Why wait for retirement? A student's perspective on jumping into social impact

 
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By Jacob Harper

If anything in this world is capable of ruining Jackie Sullivan’s day, it’s the feeling of being confined or limited in what she can do. If you talk to Jackie, even briefly, you’ll quickly realize how much she loves change, new ideas, and continuously learning.

Jackie grew up in Bountiful, Utah and earned a Bachelor’s degree in economics from Utah State University in Logan. She began her collegiate journey as a pre-med student, but after a few economics courses, she was converted to the world of business.

I don’t want to be the person that works on Wall Street until they’re 60 and then is philanthropic for the last part of their life. I want to be a [philanthropic] person throughout my entire life

Jackie doesn’t fit the conventional mold of a business mind. Even after making the switch to business school, she found herself becoming agitated when her peers and professors were exclusively focused on profit. Though she fully understands the importance of capital and financial resources, she recognizes that these things should serve a higher purpose. When asked what her vision for her life is, she replied, “At the end of the day, I hope that whatever talent I’m able to acquire and whatever I’m able to achieve in my life has a direct social impact. I don’t want to be the person that works on Wall Street until they’re 60 and then is philanthropic for the last part of their life. I want to be a [philanthropic] person throughout my entire life.”

After hearing about Sorenson Impact from some friends, Jackie applied and joined the policy team. “It aligned very well with what I was interested in,” she said. And what exactly is she interested in? Just about everything. “I love the many facets of Sorenson Impact. You have to become a mini expert on everything.” While working at Sorenson, she was involved with an Early Head Start program in California called First 5 Ventura County, which aims to help early childhood education programs better prepare their students for a lifetime of learning. While working with this program, Jackie was involved with the policy, investing and data areas of the project, as well as interacting with the service provider. She loved that she could dabble in so many aspects of social impact all in one project.

 Jackie Sullivan, Impact Fellow at the Sorenson Impact Center.

Jackie Sullivan, Impact Fellow at the Sorenson Impact Center.

Recently, Jackie was accepted to an economics masters program at Oxford University in England, where she’ll begin her studies in October. When asked about the application process, Jackie humbly expressed deep gratitude for the professors who had helped her fine-tune her application. “It’s really important to have good mentors and good advocates,” she said. She then advised, “Surround yourself with people that want to help you.” Eventually, she wants to establish a career in international policy or consulting, but is committed to impacting the world for the better every step of the way.

Her humility and gratitude are again evident when she talks about her time at Sorenson Impact. “My time at Sorenson has considerably piqued my interest in using social impact bonds and impact investing to solve large-scale, persistent social problems,” she said. She attributes much of her desire to be philanthropically successful to what she’s learned at the Center. Her time at Sorenson Impact has clearly turned her into a budding social impact Jack-of-all-trades, which seems to be just how she wants it.

 
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