Making a 'Net Impact' - Voice of Students

Graduate MBA student Vandana Rajakumar and junior James Balch share one thing in common: their passion for Net Impact, a sustainability organization with over 200 chapters and more than 10,000 members worldwide helping businesses promote positive action while staying profitable.

Fisher's Net Impact chapter grew from six members to 80 in the past year. Its mission is to promote sustainability across social, environmental and economic realms. The group achieves its mission through bi-weekly speaker series, projects with companies like Pepsico and major events. The "Alleviating Poverty through Entrepreneurship Summit," was held in February followed by Sustainability Week in May. The poverty summit drew 250 attendees and key dignitaries. Sustainability Week showcased for students how the power of sustainability can be used in business. Dan Janki, CFO of GE Energy, delivered the keynote.

" I believe Net Impact offers a lot of opportunity to bring an interdisciplinary focus to sustainability issues - involving students in business, engineering, sociology, political science, psychology, consumer sciences and agricultural (and environmental sciences)," says chapter faculty adviser Curt Haugtvedt, associate professor of marketing.

"We're the only chapter in the country that has this unique combination of graduate and undergraduate students," adds Rajakumar, the chapter's graduate MBA student president. The Fisher chapter recently expanded to include professional members, so area business leaders and graduates can participate.

Haugtvedt hopes that the Fisher chapter will continue to organize major events every quarter and cultivate university-wide involvement. He also wants the events integrated into classroom discussions.

Rajakumar, an MBA student with a PhD from Ohio State in molecular genetics, came to Ohio from her native India in 2000. Growing up in a place where poverty was evident taught her to respect the environment and to not waste resources. She hopes that Net Impact will enable students to raise Fisher and Ohio State's brand name to a national and even international stage.

"Net Impact has helped me build my leadership skills and challenged me to think about what I could be rather than what I was at the beginning of the year,” says Rajakumar. She joined Illinois-based Abbott Labs' Management Rotation Program in August.

Balch, the Net Impact undergraduate president, says the undergrads have a "passion that is pure," and many are part of programs that focus on ecological science and geography that "give a true global perspective on sustainability."

By demonstrating their passion for Net Impact with companies, many students have received internship and job offers. Balch interned at Dow Chemical Company this past summer. The company also donated $5,000 to support the Fisher's Net Impact work.

"I think 50 years down the road we won't even have to mention sustainability - it will just be the way business is done," Balch concludes.

In Their Own Words

Vandana Rajakumar
Listen to Vandana Rajakumar, MBA '09, discuss Fisher's Net Impact chapter.