In 2012, Christina Hachikian took a job launching a new initiative focused on social impact at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, intrigued by the idea of building something for the world’s next generation of socially and environmentally minded business and civic leaders. 

As founding executive director, Hachikian, AB ’02, MBA ’07, helped launch the Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation as a place where alumni, students, faculty, and business and nonprofit leaders could find community and jointly aspire to create positive change on the issues they care about. With the research center thriving and social impact now permanently woven into Chicago Booth’s DNA, Hachikian will transition from her post as the center’s executive director in July to a full-time clinical faculty role at Booth.

Rob Gertner, the John Edwardson Faculty Director of the Rustandy Center and Joel F. Gemunder Professor of Strategy and Finance, and Marianne Bertrand, Rustandy Center faculty director and Chris P. Dialynas Distinguished Service Professor of Economics, have announced that Caroline Grossman, ’03, the Rustandy Center’s senior director of programs and global initiatives, will be the new executive director of the Rustandy Center, effective July 1. Hachikian will continue teaching courses focused on scaling innovation in the social sector, social entrepreneurship, social impact sector strategy and management, and more.

“Our goal from the beginning was to ensure that social impact was an intractable part of Chicago Booth’s identity,” Hachikian said, “and not be seen as a small island of do-gooders doing good for good’s sake. Our intention was to approach social and environmental impact with the same rigor and discipline the business school brings to everything it does,” Hachikian said.

Eight years later, the Rustandy Center has funded 30 social impact research projects worldwide; jump-started more than 100 nonprofits and for-profit ventures through the John Edwardson, ’72, Social New Venture Challenge that went on to raise more than $35 million in funding; and helped 175 Booth alumni join nonprofit boards, among many other impact activities. The Rustandy Center, which used to support two social impact courses at Booth, now supports eight, and the business school has been recognized for its “best in class social research” by The Financial Times.

In her new role as executive director, Grossman brings experience from across all Rustandy Center areas of programming and research. She has led efforts to pursue research partnerships, driven student and alumni engagement across the University of Chicago, and developed strong relationships across Booth, the university, and the social sector ecosystem in Chicago and beyond. She has a knack for identifying timely topics and bringing them to campus via events or programs, most recently leading the center’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and helping to marshal student volunteers. Soon, the center will also offer a new summer speaker series featuring social sector leaders and ways they’re tackling pressing challenges like diversity and inclusion.

“Caroline Grossman has been at Booth for over a decade and, since joining the center five years ago, has been instrumental in the center’s success,” Rob Gertner said. “She has a penchant for research, a pulse on the ever-changing social sector, and a vision for taking the global center to the next level. We are confident Caroline will step up to lead the center into the future.”

Booth students and recent alumni might know Grossman from the classroom. As an adjunct assistant professor of strategy, she designed and teaches two courses: the Global Social Impact Practicum and the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Social Impact Practicum.

Beyond Booth, Grossman has extensive experience as an educator and business leader, teaching at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and DePaul University, and in brand management at Kraft Foods Inc. She’s also served on the nonprofit board at North Lawndale College Preparatory School and is board member emeritus and past board president of the Playmakers Laboratory Theater. Grossman is a 2003 graduate of Booth’s Full-Time MBA Program and holds a BA in history from Yale University.

“Amid these turbulent times, the Rustandy Center’s work is more important than ever,” Grossman said. “Students across the University of Chicago crave finding innovative ways to create impact in the world, whether that’s in sustainability-focused careers, as aspiring social entrepreneurs or impact investors, as civic leaders, or tackling diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. At the same time, the Rustandy Center also enables faculty to do research on timely topics like COVID-19 that can equip policy and decision makers with real-time data on social and economic impacts.”

Hachikian said she’s excited for what the leadership change means for the center’s future, and she’s forever grateful for those who worked with and supported the center to create something with more impact than she could have imagined eight years ago.

“It has been my true honor to contribute to the school in this way, and I look forward to continuing to be a part of the social impact community at Chicago Booth,” she said. “I want to thank everyone who believed in and supported this scrappy startup that has grown into something truly amazing.”

About the Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation

The Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation is the destination at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business for people committed to helping solve complex social and environmental problems. As Chicago Booth’s social impact hub, the Rustandy Center offers hands-on learning opportunities, supports innovative courses, and pursues research—all with the goal of developing people and practices with the potential to solve the world’s biggest problems. More information here.

A Snapshot of Rustandy Center Impact

  • Convened hundreds of business and nonprofit leaders at events on Booth’s campuses in Chicago, London, Hong Kong, and beyond
  • Matched 58 students with Chicago nonprofits, government agencies, and social enterprises through the new Booth COVID-19 Volunteers program
  • Launched the student-led $1 million Steven Tarrson Impact Investment Fund to strengthen impact investing experiential learning opportunities
  • Partnered with Booth on the expansion of its Civic Scholars Program, which offers full-and partial-tuition scholarships to social sector students and equips them with business fundamentals, evidence from research, and practical experience to bolster the sector
  • Celebrated 10-year anniversary of the John Edwardson, ’72, Social New Venture Challenge (SNVC), which has jump-started more than 100 nonprofit and for-profit ventures that went on to raise more than $35 million in funding
  • Engaged hundreds of Booth students in its growing “Perspectives in…” event series that tackles topics including impact investing, sustainability, social entrepreneurship, and philanthropy
  • Grew the number of industry experts in residence from two to seven, including new mentors for MBA students interested in exploring careers in health care, social entrepreneurship, civic impact, and philanthropy

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