Lorraine Monteiro is proud of her role as recruitment co-ordinator at Cuso International, a non-profit organization that places skilled volunteers in developing nations to help reduce poverty and inequality.
“The cause is really close to my heart,” says Monteiro, who graduated in 2014 from Carleton University’s Sprott School of Business in Ottawa, with a bachelor of commerce in international business. Monteiro’s mother is from the Philippines, one of the countries where Cuso operates.
“Helping them out really motivates me,” says the Ottawa-based 26-year-old.
Where Monteiro ended up is no surprise to Sprott School of Business interim dean Linda Schweitzer, who knows of many students and alumni pursuing socially-conscious careers.
Students in Sprott’s undergraduate, master’s and PhD programs all receive a solid business education that prepares them well for a range of careers, says Schweitzer, from traditional Bay Street finance jobs to positions that combine business with doing good for the world.
“We teach a lot about global and cultural awareness, so our students are citizens of the world, not just citizens of Ottawa,” Schweitzer says.
For example, Sprott offers a bachelor of international business program, which requires students to learn another language and spend a year abroad. There’s also an MBA in international development management, which gives students the opportunity to study microfinance and sustainable business development.
Sprott alumna Alexis Ashworth was already toggling between the world of finance and not-for-profits for several years before she decided to return to school for an MBA.
She had been working in her hometown of Halifax as executive director of Habitat for Humanity, a non-profit organization devoted to building affordable housing for low-income families. Then she moved to a position as account manager at Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC).
Alexis says that while she enjoyed her time at BDC, “I just found personally I was lacking that same real motivation and sense of purpose that I had when I was at Habitat.”
Ashworth, who did an undergraduate degree in finance at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, decided it was a good time to re-evaluate her career and upgrade her education.
“I was looking for interesting master’s programs that had that intersection of business and social good,” she says. “And the most interesting program that I found just happened to be [Sprott’s] MBA program.”
So she quit her BDC job, moved to Ottawa and never looked back.
“It was a fantastic decision,” says Ashworth, who started the MBA in international development management in September 2012 and completed the 16-month program in 2013.
She says she was particularly interested in the program’s offerings in impact investing and social finance. “It’s investments that have both a financial and a social or environmental impact as well,” she explains.
At the time of her MBA, Ashworth had planned to work in international development. Then she met her future husband, and now she has a young family in Ottawa.
“I found my way back to Habitat, which is amazing,” says Ashworth, who has been CEO of Habitat for Humanity Greater Ottawa since February 2014.
Ashworth notes that the format of the Sprott MBA has served her very well for her CEO position.
“I think it’s critical to run not-for-profits like you run a business,” she says. “It’s a very entrepreneurial position. You’re basically making sure that this operation stays afloat, and if you don’t have that solid business background it can be very challenging ”
Monteiro points out that while students who graduate from Sprott get a really good business education, they also experience a caring, tight community.
When Monteiro wasn’t sure what she wanted to do after graduating in 2014, she turned to Sprott’s staff for advice. She’s grateful to the school’s career co-ordinators who helped her with her resume and job search.
“At the time I graduated, I was very lost,” she says. “I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, so they were really helpful with providing me with guidance and even connecting me with alumni.”
Schweitzer says that a positive spirit is everywhere at Sprott, particularly during “Sprosh” orientation week and the “5 Days for the Homeless” campaign in March, when students sleep outside in the cold to raise funds for a local support centre for homeless youth. It’s also evident during recruiting events when some students are moved to tears as they share stories with prospective students and their parents about the school.
Caring for the community – and for the world – is a big part of Sprott’s culture, says Schweitzer. It’s reflected in elective courses like “Creative Thinking,” which sends students to Tanzania to develop sustainable water collection and distribution solutions.
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