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Civic Scholars

Kelly Jones, Evening MBA, Chief Investment and Strategy Officer, A Better Chicago

Troy Groenke, Weekend MBA, Director, Development at Wallin Partners

Aleena Agrawal, Weekend MBA, Director of Talent Solutions, P33 Chicago

 

Why did you choose to join Booth's Civic Scholars Program?

Kelly: I have worked in the nonprofit sector for over 13 years and have gained invaluable first-hand experience. Over the past few years though, I reached a point where I craved a more rigorous and direct approach to learning to expand my impact and abilities. Earning an MBA has always intrigued me because it provides such a practical and multi-faceted tool kit. When I began researching options that would provide me a world-class education while embracing my nonprofit background, I found surprisingly few options that met my needs. I felt I had to choose between watered-down programs focused on nonprofit leaders or navigating a rigorous MBA on my own. Booth's Civic Scholars Program offers a truly unique opportunity to study with some of the greatest minds in business while participating in a community whose professional experiences and challenges are similar to my own, and I am so grateful to be part of it!

"The Civic Scholars Program is a holistic support system disguised as a scholarship. You get the rigor and stretch of a Booth MBA, combined with a deep roster of professors, community leaders, students, and alumni all pulling together to bridge the spaces between profit and purpose and drive change for the common good."

— Troy Groenke

Troy: The Civic Scholars Program is a holistic support system disguised as a scholarship. You get the rigor and stretch of a Booth MBA, combined with a deep roster of professors, community leaders, students, and alumni all pulling together to bridge the spaces between profit and purpose and drive change for the common good. 

Aleena: I joined Booth's Civic Scholar Program for its unique emphasis on analytical rigor paired with a drive for social impact. I felt that I fit in with the students in the program—which was significant, because I did not feel that way in  other, more traditional MBA student groups. 

I had always had aspirations to go to business school, but I was convinced I had to abandon part of my social impact background in order to be a viable candidate or to fit in with fellow students. The Civic Scholars Program showed me that this wasn't at all the case. In fact, my approach to business and social sector issues could be strengthened by one another to enact positive change in new and exciting ways.

What impact has it made on your career? What learnings have you been able to apply in your job?

Kelly: While I'm still quite early in my time at Booth, I am able to apply practical learnings to my work daily. For example, one of the first classes I took was focused on making better decisions. As the head of strategy and investments at my organization, I make decisions that impact my team, our donors, our grantees, and our overall impact daily. The frameworks and tools I was provided to examine my own biases have allowed me to step back and make better decisions and coach those around me to do the same. I have a much stronger awareness of the links between different parts of the social sector through the community I've built with my fellow Neubauer Civic Scholars, and between different sectors more broadly through conversation and connection with other students. This awareness is helping me see my work through a new lens. 

"I had always had aspirations to go to business school, but I was convinced I had to abandon part of my social impact background in order to be a viable candidate or to fit in with fellow students. The Civic Scholars Program showed me that this wasn't at all the case."

— Aleena Agrawal

Troy: I began my MBA thinking Booth would help me find the right answers. Instead, and much more powerfully, it's teaching me to ask the right questions. 

Aleena: The Civic Scholars Program has already had a huge impact on my career, even though I am just halfway through it. I've picked up new tools, frameworks, and skills that made me much more effective and creative in my role. Sometimes it's a fairly direct application (like a new way to define our organization's marketing strategy) and other times it's much more conceptual (like how asymmetric information and signaling effects could impact a talent marketplace).

Not only that, but I believe that my perspective has grown substantially to better understand the  ecosystem in which I work. I've used this to transition into a new organization that aligns more closely with my interests and allows me to make an impact on workforce development solutions on a systemic level while focusing on the future of Chicago. All of my new learnings enabled me to immediately add value in this new role, and I'm very excited to see what we can accomplish moving forward. 

"When I began researching options that would provide me a world-class education while embracing my nonprofit background, I found surprisingly few options that met my needs...Booth's Civic Scholars Program offers a truly unique opportunity to study with some of the greatest minds in business while participating in a community whose professional experiences and challenges are similar to my own."

— Kelly Jones

What have you enjoyed about the program?

Kelly: I knew that I would be in good company by joining the Civic Scholars Program, but I have truly been blown away by the intelligence, passion, and thoughtfulness of my peers. My fellow scholars are truly brilliant, and I know that I am going to be a better leader and human because I get to be in a community with them!

Troy: I wish everyone could see what I get to see every day—hundreds of students and professors challenging each other's worldview to learn and grow as leaders. More than anything, I have enjoyed the diversity of perspectives represented at Booth. Reaping the benefits of diversity takes listening; it takes patience; it takes intentionality. But it gives the opportunity to think broadly, share in breakthrough moments, and more fully live your values. 

Aleena: I've truly enjoyed getting to know my peers and going through this journey together, particularly in the harrowing times of 2020. With so much uncertainty and volatility in today's world, making sure our systems are set up so that every person can prosper is vital. That is by no means an easy task. I am in awe of how much fellow Neubauer Civic Scholars have been doing to further the ideals of an equitable society, and I am honored to count myself among them. Because of them, I know I have a group of people who share similar beliefs, act as a support system, and constantly push me to be a stronger advocate for inclusivity—what more could you ask for? 

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