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Meet The Kogod School of Business MBA Who’s Now A Nonprofit COO

Carlos Carrazana swapped banking for social impact shortly after his Kogod School of Business MBA. He’s now the chief operating officer for the largest environmental advocacy nonprofit in the US


Thu Oct 22 2020


To work in the nonprofit industry, you need to be armed with a strong understanding of traditional business practices, as well as a philanthropic mindset. American University’s Kogod School of Business MBA alum, Carlos Carrazana, has both in spades.  

He joined the Kogod School of Business program in 1987, graduating in 1989. The MBA broadened his skillset and allowed him to move into an industry he’s now been a part of for nearly 20 years. 

It wasn’t an immediate shift; it was during his early 30s that Carlos decided he wanted a career change. His first few roles after the MBA were in banking—his pre-MBA career—but he started to crave something more. So began his transition into the nonprofit world. 

How an MBA prepares you for the role of COO

Carlos held multiple social impact roles before landing his current role as chief operating officer (COO) for the League of Conservation Voters in Washington, DC—the largest environmental advocacy nonprofit in the US. He joined in March 2020 after spending four years as the COO for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, then eight years as the COO for Save the Children US.  83414e6042caa7e4ea1a65d34d731f5e1cbda463.png

He says that the role of COO requires you to hold a macro perspective of business and strong soft skills that mean you can effectively manage the people working for you. The Kogod School of Business MBA equips students with that skillset.  

A core MBA education with modules like Management of Organizations & Human Capital and electives covering Project Management and Strategic Human Capital Management are combined with an internationally diverse classroom that challenges students to build soft skills in the context of different cultures and personalities. 

In the class of 2019, there were 23% international students, 36% of students came from minority backgrounds, and the average work experience across the MBA class was seven years. The diversity of industry also means MBA students gather knowledge of how an array of sectors deal differently with the business challenges they face.  

Carlos still relies on his financial and management skills, he explains, but his roots at the Kogod School of Business and his time in the MBA program helped him shift his perspective and pivot his career in a new direction. 

The demand for private-sector knowledge in the nonprofit world 

Over the years, Carlos has seen the structure within nonprofits change. They’ve become more streamlined as more private-sector workers have moved into the industry. 

When he was at Kogod, Carlos says there were conversations around the need for more innovative business leaders in the nonprofit industryThese conversations circulated around his MBA classroom, which prompted his later decision to move away from banking. 

“I was beginning to see private sector workers being hired into nonprofit roles, and the idea of being able to combine my career with the ability to achieve some kind of social impact became increasingly appealing to me,” he says. “Nowadays, that’s a pretty common practice; nonprofits are always looking to attract fresh talent.” 

It's had a positive impact, Carlos adds. Pairing critical thinkers with the humanitarians, the environmentalists, and the philanthropists has been good for the industry. 


Being a COO 

Whether working in the nonprofit or private sector, Carlos argues the role of COO is very much the same. 

“I love embracing change and thinking on my feet,” he explains. “In the nonprofit sector, it's vital that you can develop your own mechanisms, all while combatting problems such as limited resources, market competition, and current affairs. 

“I think the role of COO is overseeing the right use of funding and staff in order to effectively achieve our goals––it’s crucial to the delivery of the organization’s mission, and I’m honored to be a part of it.” 

The American organization he currently works for is designed to uphold environmental laws and policies and use its influence to hold elected officials accountable on behalf of the general public.  

Carlos admits he wasn’t an expert in these fields prior to accepting roles in them, but his skillset from his career in banking, paired with his MBA, have allowed him to make a success of it.  

The Kogod School of Business alumni network 

Carlos looks back on his time at Kogod fondly, and living in Washington, DC, he often meets his old peers and makes new connections at the school. He was even given an honorary doctorate degree from Kogod three years ago, which put him into contact with new members of the faculty and the dean.  5df0fc04095b0569c99543519cae99181d91f08e.png

“I’ve always stayed connected to KogodI’ve been in Washington for over 30 years and have always enjoyed the sense of goodwill and camaraderie from everyone I’ve met there," he says.  

Carlos adds that he owes a lot to his MBA. It’s given him a full overview of business and skills he still uses today: negotiation, management, and organizational development. 

“How do you navigate an organization? How do you influence workers from the top down? How can you effectively get your point across? These are all things you learn in the MBA program."  

Student Reviews

Kogod School of Business - American University




On Campus

Clean and well maintained campus

I am completely enamored with this school. The entire student body is driven, inclusive, and highly intelligent. The decision to attend American University is not made haphazardly. Its close proximity to Washington DC, making it one of the most strategically located schools after Georgetown, means it's just a short train ride away. The campus is well-maintained, with mostly attractive buildings, although there are a few that are less appealing. Additionally, there are numerous excellent food options available. The wide range of clubs and organizations to join is remarkable. It is undeniably a school filled with immense passion.




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City life

I’m having a wonderful time at American University. I love that I can get to a big city and still feel like a traditional campus. Sincerely, it is a school that may require some adjusting to, but in the end, it is a very good school with numerous opportunities for its students. The atmosphere in AU is so great that it pushes you in a positive way and offers every opportunity you could want.




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Amazing helpful professors

American College is an incredible school with astounding teachers. Best professors I could have asked for at an amazing school. My opinion is that American University's professors are its greatest asset. They are extremely intelligent and always eager to assist their students. They go above and beyond in their classes to make sure that their students do their best.




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AU Review

The workload is quite high and AU is definitely not an "easy" school. Students take their studies very seriously and can almost always find a group in the library, DAV, Starbucks or MGC. Courses can be quite ambitious if the right courses are offered and the admissions process can be confusing at times, but with the help of an advisor it is quite easy to navigate. The library can be crowded, and while it's not huge, there are plenty of other places to study on campus. The professors really want to help during office hours and interact with students. I've had good experiences with the professors and workload at AU, but it's an expensive city.




On Campus

Majoring in Political and International Relations

The instructors are unique and the classes can be boring at times. Check-in is stressful (but it is everywhere). The workload is what I expected. The most popular majors are international relations and political science




On Campus

I Love Being A Musical Theater Major

I love being a musical theater student, if you want to help behind the scenes, if you want to be an assistant director, if you want to be a director, if you want to write, you can do anything at this academy, very supportive, it's amazing, they are always there to help you. This is their working time. Even after the audition tells you what you did wrong, you can do better, or if you get picked, you know why they picked you, which is great




On Campus

AU's Business Model

Overall, there were a lot of good opportunities at UA, both in terms of course range and faculty. However, I had a few complete misfires. People who shouldn't have taught at all. Like all universities, AU's business model is to hire hands-on assistants so they don't have to pay them extra or perform well. They are signed and if that does not work, they are not hired any more. The problem with this is that you end up with people who are unqualified and bring their own agendas, biases that may or may not be based on research. Most of the professors were absolutely fantastic.




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AU - The Real Problem With Academics

Some teachers are amazing, some awful - typical of any school. But the real problem with AU is that many students don't care about academics as much as other things (eg, partying). The academics are really interrupted by the Greek life and the social life of the students. This makes it difficult for students interested in academics to get the most out of their school experience. Some students do not take classes seriously and do not respect teachers and other students. Courses and opportunities at UA are perfect for people who want to take advantage




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American University - The Best Place to Study

They know their stuff - I chose American University because the campus is beautiful and the biology program is relatively small. But after the first semester, I realized that all the professors, especially the people in the science department, are experts in their field. They are enthusiastic and helpful in lecturing; even the TAs who teach the labs are amazing and engaging.