When he decided to do an MBA, Tyler Tuite only applied to Harvard, Stanford and Wharton. As an outsider among the corporate thorough-breds he was competing with, the non-profit manager knew he was playing a risky game.
Tuite, 26, has spent the last ten years of his life helping to improve living conditions for children in Nicaragua, and wants to move into social entrepreneurship. “But I was in no hurry to do an MBA “, he says on the phone from Nicaragua. “And I thought that if it didn’t work this time I would just try again next year.”.
Wharton wasn’t his first choice, so when it was the only school to offer him a place; he wasn’t convinced about taking it up: “I was scared off by Wharton’s heavy financial focus,” says Tuite.
Tuite went to Nicaragua for the first time aged 16, donating money and “playing with kids.” During his undergraduate degree, he decided that he wanted to do more to help. Together with a bunch of friends, he set up an organization offering consulting to grass-roots programs in the poorest country in the Western hemisphere. “We send nutritionists, educators and doctors to seven different children programs in Nicaragua, both to meet the needs of the kids, and to offer advice on how the programs are run. We also try to source funding for them in the US.”
But after several years of running a non-profit organization, Tuite felt like he was spinning his wheels: “I was basically teaching myself how to manage an organization – doing accounts, recruiting people, and all of that - with no experts to give me any advice.”
He found that the vast majority of non-profit organizations focused on immediate crises, and invested too much money in short-term programs. “In my opinion, you should use the market to create jobs and help people in a sustainable way.”
Private sector approaches would benefit developing countries, and doing an MBA seemed like the best way to learn them, says Tuite, who has just completed his summer internship at the Boston Consulting Group and is now abroad to monitor the progress of the children projects his organization is supporting in Nicaragua.
In addition, he decided that it was important to get his degree at an institution that would open doors to the companies and organizations that have the most influence on developing countries. Friends and mentors convinced him that Wharton would do that just as well as a degree from Harvard or Stanford.
But he only finally made up his mind to take up the school’s offer after attending a class at Wharton and joining some students for happy hour in a bar: “I found that although most people had very different interests and opinions from my own, they were very empathetic and positive about what I do.”
In fact, he found himself enjoying the confrontation with people who think differently: “Having discussions with people who have worked successfully in hedge funds really challenged me, and I realized how much I could learn from them,” he adds.
The closest friends Tuite has made during his first year at Wharton are not the ones that also work in the non-profit sector, and looking back he has found the differences in the student body more stimulating than the similarities. “I have always wanted to change the world. Wharton slapped me in the face and showed me that I needed to understand how it works first.”