Mason’s Impact Fellows Program Lets Students Combine Interests in Business and Sustainability

Ashanti Martin, a rising junior at Sullivan Foundation partner school George Mason University, is passionate about sustainability and, specifically, addressing food insecurity.

Martin recently finished a two-year stint in Mason’s Impact Fellows Program, which focuses on helping students learn how to help businesses achieve sustainability goals. The program is run through the School of Business’s Business for a Better World Center.

The program began in 2020 with Martin’s cohort of 15 students. It provides incoming freshmen an opportunity to join up with like-minded students interested in social and environmental issues.

“Being part of the Impact Fellows Program broke me out of my shell,” said Martin, who is studying management information systems. “It was such a comfortable environment where we were encouraged to be ourselves. Through the program, I got more confidence.”

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The next cohort will start in the fall. Participation in the program is funded by the School of Business and generous donor support, said Leila G. Austin, an assistant professor of business foundations and Impact Fellows co-faculty director. “One of the goals of the program is to attract students from less represented groups, so that it is an inclusive cohort,” Austin said.

Fellows are provided with opportunities through research, internships and collaborations to work with local businesses on tackling global issues, such as sustainability. Faculty and business professionals mentor the students throughout the two years, said Shora Moteabbed, an assistant professor in the Business School and Impact Fellows co-faculty director.

“The entire journey as an Impact Fellow has been very rewarding,” said Naila Ahsan, a rising junior studying management. “I got the most supportive teachers and mentors through the program, who constantly encouraged me to be a better version of myself.”

Asli Baskaya, a rising junior studying marketing, said the program introduced her to people in the business world she might not otherwise have met. Having them not only mentor her but befriend her was a bonus, she added.

The program culminated in a trip to North Carolina, during which the students did volunteer work and met with area nonprofits.

Related: This George Mason University alumnus has dedicated her life to bringing peace to the Middle East

Karen King, assistant professor of business, said the program is part of a global movement to mold a business curriculum that “creates purposeful young people ready to step into their career.”

“I have always had the goal to become an entrepreneur,” said Kevin Jiang, a rising junior studying business analytics. “Being in the program gave me ideas of how I can do good things in the world while running a business.”

Martin said that, through the program, she grew more interested in helping in the goal of zero hunger, collaborating with the Patriot Pantry and working with the newly formed Be the Change student organization, which is focused on gender equality and upcycling clothing.

“Being an Impact Fellow has made me realize how much I can do in the community to help,” Martin said.

This article has been edited slightly from the original version appearing on the George Mason University website.

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