DC3) in Detroit, an organization focused on increasing equality and inclusivity through the creative economy. She is creating an exhibit for the second annual Detroit City of Design Summit in September, and helping to redesign DC3’s designer network. Charlene’s long-term career goal is to provide economic opportunities to small business entrepreneurs in low-income and minority communities. She says her experience interning at DC3 is giving her the experience she may not have otherwise received before she graduates.

“One more great thing about Change Agents is that it shows business school students that there are ways to have professional growth and experiences outside of the traditional business job route,” said Franke. “You can get caught up in that rush recruiting for corporate finance and corporate consulting. These other jobs do exist and you don’t have to wait four years or more to get involved.”

For Loganathan, aside from the internships, Change Agents is about transforming the culture in a positive way. What began as a pure concept has now become a group of more than 50 students and counting.

“Change Agents was created out of an opportunity of helping business students use the concepts they’re learning in the classroom and principles of business to make an impact in society,” said Loganathan. “I hope that as students enter Ross, they have opportunities to find out what they truly want to do. Change Agents provides a space where you’re pushing each other to learn and take risks.”

This article was originally published in Ross News Blog