With a background that includes social work, nonprofit organizations, and public schools, Gabriela Arismendi had always imagined that “MBA programs were for very specific people — type A, money-driven — the complete opposite of what I imagined myself doing.”
When Arismendi was contemplating returning to school for a PhD, an online post about the UChicago Booth School of Business Civic Scholars Program for nonprofit and government professionals caught her eye. The program is run in partnership with Chicago Booth’s Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation, and thanks to funding from the Neubauer Family Foundation, all Civic Scholars receive scholarship funding to Chicago Booth’s MBA programs. “This felt like something I could apply to a lot of different areas, versus a PhD that’s niche and concentrated,” says Arismendi, who works as a data strategist for Chicago Public Schools. “This could open lots of doors.”
“Most people in MBA programs know they’ll recoup their tuition investment in income, but for people in the nonprofit world, the financial considerations are much greater. Hearing that I was selected for the program felt a little like winning the lottery.”
In addition to the MBA program’s core classes, Neubauer Civic Scholars take part in specialized programming and networking, and work with faculty members who are dedicated to the program. MBA coursework offers opportunities for these scholars to broaden their perspectives on issues such as the role of business in society and the implications of expanding public-private partnerships; they graduate equipped to diagnose and tackle complex problems in government and nonprofits.
Arismendi, who expects to graduate with her MBA in 2021, says that the program has had a profound impact on her confidence. “Being willing to speak up, talking to people you don’t know, contributing at meetings are all part of being in this space where you’re expected to thrive outside of your comfort zone. The program has made me more willing to take social risks and idea risks.” During her time on campus, she has led the campus-wide Latinx Heritage Month planning committee and volunteered for Booth Social Impact projects, providing pro bono consulting to nonprofits that included a charter high school and a violence interruption group.