Chief Capital Markets Officer, Marlin Equity Partners
Mr. Nutting is the Chief Capital Markets Officer in Marlin Operations Group, Inc., focused on providing corporate finance and capital markets support to prospective, new and existing portfolio companies, as well as fostering and managing relationships with debt financing providers.
Previously, he was a Managing Director, Head of Capital Markets & Corporate Finance at Glendon Partners (an affiliate of The Gores Group) where he served in a similar capacity. Prior thereto, Mr. Nutting spent over 12 years in investment banking, most recently at Credit Suisse where he was responsible for executing capital markets, merger and acquisitions and other corporate transactions for financial sponsors and their portfolio companies. He earned a B.A. in Economics-Accounting, cum laude, from Claremont McKenna College and an M.B.A. from UCLA Anderson School of Management.
What does a lifetime of leadership look like?
By Alicia Reynaga ’22
Ronald Riggio, Henry R. Kravis Professor of Leadership and Organizational Psychology, received the 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Leadership Association during the 22nd Annual Global Conference in November 2020. Professor Riggio has authored over a dozen books and hundreds of research articles regarding leadership scholarship in I-O psychology, Social Psychology, followership, inclusivity, charisma, and many more.
As a part of the Leadership Legacy Program, ILA recognizes two honorees each year for their “significant lifetime contributions including prominent published works, influential support of the body of leadership knowledge, and practice.” This recognition is one of the many testaments to the talents of professors in the CMC community and their global contributions to prominent scholarship. Professor Riggio says as a longtime member of the ILA community, who has served on the committee that chose past honorees, it was humbling to be included amongst such dignified scholars. He said, “It is motivating and makes me want to do so much more.” However, Professor Riggio believes that leadership scholarship does not exist within a vacuum, and that without the devoted research and observations of his students he would not be able to achieve such feats. “I work in teams. Whether in student research teams, or with colleagues, or even faculty here. It’s kind of like leadership, the award is really for the team: the colleagues and students that I have had throughout the years”
For Professor Riggio, reflecting on his legacy of leadership studies comprises mainly a study of observing how communication can lead to certain behaviors and relationships. When asked about some of his greatest challenges he has faced as a scholar in leadership studies, Riggio affirmed, “Leadership is fantastically complex. It is, at its heart, a relationship, but it’s a very unique relationship.” The complexities of leadership studies only continue to vary from person to person, with some of the newer complexities emerging as a result of newer studies on leadership from a non-Western perspective. “Early research focused on the leader, specifically the person in the leadership role, however, we do not know much about global contexts of leadership.”
Dominant practices that characterize how we look at leadership studies are predominately shaped under Western scholars, focusing on typically White males. Riggio highlighted how an increasing number of leadership scholars are looking at leadership under the guise of personal contexts such as culture, gender, race, and socio-economic status.
When looking at the exclusion of minority voices from leadership scholarship, it is clear that leadership studies need to adapt and reinforce more inclusive practices. As an editor of Inclusive Leadership: Transforming Diverse Lives, Workplaces, and Societies, Professor Riggio said that his support of inclusive leadership practices is not recent and, “Inclusive Leadership is something that I’ve been concerned about for many years, but it took a while to create the annual Kravis-de Roulet Conference that allowed us to bring renowned researchers and practitioners in the area of diversity, equity, and inclusion to Claremont.” In politics, Professor Riggio mentioned it is especially clear that leadership is reliant on wealth and other external factors that give greater influential power to who can become a leader.
When asked about his opinion on the areas of leadership scholarship that need to be modified in order to be more applicable to the diverse roles of contemporary leaders, he mentioned that companies need to approach leadership with less emphasis on a top-down approach, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Leaders must develop new strategies for managing teams and supervising projects that do not rely on “micromanaging, which is one thing we already know doesn’t work”. Professor Riggio said, “We have learned however, that performance and productivity of teams does not have to diminish because of remote work, but leaders do need to provide the right kind of support to team members. The leadership challenge is how do you motivate people at a distance when you do not have that ability to interact in the same way?”
As a former student of Professor Riggio, joining the Kravis Leadership Institute became a natural progression for developing my skillsets as both a leader and a follower. I am grateful that I have been able to learn under Professor Riggio, because as someone who will be entering the workforce very soon, his course has been the most applicable in regards to understand the qualities needed to be an active follower and learning how to foster enriching relationships with leaders that I admire.
“Leadership is really about leaders and followers working together, taking into account the context in order to achieve shared outcomes.” – Professor Ronald Riggio
On the 7th of February, I had the opportunity to attend an inspirational Women in Leadership Workshop with Dr. Cindy Pace, Vice President and Global Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer at MetLife. I, along with several alumni and students from the 7-C Claremont Colleges, was able to hear firsthand stories and experiences of Dr. Pace’s journey to success and what she believed was most important for women to understand in order to find their passions and purpose.
Dr. Pace began the workshop with a presentation of what the difference between our passion and our purpose is and how we can work towards realizing them both. The concept of Empowered Leadership, that encourages a transformation from a passive mindset to an active belief that we can change the world, was what I resonated with the most as the first step to success. Dr. Pace emphasized how essential confidence is when empowering and inspiring others and motivated the audience to take educated risks in the future. She pointed out the tendency for women to underestimate their abilities as compared to men and urged us to change this, thereby urging us to have a higher self-efficacy.
After a short networking break, where I was able to talk to my peers and alumni about how Dr. Pace’s stories had struck a chord with them, we proceeded to a more interactive session. We engaged in an exercise to reflect on what we thought our purpose was in regard to our career and our work. I was able to take the time to think about what I wanted to contribute to the world, what problems I wanted to change and how exactly I would start making this impact. Focusing on my short-term plans in order to accomplish my long term goals was an extremely mobilizing approach that helped me think of a definite path I wanted to start taking. Dr. Pace also went around the room discussing what the audience had personally answered to these broad questions. It was truly encouraging to witness the diversity of thought and ideas among my fellow peers in the room and was a testament to the unbridled potential of women in leadership.
In conclusion, the Workshop facilitated careful thought about our future goals, pushed us to test our limits and allowed us to acknowledge that there was nothing holding us back from taking the leap to success. Dr. Pace’s guidance on how to use our potential and resources to make our mark in the world was very much in tandem with everything I have learned from the Kravis Leadership Institute and was in totality a very enriching experience that I am certain every member of the audience will keep in mind when thinking about their future.
On October 4th, Google’s Director of Agency Business Development, CMC Alumna and
KLI Board Member Tina Daniels ’93 came back to campus to have lunch with the KLI team. Although we were excited to ask Tina questions, she started by asking us one:
“What is your leadership WHY?”
This “start with why” strategy was initially introduced by Simon Sinek. It allows people to focus on their purpose rather than what they are doing. The answers ranged from being able to impact others to analyzing how other people’s identities and backgrounds shape their leadership styles. The reason I give leadership such importance is because I believe that people start to grow when they leave their comfort zones. Leadership for me is leaving your comfort zone by taking an action mindset and influencing others to do the same. This individual growth eventually results in a collective growth of society which makes leadership a fundamental element in societal growth.
As we were looking at this successful alum, we wondered what unique challenges she faced. One of the pieces of advice which had a significant effect on me was that, “Being right isn’t always enough, and sometimes it is not important.” Tina stresses the importance of going beyond being right and having the skills to persuade people. Unlike school, having the right answer will not be enough in your career to be successful. Your effective communication skills will be the significant aspect that will push you forward in life.
Then Tina told us about how her first job was in accounting despite the fact that she was not an accounting major. She noted that this was one of the moments that pushed her the most. However, this moment was also the one that made her grow the most. She reflected, “Putting yourself in a position where you are uncomfortably excited is good.” If you settle at a job that you are overqualified for, you will be eliminating your opportunity for growth.
At KLI, we always emphasize the importance of incorporating leadership throughout our lives and having an action mindset that will allow us to practice our leadership muscle. Tina explained that she exercised this muscle by being active throughout her life and creating opportunities for herself to be involved. As she emphasized the importance of if lifelong embeddedness, she reflected, “You always have to focus on optimizing the seat you have at the table.” Leadership is not the final goal or a position it is a mindset that we can all adapt to our lives. Living with leadership mindset will bring along the bravery to maximize the utilisation of the opportunities. Moreover, this brings up the concept of “presence”. When you are present and trying to maximize your impact at your current position you will grow.
We asked, how about business school? Is it worth it? Tina responded that Harvard Business was a second network to CMC’s very connected network. With the extra credibility it gives, business school is especially vital for women. She recommends us to create advisory groups throughout our lives. She has a group of friends from Harvard Business School, who she has brunch with every month and gets to exchange ideas. She worked for two of them already. I believe that this is one of the most important advice she has given to us. She shows that we have the power to create opportunities for ourselves. Support will not come to you if you don’t actively look for it.
Tina had experience in both small and large companies before she settled at Google. She believes that starting your career in a small company allows you to participate in leadership roles. However, large companies have a more structured program for beginners and can provide another network.
As we talked about the importance of networking and an action mindset, we asked her THE question: what are your networking hacks? She replied, “To be honest, there are no hacks. If you are open, friendly, and neutral, it will all follow.”
We thank Tina for making time for us and sharing her valuable advice. If you would like to know more about Tina, you can find her bio here
It has been nearly two years since Marko Liu first came to KLI with hopes of changing the Chinese view on leadership. Frustrated with his findings that the Chinese often focused their efforts on leadership development too late in the process, Liu was drawn to the progression of leadership development, changing the scope of his career and leading him to a two-year stint in Claremont.
As Liu’s time at KLI draws to a close, he is quite pleased with what he has accomplished. As a full-time researcher at KLI, he took part in several leadership development programs and worked with Professor David Day on a chapter in Professor Ron Riggio’s newly released edited book—What is Wrong with Leadership Development and What can be Done about it?
Much of his research will be published soon as well. Liu wrote an article regarding the harm that over parenting can inflict on an adolescent’s leadership development in the Applied Psychology Journal that will be out later this month. The study surveys 1200 families in China and examines the impact that over parenting has on leadership emergence and self-efficacy in adolescents, which remains relevant today given helicopter parenting in the United States and China.
Another of his publications, titled “Across the Life Span: Dynamic Experiences-Grounded Approach,” uncovers his conclusions on lifespan leadership which will be published in Leadership Quarterly, coming in August 2019. From his research, Liu notes that “leadership currently focuses on adults in the workplace but it should focus on other stages in life such as preschool, childhood, adolescence, emerging adulthood, and late adulthood. There are important benchmarks and experiences to develop and have at each stage.”
Before returning to China, Liu presented his research on leader development across a lifespan at the 27th annual Kravis de Roulet Conference. In Beijing, he will be taking a professorship position with the Beijing University of International Business and Economics with plans on integrating his KLI experience to his teaching career.
“KLI has a very warm, productive, interpersonal culture which really impressed me. When I first arrived, I felt pressure because of the well-known professors here, but when I settled in, I realized that everyone was really close. Anytime I had a new idea that I wanted to discuss, professors David Day and Ron Riggio always welcomed me in. I think that this encouragement, especially toward undergraduate researchers, is something that I really appreciated. I hope to bring this attitude to my future students. I want to encourage students to think more and view me as an equal to promote discourse,” Liu said.
When reminiscing about his time here, Liu is very grateful for his experience: “I was very happy to work with professors and meet the students. KLI and CMC is a wonderful place, everyone is positive, friendly, and warm. KLI is my family because everyone treats me as a family member here and always includes me in events. I benefited a lot from this institute and I would like to give something back to KLI. I will miss the people here.”
With research experience from KLI as part of his Ph.D. program in his repertoire, Liu is slated to graduate from Beijing Normal University in May 2019.
There is no doubt that CMC places a heavy emphasis on leadership, but does it actually inform or educate students on the qualifiers of good leadership? In previous years, leaders faced different challenges than leaders today. Therefore, leadership has evolved over time. It is important to address the ways in which these changes have impacted our current perception of good leadership so that we can successfully modify our leadership practices.
On September 24, the Kravis Leadership Institute hosted its first discussion in the Leadership Dialogue Series facilitated by David Day, Ph.D, Professor of Psychology and Steven L. Eggert ’82 P’15 Professor of Leadership, and KLI Academic Director. These intimate gatherings occur once a month with the goal of establishing a group of students and faculty who are deeply passionate about topics pertaining to leadership. For this discussion, the conversation evolved from two questions: what is the nature of good leadership, and how do we develop leaders for the 21st century?
According to Professor Day, having exposure to leadership studies or formal leadership roles is by no means a requirement to attend the dialogue series because “at the end of the day, we all hold an implicit leadership theory, regardless of our experience in formal leadership roles.” One student expressed how she felt unsure about attending due to her limited leadership experience, but this response quelled her concerns.
Interestingly, it was everyone’s different leadership background that informed the conversation because it encouraged diverse responses and perspectives. For example, when Professor Day asked the group about what they felt qualified as good leadership, each responder held a slightly different opinion than the next. To some attendees, good leaders have empathy, impact lives, and take responsibility for themselves and others. To others, good leaders listen, empower their communities, and respect the beliefs of others. Clearly, there is no one-size-fits-all definition for good leadership.
As for the second question about developing 21st century leaders, attendees agreed that the conditions for leaders have changed significantly. Lee Skinner, Professor of Spanish and Associate Dean of the Faculty, noted how 21st century leaders must know how to leverage and interact with technology. Moreover, “access to information has transformed the nature of leadership. Now, it’s more about what to do with information rather than simply knowing it. People, leaders included, must collaborate in order to succeed in the 21st century,” according to Fernanda Lozano ’20.
At the end of the session, I chatted with Jen Petrova ’19 who shared her thoughts on why it’s important to have these discussions on CMC’s campus.
How did you like today’s Leadership Dialogue Series?
I really liked how it was a combination of not only students but also staff and professors. Hearing everyone’s different opinions is extremely valuable especially when discussing the topic of leadership.
What did you learn today and how do you plan to apply what you learned to on-campus jobs and your future career?
I learned that leadership is ambiguous because good leadership can be subjective, but at the end of the day, leaders have a responsibility to the company, the people, and the planet. Also, I learned the value of not leading with an egocentric lens but rather thinking about how my leadership can improve the lives of others.
Do you think there are flaws in how CMC students view leadership? Is there room for improvement?
In general, I think there is always room for improvement in regards to leadership. One thing I love is how KLI not only offers classes in leadership but also hosts leadership dialogue series. This allows us to understand what we value in good leaders and then try to apply these traits in our professional lives. I definitely recommend more students attend these dialogue series as a way to enhance their leadership capabilities.
It’s true: good leadership can be ambiguous. However, KLI seeks to clarify this uncertainty by starting a dialogue around what it means to be a good leader, both on campus and in the workforce.
Join us for our next session on Monday, October 29 in Kravis 103 from 12:15 p.m. – 1:15 p.m.
Our team had an amazing few days at the 20th Annual ILA conference in West Palm Beach, Florida. We were tasked with analyzing a contemporary socio-political-economic problem on a notional or global level. Our topic of research was applying transformational leadership to address the lack of adequate public education to refugee students resettled in the USA. We chose to focus on urban refugees as 60 percent of refugees are now living in cities and dispersed among host communities rather than in camps. Whereas refugees in traditional camps were offered educational services within the camps, urban refugees must be more self-reliant in meeting their basic needs and finding educational opportunities. Hence, urban refugees face the challenge of integrating themselves into formal and informal economies and existing structures, namely local education systems.
More than half of all refugees are school-aged, thus it is alarming that refugees are five times more likely to be out of school than the global average. Millions of refugee children and adolescents do not enroll in schools in their host country: only 50 percent of refugee children have access to primary school; only 22 percent of refugee youth have access to secondary school; and only 1 percent of refugees have access to higher education. Past research has supported the need to ensure the educational needs of refugees are met, as past research indicates education is important in social and emotional healing of refugee students. As the average length of displacement for refugees is up to 20 years, now is a critical time to address the lack of educational access for refugees.
We researched five systemic causes that have contributed to the lack of access to education for refugee students in the USA: Individual, Social, Cultural, Political, and Economic. In terms of individual systemic causes, refugee students often cope with post-traumatic stress disorder, homesickness and stress over family separation. Social systemic causes include overcrowded and underfunded public schools and teachers lacking adequate training and resources to properly support refugee students. Cultural barriers include xenophobia in host communities, and varying levels of English proficiency in the refugee students. Economic factors include the fact that refugee students are often expected to work to provide for their families. Additionally, resource allocation is left up to each individual school district, and thus reflects the socio-economic condition of the area, and varies significantly from area to area. Furthermore, there is no one unified system to place students in different schools. Politically, support for refugees fluctuates.
Our solution is to apply transformational leadership in 3 ways: building a coalition of existing organizations dedicated to the cause to streamline resources and efficiently work together; creating an interdisciplinary task force at the city level comprising of local legislators, economists, psychologists, educators, and representatives from organizations that work directly with refugees; and lastly, partnering with education technology startups to set up personalized curricula online to get the students up to speed, whether that be learning English, or catching up on core subjects. In each solution, transformational leadership is used to combine separate and disjoint initiatives to achieve a shared common goal. Additionally, in the task force, team transformational leadership is used, and the members of the task forces are influencing each other to achieve their common goal.
During this conference, our team changed from a group of acquaintances to a high-functioning team that collaborated very effectively. We rehearsed our presentation really effectively, ensuring we had smooth transitions and an engaging narrative, reminding our audience why they should care about this issue. We attended many sessions at the conference, from leadership in times of crisis, which was very applicable to our presentation, to women in leadership. The experience helped us all develop our collaboration and presentation skills, and was a rewarding experience, as we got to apply something we had learned about in school to a real world issue that we all deeply care about. We are thankful to KLI for making this experience possible!
*Student Team Members: Leya Aronoff ’19, Alina Rainsford ’20, Vanessa Romo ’19, Christian Tchamitchian ’19, Edgar Warnholtz ’19
 McBrien, J. (2005). Educational needs and barriers for refugee students in the United States: A review of the literature. Review of Educational Research, 75(3), 329-364. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/3515985
KLI launched the third of the four Non-Profit Success series conferences on March 1, 2018 incorporating it with the Kravis-de Roulet conference (KDR). How We Rise: Strategies for Social Innovation was a day and a half focused on developing skillsets required to accelerate transformative and lasting impact.
The program kicked off with an Athenaeum dinner where Cheryl Dorsey, President of Echoing Green, gave her keynote address on executing responsible leadership in the 21 century. The official launch the following morning, began with two speeches—one from Tina Rosenberg, Co-Founder NYT Fixes Column, on Building a Culture of Solutions Thinking and another from Kathleen Kelly on social startup success, on How Do the Best Startups, Scale Up, and Make a Difference.
The momentum continued throughout the morning and all breakout session participants came together for lunch for an impressive panel of female serial entrepreneurs, venture capital (VC) founders, and social innovators. These female leaders talked about their diverse career paths and shared their respective journey towards social innovation. The women encouraged students to take advantage of the growing momentum the social innovation trend has gained in the corporate sector.
It was amazing to hear the diversity of options surrounding a career in social innovation. Tracy Gray, founder and managing partner of The 22 Fund, and Executive in Residence at Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI) talked about founding her own VC that targets funding for women and people of color and her experience at LACI. She spoke about gender disparities in venture capital industry. Over the last twenty years, there has been a decline of women in VCs. Gray thought there was something wrong with this equation, so she started her own VC to democratize startup investment.
Gray explained, “I wanted women to know that they were empowered to change the world. If women had the same access to capital during the recession, we would have created double the jobs. It is an economic empowerment to invest in women.” The 22 Fund VC is currently raising their fund and is looking towards investing in the future.
“All of this is very opportunistic no trade-off because women and people of color’s companies are more successful at almost every measurement of financial return. I am not trading off anything. I just have to invest in things that have a mission and be intentional about the returns I want to get.”
Gray left the audience with an inspiring endnote that resonated with many CMC students, especially given our preprofessional inclinations.
“I wanted to make a ton of money, and I wanted to do a ton of good, and I was constantly being told that I couldn’t do both. My goal was to find ways to do good and not trade off market rate returns. Now the world is understanding that this is possible,” said Tracy.
This lunch proved to students that they do not have to decide to make that trade-off. It showed students the multitude of options that are available to them in social innovation.
The Kravis Leadership Institute welcomes two new Advisory Board Members, Arjun Dutt ’07 and Gregory Hinckley ’68. Please join us in welcoming our newest members who will be joining our current Advisory Board. To learn more about their background and work, you can view their biographies below.
Arjun Dutt ’07
VP of Product Strategy, Semantify
Arjun Dutt ’07, is currently the VP of Product Strategy at Semantify, a startup based in Chicago. Semantify is the world’s first AI powered cognitive search and analytics engine for enterprise data. He oversees the long-term corporate strategy and funding efforts, as well as the product marketing function.
Prior to this role, Arjun worked for Fieldglass, a Chicago based tech startup. Fieldglass was acquired in 2015 by SAP for $1.1B, making it the first unicorn exit in Chicago history. During his 9 year tenure, Arjun held various entrepreneurial roles, including innovating the very first customer success management team, as well as establishing and leading operations in Europe for Fieldglass’ EMEA expansion, based in London. He also oversaw the creation of the in-house strategy group, which used big data analytics to drive the delivery of innovative new products and services. As a seasoned public speaker, he was one of the lead spokespersons for Fieldglass at conferences, webinars, analysts, and more. His final role at Fieldglass was to lead the year long merger integration between Fieldglass and SAP.
Arjun is deeply involved in the Chicago startup scene, investing in and advising entrepreneurs and startups in various stages of growth. Arjun uses his experience to regularly consult with startups on their product marketing and growth strategies. He is active in Chicago philanthropy, and is currently co-sponsoring a 3 year long exhibit of Underwater Beauty at the Shedd Aquarium.
Arjun graduated from CMC in 2007 with a BA in Psychology. During his time on campus, he was actively involved with ASCMC all four years, including serving as the ASCMC CTO from 2005-2007, and was a founding member of the Information Technology Advisory Board (ITAB) and the co-founder of the annual Silicon Valley Networking Trip. Arjun serves on the Boards of the Kravis Leadership Institute and the Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship (CIE), is one of the leads for President Chodosh’s Chicago Leadership Group and co-head of the Chicago Alumni Chapter.
Gregory K. Hinckley ’68
President, Mentor Graphics Corporation (Retired)
Gregory Hinckley retired in 2017 as President of Mentor Graphics Corporation, a publicly traded provider of electronic design automation solutions that was acquired by Siemens AG in 2017. Previously, he served as Chief Financial Officer for two other publicly traded companies—VLSI Technology, Inc. and Bio-Rad Laboratories, Inc. Mr. Hinckley is a director of SI-Bone, Inc., a privately held orthopedic device company, and Bio-Rad Laboratories, a publicly traded supplier of products and systems for clinical diagnostics and life science research. He previously served as a director of Intermec, Inc., a publicly traded provider of automated identification and data collection(AIDC) solutions; a director of Super Micro, Inc., a publicly traded provider of advanced computer server systems and subsystems; and a director of Amkor Technology, Inc., a publicly traded supplier of outsourced semiconductor packaging and test services. In 2011, Mr. Hinckley was named Oregon Technology Executive of the Year and in 2013 was named Honorary Professor of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at The University of Nottingham in Ningbo, China.
Mr. Hinckley is a Trustee of Claremont McKenna College, a Trustee of Portland State University and a board director of Portland Opera Association and Portland Playhouse. He earned a B.A. in Mathematics and Physics from Claremont Men’s College; studied Applied Mathematics at the University of Nottingham in England as a Fulbright Fellow; earned an M.S. in Applied Physics from the University of California, San Diego; and earned an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School.
While sitting in the living room listening to my fellow peers share their personal anecdotes, I struggled not to weep. The room and its occupants united over similar passions and championed the “vulnerageous” volunteers so willing to reveal significant pieces of their past, but not before we bused to the Moonshot House.
On Sunday, May 13, thirty-one other CMCers and I traveled to Lake Elsinore, CA for the second annual Moonshot Retreat hosted by the Kravis Leadership Institute. The one-week program armed student participants with the tools necessary to create and execute world-changing ideas. This was accomplished by having eight successful social entrepreneurs (SocEnts) accompany us for the entire week while also serving as mentors, granting us unfettered access to their knowledge, wisdom, and advice. According to Scott Sherman, KLI Senior Director of Social Innovation and Co-Curricular Programming, the backstory behind “Moonshot” stemmed from how putting a man on the moon was once considered an impossible task, one requiring a radical solution. Therefore, “moonshot thinking” symbolizes the innovative ideation required to solve tough problems, render lasting impact, and change the world with projects that could improve at least a billion lives.
The end goal of the Moonshot Retreat was to inspire Moonshoters to take action on their ideas by turning them into a social venture. Judging by the participation among the eager Moonshoters who engaged with the SocEnts and asked relevant questions, it successfully achieved its goal. However, the program accomplished so much more.
After arriving to the magnificent beachfront abode, we quickly began to introduce ourselves through two icebreaker activities. The two exercises eased our transition into the house, shattered barriers, and allowed us to share parts of our stories, which prepared us for Tuesday’s activity.
Icebreakers were followed by a panel where the eight award-winning social entrepreneurs discussed their moment of obligation and most memorable failure. The panelists included Echoing Green Fellows, Gemma Bulos, KLI Director of Social Innovation and Impact, and Scott Sherman—in addition to the six other SocEnts. Echoing Green identifies and invests in the best emerging social entrepreneurs who are bringing innovative solutions to solve the most pressing issues of our generation. EGs unparalleled community of talent consists of more than 700 innovators who launched programs globally.
● Lauren Burke, founder of Atlas: DIY, a cooperative empowerment center for immigrant youth and their allies that offers college and legal resources.
● Kwami Williams, co-founder of MoringaConnect, a vertically integrated supply chain improving the livelihoods of smallholder farmers by turning the leaves from their moringa trees into superfoods.
● Donnie Smith, executive director of Donda’s House, a nonprofit organization that provides free access to the arts for youth.
● Kohl Gill, founder of LaborVoices, an organization that promotes transparency among supply chains and labor markets.
● Sara Leedom, co-founder of African Entrepreneur Collective (AEC), a collection of business accelerators that support local entrepreneurs to drive job growth.
● Rebecca Hui, founder of Roots Studio, an organization that digitalizes the work and stories of traditional artists from India, Indonesia, and Jordan, and licenses them onto stationery, apparel, and home decor.
Listening to the SocEnts speak about their experiences comforted me because their stories contextualized their success with relatable obstacles. According to Burke, “these stories may sound linear, but please know that we all experienced failure along the way.” Moreover, I reveled in the fact that their career journeys were informed by passion rather than driven by greed or majors. Often times, we let salary sizes dictate our career paths when we really should worry about the size of our impact.
The following days revealed to Moonshoters what it meant to be a social entrepreneur.
Monday challenged us to devise a solution that would help people overcome failure, which also introduced the lead-design model whereby an idea transforms into a tangible product.
Tuesday required us to tell our personal stories publicly because according to Bulos, by identifying past challenges, you are able to understand and realize your current passions. In the words of Shanil Verjee ‘21, “this activity made me realize how much people have been through and how strong everyone is. The people around us are fighting everyday, even though it’s not always visible. It’s amazing how little you actually know about someone until you find the courage to ask and listen.”
Wednesday directed us to imagine a solution for our assigned problem. My group was assigned the task of transforming education—a casual request. We all worked through the lead-design model, ending the day with each group presenting their tentative pitch—not knowing that a surprise awaited us on Thursday.
Rising at 5:30am was not easy especially after finals week, but compensation for the inconvenience came in the form of a surprise Disneyland field trip. We spent our day exploring, bonding, and completing challenges that dared us to step outside of our comfort zone by talking to strangers, pushing boundaries, and daring greatly. The moral being to get comfortable with failing: fail hard, fail fast, fail often.
Friday tested the skills and knowledge we learned throughout the week with one final pitch. The way in which Moonshoters delivered the information exceeded creative expectations. Groups wowed us with the uniqueness of their ideas, which ranged from utilizing aquaponics in the farming of almonds to implementing a software program that would monitor terrorist activity on social media. The solutions offered by my peers embodied the tenets of “moonshot thinking,” with one group receiving an award for the most investable idea.
By the end of the program, I was not ready to leave, especially after the last activity: back gratitude. Attached to everyone’s back was a blank sheet of paper where your peers and mentors would write thoughtful messages about you.
On Sunday, the motto stated that “we are the heroes we’ve been waiting for.” Together, with our collective knowledge and skill set, we have the potential to positively impact the lives around us. It’s our duty to accept this responsibility because if we don’t, then who will?
I challenge you to survey your passions so that you are not blindly wandering down a path destined for dissatisfaction when you could be intentionally marching down a more fulfilling path filled with opportunities to make a difference, change the world, and assemble a career built on your passions.