ANN ARBOR – Oct. 23, 2022 – Business+Impact (B+I) is pleased to announce that Robin F. Baker (MBA ’24), Jill Dannis (MBA/MS ’24, Erb), and Elijah Forrester (MBA/MS ’24, Erb) are the recipients of the 2023-24 Skip and Carrie Gordon Scholarships for outstanding commitment to solving complex social challenges. The award comes with $7,500 for each recipient. Gordon Scholars serve as B+I Student Ambassadors for the 2023-24 academic year.
Learn more about each of them by reading highlights from their essays:
Robin F. Baker
For nearly a decade, I practiced as a licensed occupational therapist, specializing in stroke rehabilitation within the Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan area. As a daughter of Liberian immigrants, I felt an innate sense of responsibility to extend my skills as an occupational therapist to the West African community. This inspired me to create GoTHERAPY, Inc., a nonprofit organization committed to improving access to physical rehabilitation and community health services in West Africa, specifically Liberia and Ghana.
My experience in Ghana shed light on the complexities of managing chronic conditions like hypertension and stroke in communities with limited resources. Notably, the center opened its doors on the very day the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. The center has achieved multiple milestones: it has transformed countless lives, contributed more than $250,000 in pro bono therapy services, and created job opportunities for four therapists.
During my time at Ross, I committed myself to understanding and addressing inclusivity and equity challenges, beginning with my transformative experience in Dr. Chris Rider’s Equity Analytics course in Fall 2022. This would lead me to pursue independent study and work to co-found the First at Ross club with equally passionate and committed students.
Building on my academic experience, my summer internship provided another perspective. In my internship, I observed similar challenges that first-generation students face in the corporate realm, particularly in areas such as financial accessibility and availability of resources. Recognizing this gap, I stepped forward as an advocate for underrepresented interns. Whether in the classroom, during my internship, or within the wider community, I have been inspired to challenge the status quo and advocate for equity and inclusivity. I now view impact as the small daily decisions that help shape the lives and experiences of those around us, often in profound yet understated ways.
Professionally, this new understanding shapes my leadership style, characterized by empathy, understanding, and a genuine desire to elevate those around me. As an incoming Regional Director in Detroit, I intend to use my role to coach and mentor frontline employees—often hourly workers—guiding them toward financial empowerment through the company’s career development program.
As an undergraduate at LMU, I joined the Belles Service Organization, whose mission is to inspire civically engaged and empowered women with and for others through direct service and domestic violence awareness advocacy. After undergrad, I worked as a mission coordinator at Angel Flight West, worked at The Trevor Project, and managed scholarships at the Point Foundation.
After realizing my passion lay more in the DEI space than higher education, I joined the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to support marginalized young people seeking careers in the entertainment industry. I also completed the AIDS/LifeCycle ride in both 2018 and 2019.
This past year, I was the President of Ross’ Out for Business LGBTQ+ club, a founding board member and VP of Advocacy and Education for Business Leaders for Diverse Abilities (BLDA), a new club focused on disability within business, and VP of Professional Development for Net Impact during the Fall semester. With the help of the entire Ross community, the OFB club raised $15k for Jim Toy Community Center, breaking previous MBgAy fundraising records.
As an MBA1, I completed a consulting project for a Detroit nonprofit via the Detroit Initiative at Ross. I became a +Lab Fellow with the Center for Positive Organizations, and have prioritized taking courses taught by CPO faculty. As an MBA2, I lead a team of 4 MBAs in a consulting project for a Ross alum to explore and design recommendations building inclusivity for LGBTQ+ folks in the workplace. In addition, I am currently working as a Teaching Assistant for Professor Andy Hoffman for his course on Management as a Calling.
Long-term, I hope to be a corporate social responsibility leader at a large technology company to integrate social good at the organizational level in business strategy and culture. In that vein, I interned last summer at Amazon Web Services in their HR Rotational Leadership Development Program (HRLDP).
While I started at University of Michigan as just an MBA student, I realized during my first year that, despite the additional time and money required, the M.S. in Behavior, Education and Communication from the School for Environment and Sustainability would enable me to make an even stronger impact in the business world. I negotiated with AWS to convert my full-time employment offer into a second internship, and will intern on a new Corporate Social Responsibility & Impact team this summer. Outside of work, I look forward to getting involved again in volunteering. I am interested in completing AIDS/Lifecycle again in the future, as well as potentially finding other cycling fundraiser rides.
Early in my career, I worked as a Policy Analyst at the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. I worked on the Energy & Environment team, writing bill briefs and recommending policy positions by analyzing state and federal policies for 400+ member companies to understand and act on environmental risks. I received my BA from The Evergreen State College where I majored in Sustainable Development and completed a 6-month study abroad at the University of Copenhagen, studying Sustainability in Europe.
In 2015 I co-founded Volta, a clean energy company in Ghana. I will never forget the moment when I switched the power on for our first customer, a health clinic two hours from the capital city, Accra. By 2017, Volta was named a Top 10 Global Solar Startup at the World Expo in Astana, Kazakhstan. We went on to build more than 400 solar power projects.
From 2015 through 2020, I lived and worked in Ghana, building clean energy projects for farms, hospitals, schools, and businesses. Growing my solar company, Volta, into a leading clean energy company in West Africa has provided many insights and lessons rooted in my experience overcoming the challenges of building a business in an emerging market.
My time at Ross is a launchpad for the next chapter in a life-long path.
I have invested a substantial portion of my time at Ross outside the classroom to deliver impact in a variety of ways. Leadership positions in clubs and communities across campus have been rewarding, yielding robust results on a personal and professional level. Here are some of my most impactful highlights as a dual MBA/MS candidate:
– I founded the Africa Innovation Hub (AIH), a student-led initiative with support from the William Davidson Institute, Zell Lurie Institute, and Business + Impact. AIH is a startup incubator and accelerator for Africa-focused companies.
– I am a founder of the Student Carbon Neutrality Network (SCaNN), a network of student organizations sharing a common goal for a just transition to carbon neutrality.
– I am a Graduate Student Advisor to President Santa Ono on the Campus Planning Committee, where we focus on key topics like affordable housing, accessible transportation, and sustainability.
– I am a Graduate Student Advisor to the University of Michigan CFO Geoff Chatas on the executive search committee.
– I am organizing a learning and impact retreat for 25 sustainability students in Vermont this October. We will visit local food producers to learn from farmers about their work and how they approach sustainability.
– As a Board Member and VP of Partnerships of the Energy Club @ Ross, I organized and hosted two panels for our annual flagship event, Ross Energy Week.
– I am a board member of the Africa Business Club (ABC) and serve as the VP of Finance and Operations. I organized our annual flagship event, AfroBeats, an African dance competition.
My post-graduate plan is to join a Fortune 500 company that is actively investing in its climate goals and working on a net-zero emissions plan. My long-term career goals are to become a Chief Sustainability Officer at a large organization, driving the transition to a socially and environmentally responsible business, and becoming an agent of change within the global business community.