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Danielle Bash is a recent MBA graduate from the GeorgeWashington School of Business. She is also one of five recipients of theschool's new Certificate in Responsible Management (CRM). Last month, duringthe United Nations Global Compact's Leadership Summit, MendozaSchool of Business Dean Carolyn Woo highlighted the Principles for Responsible Management Education(PRME), stating that for real progress in corporate responsibility, companies mustparticipate and lead by example.
GW's new certification was a direct byproduct of theseprinciples. As a signatory school to the PRME, GW's MBA candidates Ari Isaacmanand Lisa Manning decided to up the ante of their school's commitment bylaunching CRM. In collaboration with faculty and Net Impact's curriculum change initiative, the certificationwould reward MBA students for their dedication to the six PRME principles.
I caught up with Bash while she was in the middle of an intensive jobsearch. We discussed her interest in the principles, charted her journey from automotivequality engineering to business school, and how the certification has helped hertransition career paths.
When her company in Indiana announced plant openings in Mexicoand China, Bash realized that her job might not be around for too long. Decidingto pursue her interest in international development, she joined the PeaceCorps.
Her limited stint (they got evacuated because of the Iraq conflict),however, led her to redefine her career by returning to school. Initially, shesaid she had hoped to use business school to align her experience with an interestin international development.
The CRM certification served perfectly to align with herinterests. "It helped formalize my education by taking it to the next step.By thinking about it analytically, I was able to put it in perspective withinthe [PRME] principles," she said. The certification required several stepsto completion, including coursework (six credit hours), community service andextra-curricular work, as well as blogging regularly on the candidates' progress."We blogged about our classes, what our takeaway was, and how that relatedto the UN principles," she said.
The many aspects of the certification allowed Bash to gainwork experience and build her network, all of which would help in the final jobsearch. To fulfill the community hours requirement, Bash worked for nonprofitSolar Electric Light Fund–an experience she stresses bore little resemblance toa traditional internship. Among other things, she "represented them atinternational development organizations, networked on their behalf and managedtheir Google Adwords campaign."
Bash emphasizedthat the mandatory volunteering helped her align interest with academics."Another fabulous experience was the Micro Finance Residency in the springof 2009, which perfectly aligned with my core ideals and CRM. This spring alsoI chose to take a short-term study abroad class—Business Development in PostConflict Zones—in Cypress. It was a class that really served as the perfect connectionto CRM and beyond to my career objectives."
For Bash—as for the other MBA graduates interviewed in our Job Hunting in CSR series—finding a job to build onher new skills and experiences has proved to be the hardest part. The processhas been one-sided for the most part, whether in the interview process or theelevator pitch:
"I've included the certification on myresume along with highlighting the coursework I think is most applicable to thepositions I'm applying for. In interviews, while it serves to cement the notionthat I am committed to changing, it doesn’t result in a bigger conversation oncorporate responsibility. I know that Iwon't be chosen solely for my certification over someone who does not have it.But I don’t think that’s the point. Where it helps is to cement and drive homemy commitment to a particular area because it went beyond generalcoursework."
Is the certification best viewed as a launching pad for acareer in corporate responsibility and sustainability? Bash certainly thinksso: "It's not a brand in itself. For that, we have to get to the pointwhere you're delineated from another potential applicant. For now, it's a greatway to start a conversation on why you're so committed to responsible businesspractices."
The certification, at least for Bash, is also helping explaina career transition to prospective employers, which took her from engineeringto volunteering and today international business. As she puts it, "It'sjust another way that I can show what I proverbially call the 'old Danielle.' By discussingthe things that she'sdone to prove her commitment to make this transition, I am able to bill myselfin interviews as a committed careerist."
Some MBA graduates bemoan the disconnect in companies betweentheir corporate responsibility and recruitment strategies. Bash is no strangerto this and acknowledged it early on while in school.
"Companies are still trying to sort out where CSR fits intheir scope. We once had a class discussion on the element of 'Hard Trust, Good Trust, and RealTrust.'
Hard trust is doing things because you're legally obligated to.
The notion of good trust is to do them not only because it's agood thing to do but also because there is profit involved.
And real trust is just doing it because that's the right thing to do. I think there are many companies these days that are still committed to'Good Trust', and they haven't quitemade the leap."
Bash also gives high points to GW for stepping up to studentdemand for CSR and ethical components in business school curriculum. "Iknew that [GW] was making a conscientious choice. In one class we discussedbug-ridden cookies which failed the safety test and didn’t make it to storeshelves. But does that mean that we can't donate them to the local food bank?We also did environmental case studies and social case studies. GW should beapplauded for embracing that and being one of the first schools to try to makeCSR and the ethical aspect a real ribbon throughout the entire program."
Several weeks after we spoke, Bash contacted me with an update on her job search. It was good news. She leaves next month for a year-longfellowship as a part of the Emerging Markets Development Advisers Program(EMDAP), where she will work with Microfund for Women, a not-for-profitorganization in Amman, Jordan. EMDAP's mission is to contribute to theempowerment of underprivileged women as they become income earners and decisionmakers in their households and communities.
Danielle Bash received her MBA from George Washington University in 2010. Prior toreturning to school, Bash worked as an engineer for several Tier One suppliersto the automotive and aerospace industries. Additionally, Bash served asa Peace Corps volunteer, focusing on small business development, inMorocco. By the end of her stay in Morocco, Bash realized that herpassion rested in international development.
At George Washington University, Bash served on the ExecutiveBoards of the school's Net Impact and National Association of Women MBAchapters, and chaired Board Fellows, a program which partners graduate studentswith non-profit Executive Boards to complete strategic projects. She isalso among the first five recipients of the school's first Certificate forResponsible Management (CRM), which is based on United NationsPrinciples.
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