Spotlight: Andrew Kelley (MBA ’17)
Your team won the Social Impact Challenge in 2016. How was that experience for you?
Winning the Social Impact Challenge was definitely one of the highlights for me at Ross. The challenge itself was perfect for me because it combined my love for baseball with my passion for social impact. Detroit PAL is an inspiring organization, and giving them some ideas for what to do with the land from the old Tiger Stadium was a lot of fun. It was also a great experience because we got to work in multi-disciplinary teams; the teams needed to be made up of students from different graduate programs on campus. I got to work with people who had expertise in different areas and had different career aspirations. I even made some new friendships that never would have occurred without participating in the Challenge.
I actually signed up for the Challenge as a “free agent” and was asked by my eventual team if I wanted to join on the last day to register! It’s great that we ended up working so well,, since we never planned to work together and didn’t know each other previously. After we won, we got to help PAL implement some of our ideas. It’s fun to create a PowerPoint of recommendations, but when you actually see the organization trying to implement them, it makes the whole process more real. For example, you can “buy a brick” and have it dedicated at the stadium as a way for them to fundraise. This was one of our suggestions they are implementing.
What was your biggest take-away from the Board Fellows program?
The best takeaway from Board Fellows was staying on with Apple Play Schools for my second year and being given an actual board seat. I was also named interim Treasurer. I learned a lot about the organization and about serving on a board my first year, but I had a chance to put those learnings into practice my second year.
I helped set the budget, discussed expansion plans, helped organize the fundraiser, developed a succession plan, and assisted with board recruitment. These tasks were done collaboratively with the rest of the board, but since Apple Play Schools has such a small board, it felt like my input and suggestions really mattered. Having this much influence was a little intimidating at first, but in the future, it will be great experience for when I am hopefully in a position to make other important decisions in my career.
What is the most important realization or experience you had at U-M in the area of social impact?
Since U-M is located so close to Detroit, an area that has many social impact needs, I think I realized how important this social impact work is. There are many communities in need of assistance and with so many bright and talented people at U-M, we can do tangible things to make the situation better if we invest the time and the resources at our disposal.
From the Sanger Impact Challenge during orientation—where we worked with the Maker Space in Brightmoor—to Board Fellows, to the Social Impact Challenge (to name a few), U-M students have so many opportunities to help these communities. We do need to be careful to make sure these opportunities aren’t just learning opportunities for us, but actually are geared toward improving the communities we are working with. They can be good learning opportunities for us, but this benefit should be secondary. Done correctly and tactfully, we can collectively make a big impact.
Where would you like to see college training in social impact to go in the next five years?
I would like to see college training in social impact evolve so there is less of a divide between social impact work and classroom work or between career preparation and social impact work. The line is blurring in many industries as they are putting a larger emphasis on this work and realizing it has more benefits than just a good PR story for them.
I would like to see the classrooms and curriculum evolve in the same way, where these lessons and opportunities are woven more seamlessly into the assignments during school and career opportunities following graduation. I think it will happen eventually. These things take time, especially at large universities. It would be nice someday to see social impact as less of an extracurricular thing and more of a day-to-day part of every student’s learning so that it is no longer viewed as a separate thing, but an integrated part of the school curriculum.
In what ways do you think this learning will influence you in ‘the real world’?
I think the social impact work I did at Ross combined with my almost 10 years of elementary school teaching prior to Ross will make social impact something that will always be a priority for me and something that is important for me to continue to be involved in. I think that awareness of it is huge. I hope this awareness helps me make choices in my future managerial roles that keep all stakeholders in mind, and not just stakeholders who have a financial stake.
What are you doing these days? Do you have plans to work in social impact?
I am starting a management consulting job with Deloitte in a couple weeks and hope to do some social impact work with them. They are the only management consulting firm I know of that is dedicating real resources to social impact and not just offering it as pro bono work on the side. I am hoping to do some education-related work with them once I get settled.
If I don’t end up as a career consultant, I would like to get back into education in some way, shape, or form. Possibly in the education technology space. There are many cool concepts, ideas, and products that have been created to try to revolutionize the way learning takes place in the classroom. None of them have really stuck or been proven to be consistently more successful than the traditional model. I think it would be cool to help with that transition and implementation.
One of my reasons for coming to business school was to give me the business acumen to one day open my own charter school. This is still something I would like to do in the future. I am hoping my time at Ross—combined with my consulting experience—will give me the skills to run the business operations, and my time in the classroom will enable me to run the school operations. This is a lofty goal, but one I continue to revisit and keep my eye on for some point in the future.