Student Organization Spotlight: Net Impact

With 2020 in full swing, we remember all the good things that happened last year. One of the biggest achievements for us at UIC Business was our student organization - Net Impact UIC being awarded the Gold Chapter Standing. The Net Impact team led by Bryan Thomas and Natalie Sheneman have done some tremendous work over the past year contributing to the well being of the society. Their efforts have made a positive impact on the society as a whole leading them to be immensely successful as a student organization. As they start to prepare for the upcoming events planned for this semester, we catch up with Natalie Shenemen (Board Member, Net Impact UIC & MBA/MPH Candidate at UIC Business) to learn about her journey with Net Impact.

What is the purpose of the Net Impact?
Net Impact is an international student organization that aims to educate and inspire students to use their business skills for the good of people and the planet. Net Impact has chapters at colleges and universities all over the country and the world, as well as professional chapters.

Congratulations on being awarded the Gold Chapter Status! What are your thoughts as a team?
2019 was a great year for our chapter. In addition to reaching our gold status; in the spring, our team was a top ten finisher in the Up to Us competition, which focuses on nonpartisan approaches to addressing the national debt. Then, later that summer, we were incredibly proud to be one of only two chapters nominated for Net Impact Graduate Chapter of the Year. We didn’t end up winning, but we were recognized at the annual Net Impact conference this past fall and got a fancy plaque! I think the nomination was a tribute to our team’s genuine commitment to address a wide variety of social and environmental issues, and our enthusiasm for participating in programs and events outside our regular coursework. Also, I would like to acknowledge the tremendous efforts of our past president, Carley Mostar, who recruited many of us and set a great foundation for this past year.

In what direction would you like to take the organization this year after being awarded the Gold Chapter Standing?
For 2020 we are focusing on transitioning a great new leadership team, expanding our membership with undergraduate students, and exploring partnerships outside the business school, with other Chicago-area Net Impact chapters, and with local nonprofits and companies. We have had some great conversations in these areas, and are excited about the future for Net Impact at UIC!

Tell us about the events you plan to do this semester & the ones you want to do in the future?
Right now we are in the midst of the Total Impact Portfolio Challenge, which is a mentored impact investing competition sponsored by Wharton Business School, Bank of America, and Merrill Lynch. We are managing a hypothetical university endowment, with specific attention to climate change and income inequality factors. We also plan to be involved in the Food Solutions Challenge, this year’s Up to Us competition, and a working group on the circular economy of plastics. And, we are running our monthly Social Impact Book Club (technically a journal/article club) on rotating social and environmental issues of interest to our members. The book club is really low-key—someone picks an article for everyone to read and we have a potluck and talk about it!

How can students get involved & what is the takeaway for them?
Getting involved is super easy! Anyone can come to our meetings and events and commit as much time as they are available. Many of our members are part-time students and some of our board members also lead other organizations (a big shout out to all these fellow student org leaders - Sally Kubes with OMG, Jake Archbell with the MBAA, and Cotis Mitchell with the new LGBT+ Allies in Business). The topics we cover relate to any degree or concentration and you don’t have to be an expert in a particular social or environmental issue to contribute to the team. We want Net Impact to show students that anyone can be a change-maker in their community and in their chosen career.

How has the experience at Net Impact evolved you as a person?
Before starting my MBA I was working in academic global health. I came to the MBA program with a very general idea of studying finance for global development and strengthening health systems— basically I wanted to learn about impact investment even though I hadn’t heard much about the term. Being a part of the Net Impact UIC community has opened my eyes to the rapidly changing and ever expanding possibilities that lie in this field. Also, it has introduced me to an incredible group of talented students and professionals who are committed to doing business differently and also addressing the problems that really matter, which is solely why I am in UIC Business in the first place. 
In some ways my experience with Net Impact has validated most of my career goals; but co-leading our team over the past year has helped me in identifying the ideas that really motivate me, and surely helped me hone my leadership skills. Someone asked me the other day about my team management strengths and for the first time I was able to confidently answer that question.

Lastly, how important do you think it is to be a part of a student organization at UIC?
I think every student should join the Net Impact Team! Being a part of the board for a student organization while also going to school and ofcourse working full time has indeed been a lot of work for me. Having said that, thanks to this incredible experience I have been able to direct my own learning to pursue opportunities that I would have never had otherwise. On the other hand, I’ve met some of my closest friends at school thanks to Net Impact as well. I guess most of the student organizations at UIC would agree to these advantages of being a member of . So yes — to those considering joining a student organization, I would highly encourage it.

Thank you Natalie, for sharing your story with us and we wish the Net Impact UIC team all the very best for the future endeavours. May you continue to impact the community in a positive way and help all of us realize the importance of “doing good”. To know more about Net Impact, please find further details on the website.