aleena agrawal

Aleena Agrawal

Chicago Booth Civic Scholars Program

For Aleena Agrawal, a Chicago Booth MBA is a road map for changing the world. In her job as Director of Talent Solutions at P33, a nonprofit devoted to building a more diverse and inclusive technology ecosystem in Chicago, Agrawal aims to drive systems-level change. “Scaling a single idea is one thing — but if you can align an entire system to work together, that’s where true, sustainable change is made,” she says.

Agrawal was leading the work of Chicago nonprofit Cara Collective to expand its programming nationwide when she sat in on a Booth class in scaling social nonprofits. Clinical Associate Professor of Strategic Management Christina Hachikian “helped me realize that I still had a lot of blind spots professionally,” Agrawal says, “so I said to myself, ‘OK, business school is my next avenue for growth.’”

However, she wasn’t sure it was a practical next step — “financially, it would have been a large investment ” — until Hachikian told her about Booth’s Civic Scholars Program, designed for emerging leaders dedicated to careers in social impact. Through funding from the Neubauer Family Foundation, all Civic Scholars receive up to full tuition scholarships to Chicago Booth’s MBA programs and specialized programming led by the Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation.

Agrawal enrolled in Booth’s Weekend MBA program as a Neubauer Civic Scholar in the fall of 2019 (and was named a University of Chicago Obama Foundation Scholar in the fall of 2021). She quickly made strong connections with the others in her cohort, which continued to deepen after classes moved online in the spring because of the COVID-19 pandemic. “I can always pick up a textbook to learn,” she says, “but I’m learning to become a stronger leader with these other scholars. We rely on each other and push each other, and we’re genuinely proud of each other.”

“The Chicago Booth Civic Scholars Program is an incredible opportunity. You gain access to new ways of thinking, grow while helping those around you, and serve your community in ways you haven’t before.”

What Agrawal learns in her classes gets put to work right away. “I’m constantly able to apply what I learn in the program to real life — something I learn on Saturday will apply to my job on Monday,” she says.

aleena agrawal
Aleena Agrawal at P33 Chicago

And over the long term, she’s confident that the knowledge she’s gaining and sharing will make a real difference in P33’s work in Chicago and beyond. “Technology as the solution to everything may be overstated, but if we’re intentional about pathways and relationships, it can be a different story. We can re-vision a new world where technology lessens inequality and brings people together,” she says.

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