social impact mba
Questrom Social Impact MBA students are a part of the Full-Time MBA cohort, and are among the very best and brightest MBA students, nurturing a vibrant and inclusive learning community. Our students’ cultural and professional backgrounds, as well as their job aspirations, are very diverse. What unites them is a strong passion for creating positive change and showing leadership in tackling society’s most urgent environmental, economic, and social challenges.
We are in the midst of multiple crises—global pandemic, social injustice, climate crisis, and others. A typical first reaction is that it is the government’s role and responsibility to take care of these crises. Yet, government leadership is often missing or insufficient. This puts the spotlight and responsibility on the private sector to address these crises and prevent the system from collapsing.
Accordingly, understanding how and to what extent (non-profit and for-profit) organizations and investors can grow and sustain their organizations over time while strengthening—instead of undermining—the very system in which they operate is important, as organizations can play a critical role in addressing climate change, poverty, inequality, global health, and other societal grand challenges our world is facing related to society and the natural environment.
Do you aspire to pursue a career that allows you to address such grand challenges and make a positive impact on society and the natural environment? Our Social Impact MBA program is fully integrated with Questrom’s general MBA program—so you will take the same core business courses and earn the same degree. On top, it will allow you to gain deep knowledge and skills that will prepare you for a successful career in the social impact space. Prepare to join a vibrant, impact-driven community, develop lifelong bonds with your classmates, and connect with our engaged Social Impact MBA alumni network.
Other schools perceive social impact to be an afterthought—at Questrom, it’s front and center.
The mission of the Social Impact MBA closely aligns with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Specifically, the aim of our program is to develop responsible leaders (of start-ups, established firms, and both for- and non-profit organizations) who create innovative products, services, and business models that help address vital social challenges — such as climate change, food security, global health, poverty, discrimination, etc. — and enable them to grow and sustain their organizations over time.
Social Impact students—and all of our MBA students—are passionate, focused, and driven to make a difference. As a community, they always make time to network, socialize, and connect. Sometimes they just chill with friends over pizza or pop over to Fenway for a Red Sox game. Your classmates will come from every conceivable background and every corner of the world. They’ll expand your outlook, challenge your thinking, and become lifelong friends. That’s Questrom! You’ll join a vibrant community, develop lifelong bonds with your classmates, and connect with our engaged Social Impact MBA alumni network.
Beyond the Classroom
In addition to the academic and extracurricular experiences that are available to all Full-Time MBA students, our Social Impact students also participate in student clubs, case competitions, and service activities that are specifically focused on social impact.
Make a real impact before you graduate—locally, nationally and globally.
Apply what you learn in the classroom to work in the real world right away—creating positive outcomes while you’re still a student. Get ready to engage directly with global academic experts and industry leaders in the social impact space. If you’ve got the drive, we’ve got options for you.
Behavior Change Practicum
Every organization — be it government, private company or welfare agency — is in the business of changing behavior. In this course, students will learn to apply insights from behavioral economics to effectively produce it. In teams, students will: (1) translate a real-time business or policy challenge into a specific behavior change project; (2) use the frameworks presented in class along with research from economics, psychology, marketing, and other related disciplines to develop possible interventions and/or frameworks for addressing the challenge; and (3) audit the decision-making process of various stakeholders to identify pain points and opportunities for behavior change. Previous organizations include Warby Parker, the World Bank, and FCLT Global.
Link Day is a Questrom tradition everyone looks forward to. And one way we give back to the Greater Boston community. Link Day is a one-day consulting event that matches mission-driven organizations with teams of Questrom faculty and MBA students—including Social Impact students—to help solve business-related challenges for local nonprofits and social enterprises. Students gets hands-on practice. Organizations get new solutions and ideas. That’s what we call win-win!
Social Impact Field Seminar: Country Varies
How do organizations develop innovative products and services that act as sustainable solutions to social challenges? Students tackle these issues by doing a consulting project for a client from a host country and then present their recommendation to the client in person. We traveled to South Africa in 2019. In 2020, it was Brazil. Hear about their amazing experiences and insights in the Social Impact Field Seminar student blog.
Social Impact Summer Internship
All full-time MBA students must complete an internship. As a Social Impact MBA, you’ll have the chance to influence meaningful change during your internship with a leading company, startup, social enterprise, government, or nonprofit.
The Susilo Institute for Ethics in Global Economy
Social Impact MBA students are welcomed to get involved with Susilo Institute, a thought leader and platform for ethical business actions and responsible leadership with a global perspective. The Institute produces original research, offers courses, and hosts conference, guest speakers, and events for students, faculty, partner organizations, governments, alumni, and the public.
BU Institute for Sustainable Energy
Social Impact MBA students are welcomed to get involved with the BU Institute for Sustainable Energy, a university-wide center dedicated to developing energy systems that will provide abundant, universally accessible, and sustainable energy sources for emerging and advanced economies.
We have over 25 different student clubs and organizations—and 60% of graduate students get involved. Many Social Impact students are active in the following:
Many Social Impact students are active in Net Impact, Questrom’s graduate chapter of an international network of students and professionals motivated to improve the world through responsible management and sustainable practices.
Social Impact and Nonprofit Club
SINC, the student-run Social Impact and Nonprofit Club brings panel discussions, networking opportunities, social events, and other activities to Questrom to will help students become socially-minded leaders in both the public and private sectors.
Meet Lindsey Cohen, president of the Social Impact & Nonprofit Club (SINC), a student-run organization for students in Questrom’s Social Impact MBA program. She describes being a part of the club as fun, collaborative, and communicative.
Your social impact career goal.
We’re on it!
Customize for your career
Pursuing a Social Impact MBA will open many doors.
Map your social impact Career pathway
Do you aspire to pursue a career that allows you to make a positive social impact and address vital challenges such as climate change, global health, inequality, and poverty?
Whether you aspire to work in sustainable finance, impact investing, responsible for-profit business, or nonprofit and public management, Questrom’s Social Impact MBA program gives you the opportunity to gain crucial business skills that allow you to create positive social change. You will learn the full array of business fundamentals and—on top of that—you will be able to specialize in areas such as social entrepreneurship, sustainable energy and environment, global health, responsible for-profit business, sustainable finance, impact investing, and nonprofit management. In addition to all of the great career resources we provide to all full-time MBA students, Social Impact MBA students will engage directly with academic experts and industry leaders in the social impact space through global field seminars, consulting projects, case competitions, guest speakers, classroom activities, and more.
Social Impact students have access to the full range of the MBA curriculum. We are happy to help design a career pathway that aligns with your career goals. Here are a few pathways that our Social Impact students have pursued:
- Sustainable energy
- Environmental sustainability
- Social entrepreneurship
- Global health
- Nonprofit and public management
- Responsible for-profit business
- Sustainable finance
- Impact investing
- Higher education and many others
We offer elective courses that help students develop their skills and knowledge in each of these areas.
Top Social Impact organizations
Pursuing a Social Impact MBA will open many doors. Our students secure internships and employment at all types of leading non-profit and for-profit organizations.
Organizations that have recently hired Social Impact students for internships and permanent employment include:
- Andorra Impact Investing
- Broad Fellowship
- City of Boston Urban Mechanics
- City Year
- Clinton Health Access Initiative
- CVS Health
- Education Resource Strategies
- Gates Foundation
- Liberty Mutual
- National Park Service
- New Profit Inc.
- Partners in Health
- Presidential Management Fellowship
- Year Up
Full-time social impact mba requirements
Because the Social Impact MBA is a specialization within the Full-Time MBA program, they share the same curriculum. By adding the social impact specialization, however, you’ll be able to focus your MBA degree with our Social Impact targeted electives. Students must take 1 required course and choose 3 additional Social Impact electives in order to earn the Social Impact specialization.
The required Social Impact course:
Social Impact: Business, Society, and the Natural Environment (QSTSR801)
This course explores the relationship between corporations, society, and the natural environment. Specifically, it examines the ways in which governments, corporations and civil society (fail to) have positive impact and manage issues where the pursuit of private goals is deemed inconsistent with the public interest. There are two modules to the course: (1) The first module examines these issues and the tensions that arise between the different stakeholders. In particular, we will discuss different types of market failures (due to negative externalities, imperfect information, public goods, and market control) and their impact on the natural and social environment. (2) The second module explores how (non-profit and for-profit) organizations can take private actions to mitigate the previously identified market failures and respond to the increasing pressure to address environmental and social issues through the adoption of sustainable business practices. This course is ideal for any student interested in social impact such as corporate social responsibility, environmental sustainability, nonprofit & public management, sustainable finance & responsible investment, social entrepreneurship, global health, and clean technology & sustainable energy. It is open to all full-time MBA and PEMBA students, and it is the foundational course for students in the Social Impact MBA program.
Full-Time MBA students at Questrom have choices—10 electives within the program to be exact. Social Impact MBA students are only required to take 4 social impact courses (1 required and 3 elective courses) and may use the additional 6 electives as they wish. You can either take additional social impact electives, pursue another concentration altogether, or explore any elective we offer that fits your interests.
Here’s a sample of some of the Social Impact electives you’ll be able to choose from:
Sustainability Reporting (QSTAC831)
The course addresses sustainability reporting. We will examine the evolving protocols for such disclosure: Integrated Reporting, Sustainability Accounting Standards, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Carbon Disclosure Project, and the Global Reporting Initiative. Students will learn about the range of sustainability disclosures, develop an ability to think critically about them and gain knowledge about the challenges of implementing them.
ESG Equity Investing (QSTFE833)
ESG Equity Investing is an introductory course that provides the appropriate tools to analyze and undertake investments in publicly listed companies taking into account the social impact of these financial decisions. Different dimensions of social impact -- Environment, Social, and Governance -- are discussed along with corresponding ESG metrics available to investors. The core of the course deals with the integration of (quantitative-based) portfolio allocation models with (qualitative-based) ESG scores and objectives. The course also discusses how impact investing may affect the behavior of firms, as well as alternative channels through which investors can provide impact (private investments, activism).
Health Sector Issues and Opportunities (QSTHM703)
This course provides a dynamic introduction to the health sector, beginning with the burden and distribution of disease and current patterns of expenditures. While the emphasis will be on the American system, a global context will be developed. The basic elements of insurance and payment, service delivery, and life sciences products will be described, and put in the context of the unique economic structure of the sector. The intense challenges of the sector will be explored, as well as both the ethical issues presented and the opportunities that emerge. Public policy and technological and practice development as drivers of change will be addressed throughout.
Social Impact Field Seminar (QSTIM860)
This course provides an action-based learning experience for students interested in understanding how for-profit and non-profit organizations develop innovative products and services that help mitigate grand challenges such as climate change, food security, global health, and poverty, and enable them to grow their business and sustain their competitive advantage over time. Students will work on a live 'social impact' consulting project for a client from the host country, and present their recommendation to the client while in the country. Furthermore, students will visit and interact with various players in the social impact sector (e.g., entrepreneurs, high-level executives, non-profit leaders) to learn about the opportunities and challenges they face. This course is ideal for students interested in social impact, sustainable energy, environmental sustainability, social entrepreneurship, socially responsible investing (SRI), and global health and healthcare.
Behavior Change Practicum (QSTMK838)
Every organization -- be it government, private company or welfare agency -- is in the business of changing behavior. In this course, students will learn to apply insights from behavioral economics to effectively produce it. In teams, students will: (1) translate a real-time business or policy challenge into a specific behavior change project; (2) use the frameworks presented in class along with research from economics, psychology, marketing, and other related disciplines to develop possible interventions and/or frameworks for addressing the challenge; and (3) audit the decision-making process of various stakeholders to identify pain points and opportunities for behavior change. Previous organizations include Warby Parker, the World Bank, and FCLT Global.
Purpose-Led Marketing (QSTMK867)
Globalization, increasing transparency in business operations and the prevalence of social media have forever changed the way stakeholders view and interact with organizations. Societal and business imperatives are not only often considered compatible; they can be increasingly viewed as one and the same. People today often communicate, organize and engage based on mutual interests, and, generally, place greater trust in organizations and individuals that work for a better world. Marketing has often been referred to as the "science of sales." Whether you are selling a product, an intervention or an idea, it can be a powerful tool for advancing social change in today's dynamic environment. The strategic integration of a relevant social purpose into a product, business or nonprofit organization through brand-building citizenship activities can drive consumer and donor recall, consideration, acquisition, retention and propensity to recommend. However, these efforts do not usually constitute a "silver bullet" and may not be the best solution to a business problem or societal need at all. In the worst cases, ill-conceived citizenship marketing strategies can result in damaging consequences. Practitioners must be pragmatic when engaging in marketing social change. Understanding how to apply best practice, identify opportunities, address challenges, engage stakeholders and innovate strategically are essential skills in this rapidly evolving sector. The purpose of this course is to provide students with an in-depth understanding of how marketing principles can be applied to create both short-term and lasting social change. Students will explore dimensions of the modern landscapes of brand, corporate and nonprofit "citizenship" and how they relate to marketing. Areas of study include: cause-related marketing and cause branding; nonprofit branding and social movements, as well as corporate social responsibility and shared value creation.
Leading Mission Driven Organizations (QSTMO830)
Mission-driven organizations are created in order to accomplish goals that extend beyond profits for stakeholders and owners. Missions vary, ranging from, among many others, improving health care, providing meaningful work opportunities, educating or protecting youth, safeguarding the planet, eradicating poverty, building sustainable organizations, and enabling spirituality. Such missions occur in the context of various organizations, including non-profit and for-profit, philanthropic and religious, public and private, governmental and non-governmental. This course focuses on leadership theories, frameworks, and practices that take seriously the nature of workers, including both professional staff and volunteers, and their reasons for choosing to work in such organizations. This course is designed to build the capacities of students to use specific tools related to leadership, conflict, and change that are particularly useful in leading mission- driven organizations, and enable them to develop particular insights about specific mission-driven organizations of interest, related to their effectiveness and capacities for change.
Executive Compensation: Strategy and Practice (QSTMO833)
This course will provide students with an in-depth understanding of the structure and governance of executive compensation programs and practices. The course material will draw upon the theory and research in executive compensation and explore current legislative and shareholder reform initiatives impacting executive pay. Our approach will be to view executive compensation from a multi-stakeholder perspective taking into account the interests of shareholders, institutional investors, advocacy groups, social activists, governmental regulators, employees, and executives. We will examine the linkages between executive compensation and business strategy, talent strategy, compliance with securities law, tax regulations, accounting standards, and principles of good corporate governance. We will also address current topics of gender pay equity, increasing pay inequality, and investor focus on the role of incentives in reinforcing organizational attention to environmental, social and governance issues (ESG). While the primary focus of the course will be on executive and management compensation, the theory and practice applicable to broad-based rewards programs will also be explored.
Leadership Challenge (QSTMO848)
This course examines the essence of leadership; its relationship to managing; and the behaviors, attitudes and perspectives that distinguish leaders. Leadership is considered in a variety of ways: leadership in crises, at the top, in the middle, and in groups. Case studies, students' past experiences, instruments, and other learning activities provide opportunities for students to assess and develop their leadership talents.
Blockchain and Social Impact (QSTOM832)
Blockchain technology is transforming societies by decentralizing institutional systems and reducing the need for intermediaries. This course aims to help students understand blockchain technology and the unique business models it enables in various industries. Students will learn how blockchains work, and how their properties enable business models that have never previously been possible. Through an analysis of current programs with existing use cases as well as future models, the course will prepare students to implement models today while anticipating the changes that newer models will bring to the sector
Environmentally Sustainable Supply Chains (QSTOM851)
This course examines supply chain practices that reduce environmental impact for a firm These include eco-efficiency initiatives such as reduction in waste, energy and water usage, green logistics, product design for recycling, and supplier management. It covers additional topics such as complexity of supply chains, environmental impact assessment, the circular economy, food waste, eco- labeling, and sustainable business models (e.g., through servicing).
Business Law and Discrimination (QSTPL843)
Many companies struggle with how to support diverse employees, and the need to do so has become even more urgent in the wake of events like the death of George Floyd. Navigating these issues requires understanding how the lived experiences varies systematically among different ethnic groups, genders, gender identities, and sexual orientation. Successfully addressing inequities and adopting practical solutions necessitates understanding the history of racism, sexism, and other "isms" in America. This course will address these and other relevant issues in the context of the corporate environment. It will cover doctrinal issues regarding the ethical and legal obligations of corporations as it relates to managing discrimination in the workplace (e.g., history of antidiscrimination legislation, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964), but will also delve into some of the more practical aspects of the tools and techniques companies can or should adopt to achieve a more inclusive work environment.
Decarbonization of the Global Economy (QSTSI836)
The changing relationship between business and the natural environment offers both challenges and opportunities for firms. In this course we will discuss many facets of business, including financing, risk management, measurement, competitive positioning, innovation, and strategy in the context of increasing pressures for improved environmental sustainability. The course will be interactive and discussion-oriented, with a case discussion in most class sessions, supplemented by debates, simulation exercises, visitors, student presentations, discussions of recent news articles, and mini-lectures. The course is appropriate for all students interested in how demands for sustainability will continue to change the business environment.
Corporate Sustainability Strategy (QSTSI849)
Focuses on embedding sustainability (ESG/CSR) into corporate strategy as an approach for creating long-term shareholder/stakeholder value, where value covers the broad spectrum of economic, environmental and social outcomes. Through readings, lectures, case discussions, in-class exercises, lab session and a team project, this course will: 1) Introduce students to problem framing and environmental scanning techniques as methods for understanding macro-level social, economic and environmental systems and their implications; 2) Apply a variety of long-range strategic forecasting and analysis methods, techniques and tools through a scenario planning lab simulation; 3) Develop decision frameworks for corporate strategy development focused on creating/capturing value and managing risk through a sequence of strategic actions over time; 4) Explore newly emerging paradigms for sustainability-driven innovations in product/service, value chain and business model development and stakeholder-based, non-market actions.
Starting New Ventures (QSTSI852)
This course focuses on the process of identifying and obtaining the necessary resources to launch an entrepreneurial venture through the development of a business plan. A well-written business plan will communicate the business concept in a way that attracts the various resource providers necessary for the venture's success. Students will individually develop a business concept and prepare and present a professional business plan.
Fundamentals of Nonprofit Management (QSTSR841)
The purpose of this course is to teach students about the distinctive challenges of managing high-performing organizations in the nonprofit sector. The course will cover a broad range of topics and it is intended to be a gateway course to the sector and to potential electives and pathways of future learning. The two major projects in the semester (one is individual, one in a team) offer students the chance to choose an area of interest to explore in depth. Other assignments challenge students to identify and analyze key indicators of nonprofit performance and to communicate effectively about those issues to selected stakeholders. A strong grounding in nonprofit accounting and financial management is extremely valuable and so we devote considerable attention to those topics. The course also addresses nonprofit marketing, evaluation, fundraising and revenue generation, growth strategy, impact investing, and the confluence of charity and commerce. The course is oriented to practice and will engage experts in the field.
Global Entrepreneurship (QSTSR850)
This course is designed to: (1) explore the concepts, practices, opportunities, and challenges of social entrepreneurship; (2) provide frameworks and tools that will help students be more effective in this sector; and (3) provide an opportunity for students to create a business plan for a new social enterprise or an income-generating initiative of a nonprofit organization. In the business plan project, student teams will partner with external organizations. Students will identify and analyze opportunities, resources, and risks and apply skills from marketing, accounting, organizational behavior, strategy and other disciplines. Special emphasis will be placed on aspects of business planning and organizational strategy that are particularly challenging or distinctive in the social sector, including mission definition, leadership, organizational structure, raising capital, and measuring results.
Energy Sector Market Dynamics (QSTPL855)
This course is designed as a multi-dimensional approach to understanding the energy sector. This includes production, development, distribution, financing, and consumption relating to the two distinct sectors - Power Generation and Transportation, both domestically and internationally. For Power Generation, we will explore the fundamentals of Generation, Transmission (G&T), and Distribution as well as major feedstocks, including wind, solar, nuclear, natural gas, and coal. This includes an in-depth discussion of both challenges and opportunities inherent to altering the current system.
*QSTMK838, QSTMO833, QSTSI852, can count toward the Social Impact MBA elective requirement if the student completes a project in the course that is directly related to the social impact sector.
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