Learn about the new +Impact Studio Course from a Student who Already Took It

During the Winter 2019 pilot course of +Impact Studio: Translating Research into Practice (BA670), we sat down with student Sheela Lal (MBA ’19) to talk about her experiences in the class, tackling the wicked problem of lead service lines in Flint. This work drew on Ross Professor Eric Schwartz’s machine-learning algorithm—using municipal and other data to determine which houses are likely to have lead pipes. Future classes will continue Sheela’s work and introduce the next big question: how can we help the financially precarious or unbanked accomplish necessary financial transactions in society?

What new or fresh discovery have you made from this course?

The way the course is designed allows the students to think about problems week-over-week, and over the course of twelve as opposed to six weeks so that they really think about it. The way that I’m learning and digesting information is subtly changing over that period. I know that I am perceiving problems from a more structured, wicked problem perspective, so I know that a lot of the big problems that we face in this world are caused by many different vectors. But I’m learning how to be able to silo them in ways that are more effective, and then bring them back together in order think of better solutions.

What do you get from working with students from other disciplines?

Working with students from other disciplines is probably my favorite part of the class. I get to learn from students who think differently than I do and who have been trained academically to look at a problem a different way. For a university that has so many brilliant students—hundreds of the graduate programs are in the top ten—this is an opportunity for me to actually tap into that knowledge and talent

In the process of your class work, what did you learn about Flint?

So I come from an interdisciplinary background, and I’ve worked in politics a bit, so understanding the Flint water crisis wasn’t totally new to me, but I have actively been learning about just what happened when GM left, how many black folks moved up to Michigan from the deep south, and then many white folks followed and tried to establish wealth on top of that. It was incredibly surprising to me that when GM closed down their factories in Flint, ninety percent of the wealth left as well. So what differences occur in a place that’s been so reliant on one employer as opposed to a place like Grand Rapids where there was more economic diversity to keep the city afloat? I’ll be moving to Detroit after I’m done with school, and I constantly think about who all of the new development is for, how it is held up as a model, while at the same time thinking about Flint and understanding what recovery should and shouldn’t look like.

How will the knowledge gained from this class apply to a future career?

I’m going into human capital consulting after I’m done with my MBA, and this class has illuminated for me just how long-term design thinking strategies can be used in understanding the human condition while trying to find a solution that works for actual individuals. On the personal side, I am working with a lot of really great Asian-American women in the Detroit metro area to start an organization called Rising Voices—aimed at helping Asian-American families throughout the state of Michigan advocate for themselves politically at the local state and federal level. We’ve already integrated some design thinking principles in the listening sessions. Before we even start the organization, we want to ensure that this is an organization that can actually add value as opposed to just extracting money from funders.

Base of the Pyramid Article by Ross Professor featured in SSIR

A newly published article, co-authored by Ted London of the Ross School of Business and Urs Jager of INCAE, appears in the summer edition of the Stanford Social Innovation Review and focuses on co-creating in low-income markets.  The article, titled “Cocreating with the Base of the Pyramid,” focuses on the mistake companies make in transferring assets from higher-income markets to fill perceived gaps. They should instead look to partner with those who live in these emerging markets and identify the assets already available there.


“Working Toward A Shared Prosperity” Named to Innovations that Inspire

Hear Eight Short Talks About the Future of Society from Some of the Smartest People at U-M

Hear eight lightning talks from the “Working Toward Shared Prosperity” event, where professors from across U-M and academics around the world gathered to discuss the future role of business in society.


Working Toward Shared Prosperity: An Academic-Executive Dialogue,” which was held at the Ross School of Business in October of 2018, was recently selected as a 2019 Innovations That Inspire by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).

As described by AACSB, “Business schools are change-agents, creating environments where out-of-the-box thinking thrives. Through Innovations That Inspire, AACSB highlights ways that business schools—within its greater Business Education Alliance—are globally transforming the face of higher education.”

In partnership with the Aspen Institute’s Business & Society Program, Business+Impact at Michigan Ross organized “Working Toward Shared Prosperity” as a dialogue among academics and practitioners in business, labor, government, and nonprofits to translate research findings about employment and prosperity into useful insights for practice.

Working Toward Shared Prosperity accomplished a number of innovative aims. These include challenging researchers to think through the practical implications of their work for business, labor, and policy, and to convey them without jargon, PowerPoint presentations, or regression tables; creating an exemplar of what collaborative translation can look like; and leaving participants with useful insights for teaching and for management.

Read more about Working Toward Shared Prosperity and why AACSB recognized it among this year’s Innovations That Inspire here.

Give-A-Day Fund – Supporting MBAs Who Want to Have an Impact

2019 Give-A-Day Fund Interns

The majority of MBA funds we provide for summer impact internships are donations made by members of the prior MBA class through the student-led Give-A-Day Fund. Members of the MBA class donate a day of their regular salary in order to support those who have pursued social impact internships. A student board manages the fund and runs the fundraising process. Below is a list of recipients and where they will be working this summer.

MBAs who Received Give-A-Day Funds

Katherine Cunningham – EDF+Business – Sustainable Food Supply Chain Internship – New York, NY

Leah Gustafson – Agriculture Capital – San Francisco, CA

Kyle Jarrett – The Cattellyst Foundation – Ann Arbor, MI

Yunhee Jung – On-Demand Specimen Transport System for Medical Laboratory Testing – Ann Arbor, MI

Pooja Kumar – Environmental Defense Fund – New York, NY

Maggie Shannon – City of Detroit Mayor’s Office–Office of Mobility Innovation – Detroit, MI

Mingming Zhao working at the United Nations.

Sheetal Singh – Center for Financial Services Innovation – New York, NY

Brian Toll – Detroit Police Department – Detroit, MI

Mike Westcott – Hungry Harvest – Baltimore, MD

Mingming Zhao – United Nations – New York, NY

We Funded 21 Interns at Impact Orgs – Where Are They Now?

2019 Summer Fund Interns

Each summer, Business+Impact awards competitive grants for summer internships to MBAs and BBA juniors in the Ross School of Business as well as MPP students in the Ford School of Public Policy. Below is a list of recipients and where they will be working this summer.

Photo Album

Check out photos of impact summer interns Aaron Ngo, Sneha Yarlagadda, Sheetal Singh, Mingming Zhao, and Emily Blackmer at their internship locations this summer! 


Anurag Bolneni – Government of India, Million Sparks Foundation – New Delhi, India

Aaron Ngo – Opportunity Finance Network – Washington, D.C

Sneha Yarlagadda – BLUElab India Project – New Delhi, India


Katherine Cunningham – EDF+Business – Sustainable Food Supply Chain Internship – New York, NY

Leah Gustafson – Agriculture Capital – San Francisco, CA

Kyle Jarrett – The Cattellyst Foundation – Ann Arbor, MI

Yunhee Jung – On-Demand Specimen Transport System for Medical Laboratory Testing – Ann Arbor, MI

Pooja Kumar – Environmental Defense Fund – New York, NY

Maggie Shannon – City of Detroit Mayor’s Office–Office of Mobility Innovation – Detroit, MI

Sheetal Singh – Center for Financial Services Innovation – New York, NY

Brian Toll – Detroit Police Department – Detroit, MI

Mike Westcott – Hungry Harvest – Baltimore, MD

Mingming Zhao – United Nations – New York, NY


Emily Blackmer – National Forest Foundation – Missoula, MT

Joshua Childs – US Conference of Mayors – Washington, DC

Jonathan Espinoza – Michigan Organization for Adolescent Sexual Health (MOASH) – Ann Arbor, MI

Kevin Finnegan – City of Detroit, Mayor’s Office – Detroit, MI

Charles Kargman – Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice – Honolulu, Hawaii

Laura Milstead – City of Detroit, Mayor’s Office – Department of Innovation and Technology – Detroit, MI

Brandan Pierce – Boston Public Schools – Boston, MA

John Yim – World Relief – Chicago, IL

In addressing global health, one size does not fit all

by Tim Carter (MBA ’19)
“If you’ve been to one hospital in Nigeria… you’ve been to one hospital in Nigeria.”

This quote from the recent Unite for Sight Global Health & Innovation Conference that I attended at Yale University has stuck with me since returning to Ann Arbor. At the conference, I was given the opportunity to pitch a startup I have been helping launch during my time at Ross. The startup is called Advanced Innovative Medical Technologies, whose mission is to develop safe, easy-to-use, low-power, and affordable medical equipment to improve healthcare options for underserved groups on a global scale. The company has invented an ultra-low-cost ventilator designed to save the lives of infants with respiratory distress in low- and middle- income countries. While the conference was a great opportunity to pitch the startup and network with other like-minded professionals, I was also able to walk away with several key learnings that will help with not only scaling our startup, but future global engagement as well.

One size does not fit all

When developing solutions to global problems, it is easy to think that “one size fits all”. As alluded to in the opening quote, Often we visit a place once or twice and think we understand not only the local context, but the entire region as well. Worse yet, we may not even seek to understand the local context at all, or may assume the context is similar across the entire base of the pyramid. However, it is essential that any new product or concept is adapted to suit the local environment. Often, adaptations are needed not only country-to-country, but within countries as well.

Those closest to a problem are in the best position to solve it

Not only does one size not fit all, but unless a solution is developed either exclusively or in close collaboration with those impacted by the problem, the solution will not be sustainable. This theme reverberated throughout the conference as changemakers told stories of successes and failures they had while working to develop sustainable solutions to global health problems. When we do not incorporate the end-beneficiaries into the product or program design, not only will the solution be unsustainable, but it is also unlikely to achieve an impact in the short-term.

Remember that every cell phone comes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo

In a world that is becoming increasingly interconnected, it is surprising how often we forget that we are dependent on one another. The Democratic Republic of the Congo supplies more than half of the world’s cobalt, which is an essential ingredient in every cell phone. If it wasn’t for the miners in the Congo, we would not be able to send text messages and communicate with ease. The same rule applies to every area of life. When we achieve small gains in global health improvement, it is not one person or a group coming up with an “innovative idea” that solves a problem. Successes come through a collaboration of key stakeholders across the entire value chain. We did it… together.

Twelve MBAs Hit the Open Road

Three teams of four MBAs each are preparing to embark on road trips across America in May. They’re part of Open Road at Ross – Powered by Ford, an action-based social entrepreneurship program developed by Ross students for Ross students. Each team will spend the month of May visiting a new social enterprise every week–meeting business owners on the weekend, analyzing their business during the week, and presenting findings and solutions by Friday.

The program, in its fourth year, is is popular at Ross, and recently got support from the Ford Motor Company This student-run program is co-sponsored by Business+Impact and is designed to equip social entrepreneurs who are making a positive social impact in their communities with the business acumen needed to thrive.

Keep an eye on this website and on the Open Road at Ross website for further details on routes and enterprises with which they will work.

Team LOVA (Katerina Athanasiou, Minsoo Lyo, Catherine O’Donnell, and Hana Viswanathan) look forward to partnering with entrepreneurs working to build resources and uplift people throughout the Appalachian region. We want to support places and spaces that are oftentimes neglected by public attention, yet face urgent challenges–from the opioid epidemic to environmental impacts of coal mining. They’re excited to bring to bear their depth of experience across many industries and functions to help entrepreneur partners manage and grow their businesses–while learning a great deal from them in the process. The team will visit Grandmont Rosedale Development Corporation (Detroit), Appalachian Headwaters (Lewisburg, WV),  Black Sheep Bakery at Hemphill Community Center (Neon, KY), and Tech Goes Home (Chatanooga, TN).


Team MPower (Brooke Burton, Chloe Hull, Gautam Kandlikar, and Fernando Palhares) bring backgrounds in Finance, Technology, Strategy, and Social Impact, to small businesses that are the dynamic engines of growth and opportunity. This team will begin at Klassic Mobile Gardens (Detroit), The Chattery (Chattanooga, TN), The Root Cafe (Little Rock, AR), and T-Town Tacos (Tulsa, OK).

Read blog posts about Team MPower’s experiences:

Team RAIK (Ritesh Kumar, Allie Morbitzer, Kathy Tian, and Ivy Wei) are moved by their interest in helping immigrant-owned businesses become successful in a competitive business arena. They will visit Bandhu Gardens (Detroit), Red Calaca Studio (Charlotte, NC), Wake up Atlanta (Atlanta, GA) and Tulsa Newcomer Services (Tulsa, OK).

Track the teams on Instagram by searching #RossOpenRoad

See all the action in our photo album

Professional and personal photos from each team’s journey are available in our Flickr album.

See photos »

B+I Announces Campus Winner of Round One in the Aspen MBA Case Competition

April 9, 2019 – ANN ARBOR — This spring, Business+Impact partnered with the Aspen Institute to bring the 2019 Business & Society International MBA Case Competition to the University of Michigan. This preeminent program differs from other MBA case study competitions in that its focus is explicitly on environmental, social, and ethical decisions currently being faced by real businesses or organizations. This spring more than 1,000 students from 25 different business schools tackled a brand new case study, authored by the Yale School of Management, at their own college.

The U-M competition took place from Friday, March 29 until Monday, April 1st and was judged the following week. Faculty judges for the campus competition included Ravi Anupindi, Jerry Davis, and Gautam Kaul.

Business+Impact is proud to announce that the U-M campus winner was Team Stubborn Optimists (Vanessa Lynskey – MBA ’19, Cristobal Cevallos – MBA ’19, and Joseph Tulloch – MBA ’19)

The case revolved around the fortunes of the Connecticutt Green Bank, as it considered new innovative initiatives to maintain its financial health and pursue its mission of reducing greenhouse gases within the state. The case, written by Yale School of Management staff, was made possible through the Jane Mendillo and Ralph Earle MBA Fund.

The Stubborn Optimists’ campus-winning proposal will be sent on to the Aspen Institute for Round Two judging during the coming weeks. Should their proposal pass Round Two, they and four other teams will be flown to New York City to present in front of corporate, academic, and other Aspen partners Institute for their share of over $30,000 in scholarship funds. The final round in New York City takes place April 25-26, 2019 at the Yale Club.

More information on the case competition can be found at www.AspenCaseCompetition.org

2018-19 Board Fellows on the Road to Leadership


The 2018-19 Board Fellowship Program was our biggest and most competitive program in years. Students from Ross, Ford, School of Social Work, Public Health, and other programs developed project management and executive skills as board members of nonprofit organizations in Southeast Michigan.

In addition to attending all board meetings and serving on a board committee, they worked on a board-level project tackling a complex organizational challenge.

You can see the complete list of 2018-19 Board Fellows, but we interviewed a few of our board fellows here and learned a bit more about their personal experiences with the program:

Kevin Finnegan, MPP

Organization: Ponyride

Location: Detroit, MI

Describe the project you have worked on with the organization. Ponyride is a diverse community that fosters opportunities for socially conscious artists, innovators, entrepreneurs and manufacturers. For my project I developed a landscape analysis of local and national makerspaces to identify areas of growth for the organization. While Ponyride is a unique space that has focused on providing below-market space to Detroit’s entrepreneurs since 2011, there are similarities and lessons that can be learned from similar organizations. My project helped to identify the strengths and weaknesses of these companies as Ponyride transitions from its current location in Corktown to its new space in the Core City neighborhood.

How did you help deliver social impact through this experience/board fellowship? My significant experience in the nonprofit sector helped me identify areas where I could best be of service. As a board member, it was important to get a broad picture of the organization, but directly speaking with current and past tenants helped me to truly understand why Ponyride is a true picture of Detroit’s grit and entrepreneurial spirit. This understanding gave me key insights into what tenants want the new Ponyride to become, and how it can apply lessons learned through my landscape analysis to best help Detroit’s next generation of socially-conscious entrepreneurs.

What is the biggest thing you’ve learned? Strategic planning is important, but it only is helpful if that plan can be adjusted to meet the short-term needs of the organization. Contrary to popular belief, the nonprofit sector can move very quickly, so creating a plan that has room for change is important in order to create an impact. My project changed a few times over the semester, and through solidifying personal relationships within my organization, I was able to craft a project that built my skills while also positively contributing to Ponyride. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I benefitted tremendously from the mentorship of Ross alum Jamie Shea, who serves on the Ponyride Board and remains active in the school’s social impact community.

What impact will this experience have on future plans, if any? I am continuing to work with Ponyride in a part-time capacity and hope to continue this work next school year. My career prior to graduate school was focused on college access and success work, but this experience has informed me that I can use the skills from that sector in other venues.

Do you have advice for future board fellows? Take advantage of the resources Board Fellows offers! I drew two items from BA 601: the wealth of experience Professor Weiss brought, and the ability to bounce ideas off other board fellows, who often were having the same struggles as I was. In addition to the class, Program Director Matt Kelterborn and the Senior Board Fellows were always there to answer any questions or provide guidance as I needed it.


Jenna Fiore, MSW

Organization: Salvation Army — Eastern Michigan Division

Location: Southfield, MI

Describe the project you have worked on with the organization. My project focused on strengthening the Advisory Board’s engagement with The Salvation Army’s new Anti-Human Trafficking initiative. I identified ways for the board to become more involved with the initiative, led a board training on the topic, created educational materials, and facilitated a larger community-wide training in collaboration with the Anti-Human Trafficking Case Manager. Ultimately, board members identified concrete steps for further involvement and learned ways to help expand the Salvation Army’s network to end human trafficking.

How did you help deliver social impact through this experience/board fellowship? One way I was able to deliver social impact through this experience was by sharing what I learned with others. Increasing awareness about human trafficking, the signs to look for, and what to do if you suspect trafficking, these are all crucial if we are going to end this modern day slavery.

What is the biggest thing you’ve learned? As someone new to the field fighting human trafficking, I learned how complex and nuanced the issue of human trafficking truly is. I also learned that for board members to be effective representatives out in the community, they must understand and know how to convey these complexities.

What impact will this experience have on future plans, if any? This experience greatly impacted my understanding of human trafficking and the ways that businesses in every field can help stop trafficking. I will take what I learned through this experience with me wherever I go.

Do you have advice for future board fellows? My advice for future fellows is to take advantage of the many opportunities Board Fellowship offers. Ask to meet with mentors, try something new, go outside of your comfort zone, and most importantly, listen to the organization you’re partnered with. If you are able to do these things, you will not only have a positive experience, but also make a positive impact.

Grace Kendra, MM

Organization: Old Newsboy’s Goodfellow Fund

Location: Detroit, MI

Describe the project you have worked on with the organization. I had the privilege of working with the Old Newsboys’ Goodfellow Fund of Detroit, a nonprofit organization that prioritizes “No Kiddie Without a Christmas.” They serve approximately 33,000 children within the City of Detroit between the ages of 4 and 13 during the Holiday season to ensure each child receives a gift on Christmas. I specifically helped the organization strategize ways to increase younger membership. Therefore, I conducted a SWOT analysis of the organization with key players to determine internal Strengths and Weaknesses and external Opportunities and Threats to come to a common understanding of what the organization does well and what they need to work on. From there, we brainstormed solutions to help address some of their most pressing issues. Then we moved to the implementation stage with three key solutions.

How did you help deliver social impact through this experience/board fellowship? Being over 100+ years old, this organization has significant experience delivering impact for children throughout Detroit. Therefore, strategizing ways to attract younger generations to the organization is the beginning of setting up a future line of succession. The Goodfellows have extremely passionate members and it was inspiring to help them brainstorm ways to ensure their legacy will be carried on for Detroit children for many more years to come.

What is the biggest thing you’ve learned? Through this experience, I not only got exposure to the operations of a nonprofit board, but also the vast array of diversity that exists within a nonprofit board. People from all backgrounds are inspired to bring their unique personal and occupational skills to a nonprofit organization and assist in delivering their mission. It was inspiring to meet the many board members of the Goodfellows and learn about why they joined the organization and later decided to serve as a board member.

What impact will this experience have on future plans, if any? If anything, this experience just confirmed my desire to be involved with the nonprofit sector, regardless  of whether it is through my career or through my personal endeavors. I am determined to have a positive impact on the lives of people in the communities in which I live and work, and this experience further confirmed that ambition.

Do you have advice for future board fellows? Always remember to listen first and foremost. There is so much valuable knowledge and insight to be learned from your board, and each member brings different skills to the table. It is a tremendous learning opportunity, so listen attentively and ask questions often to ensure you and your board are getting the most out of the engagement.

Vishnu Suresh, MBA

Organization: Matrix Human Services

Location: Detroit, MI

Describe the project you have worked on with the organization. I worked with Matrix Human Services, one of the largest Detroit-based nonprofits, providing community services including education, medication, and employment for the under-served. Matrix is also the regional provider of the federal program known as Head Start which provides early childhood education, nutrition and medical services. The project at a high level was to help Matrix win the next 5-year contract for Head Start grants, better track key metrics, and involve the board members more closely with Matrix’s operations.

How did you help deliver social impact through this experience/board fellowship? The recommendations I provided included some best practices for board recruitment and engagement such as performing regular board evaluations and developing a planned recruitment and development process for future board appointments. Much of this information was gleaned from the excellent course offered by Prof. Janet Weiss BA 601 “Governance of nonprofit Organizations”

What is the biggest thing you’ve learned? The real world of nonprofit boards and decision making can be chaotic. One must be willing to be flexible, patient and empathetic. Most board members are giving their time in service, and that must be respected. However, it is also important to ensure board composition reflects activities and participation by those same members. Board membership is a delicate balance between fundraising support by members, and relevant skills brought to the board.

What impact will this experience have on future plans, if any? The experience has certainly opened my eyes to the challenges faced by mission-driven organizations. I certainly feel more empowered to take up consulting projects in the future that directly impact nonprofit organizations.

Do you have advice for future board fellows? As you get to understand the goals the organization wants to achieve, also try to set up personal learning goals and push yourself to check and see if those are being met. Opportunities to learn are around every corner! Good luck, and have a ton of fun while you learn.

Check out the complete list of the 2018-19 Board Fellows.

For information on applying to the Board Fellows program, click here.