When Claire Stokes started her MBA at The University of Western Australia (UWA), she didn’t really understand what ‘social impact’ was all about.
Now, as development manager, researcher and lecturer at the Centre for Social Impact UWA, she’s at the forefront of social impact in Western Australia.
In July, she co-directed UWA’s Social Impact Festival where social entrepreneurs pitched their ideas to packed auditoriums of 120 people. The festival’s ethical marketplace included Aboriginal enterprises, eco-garden services, ethical fashion brands, and startups selling fair-trade homewares and tea.
For millennial MBA students looking to make a social impact in their careers, UWA is the perfect destination. Individual units in UWA’s Graduate Certificate in Social Impact are available as electives to MBA students. The school hosts social enterprise competitions and major conferences for Australia’s Indigenous business community.
Claire was an undergraduate music scholar at UWA. She’s a professional flutist. And she had a five-year stint as program manager for the West Australian Symphony Orchestra. With an MBA at UWA she’s transformed her career, and her life.
Why are more and more MBAs looking to make a social impact in their careers?
Millennials are seeking greater purpose in their work. And this is driving the whole business world towards a greater focus on working ethically and with purpose.
We have seen a rise in entrepreneurship in recent years. Entrepreneurs do what they do because they have seen a problem or need, and are driven to meet that need with purpose. The same is happening with social impact and the ‘for-purpose’ space.
What can MBA students gain from the Centre for Social Impact UWA?
The opportunity to mix social impact studies into an MBA is a huge advantage at UWA.
The center provides a platform for students to explore the most complex problems facing society today and the potential solutions to those problems. For example: social enterprise, social return on investment, impact investing, and shared value.
As social impact is inclusive, cross-sectoral, and is attractive to people who enjoy working with a purpose, the classes are very collaborative and have a community-like feel.
The center also delivers an extremely active engagement program of events, public lectures and a social enterprise competition.
Why did you decide to pursue an MBA at UWA?
UWA was an easy choice. I knew the university well. It was important for me to study face-to-face and build up my network, which I’d heard was a strength of UWA’s MBA program.
What should applicants think about when deciding to do an MBA?
On a practical level, it’s important to think about whether you are suited to face-to-face or online learning, or a mix of both. It’s also important to find out what is available to students beyond traditional study. For example: networking events, study abroad options, and extra leadership development opportunities.
Nothing beats some personal feedback and recommendations, so it’s always best to ask questions to alumni who have been through the experience. Information nights are good opportunities for this.
How have you profited from your MBA experience?
The MBA fast-tracked my professional and personal development, significantly increased my networks, and built my skills and knowledge in all business areas.
While I loved the whole MBA experience, the social impact units fundamentally changed the way I think and allowed me to connect with a community of talented professionals who have very similar passions, ideas, and goals. I would now call many people I studied with good friends.