Student Spotlight: Amy Lin

Wharton student Amy Lin in Kenya

DUAL DEGREE DYNAMO: Lin is working toward two degrees—an MBA from Wharton and a Master’s in International Studies from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. She will finish up her coursework this year and is hoping to begin her career later working on international development issues in Africa.

JOINING THE FIGHT: Lin probably won’t have much trouble finding work. Besides, her resume already includes some truly impressive real-world experience. She previously interned at the World Bank and, last summer, spent several months working in Nairobi, Kenya (pictured above), for a New York-based social venture fund called the Acumen Fund. “When I was working with the World Bank, one of our partners there was the Acumen Fund,” Lin says. “I was very impressed with how they ran their operation—how they sought out these social-impact businesses and supported them in a very private sector, sustainable way.”

THE BOTTOM OF THE PYRAMID: The Acumen Fund puts entrepreneurship to use in the effort to solve the problems of global poverty. Fund officials say they “seek to prove that small amounts of philanthropic capital, combined with large doses of business acumen, can build thriving enterprises that serve vast numbers of the poor.”

INTERNATIONAL RECOGNITION: The Financial Times featured Lin in a January article about the increasing number of MBA students who are looking to careers with non-profits and non-governmental organizations, or as social entrepreneurs.

A BIG JOB: In Kenya, Lin joined a small staff with a big job—evaluating and assisting the numerous entrepreneurs who sought Acumen’s assistance. As she told The Financial Times: “Sometimes when you’re a student, you can lose track of real-world applications. ... I had to look at financial models, evaluate whether I believed their assumptions, pick apart a balance sheet and make sure that it fit with the business model.”

SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY: Wharton has positioned itself as a leader in the field of social entrepreneurship. Dean Thomas Robertson has worked diligently to promote the idea of business as a force for global good, student participation in the Wharton Social Impact group has increased, and, most recently, Leonard Lodish was named Vice Dean of the Program for Social Impact. “A lot of people are trying to think of ways of applying business skills into this innovative field,” Lin says. “This is not people saying, ‘Profit is bad.’ It’s not non-profit vs. for-profit. It’s about realizing that you can have a hybrid.”

WHARTON WAS WORTH IT: “My takeaway is just how useful a Wharton MBA really is for the field of development. I was using the same financial models and other skills that I would be using in a normal investment banking job, but doing it in this hybrid environment in Nairobi. They still worked. They were still useful.”

Originally published Feb. 19, 2009

Originally published on February 19, 2009