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Indiana University Bloomington

Institute for Social Impact

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Motivated by the Tough Questions

Kristy Anderson BS’11

Legal Studies and Economics Major

Kristi Anderson

“I always thought that working in the social impact field would be a side interest, but my experience at Teach For America showed me that I could make that passion my profession.”

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“Your chances of success are directly proportional to the degree of pleasure you derive from what you do.” —Michael Korda

If Korda is right, then Kristy Anderson is going to be a very successful woman.

For most people, those kinds of aphorisms are read once and forgotten—not so with Kristy Anderson. The Kelley Scholar and Kelley Institute for Social Impact (KISI) advisory board member discovered the quote on Twitter, and has been using it as motivation ever since. You see, she is determined to combine her considerable business skills with her passion to help others, a passion that has only deepened in her time (and travels) at Kelley. For as long as she can remember, Anderson says she’s always wanted to do nonprofit work with her business degree—even if the odds are against her.

“The questions that motivate me are the ones other people think are insurmountable,” says Anderson. “I like the idea of using my business skills in any context.”

Poverty, education, fair trade—these are just a sampling of the social issues that have caught Anderson’s eye. As a sophomore, she participated in an India study tour where she visited businesses and cultural sites in New Delhi, Agra, and Chennai. What’s stuck with her, though, are the contrasts she encountered everywhere. “I saw shanty towns next to five-star hotels,” she recalls. “We saw high levels of poverty everywhere. Even though my intent for that trip was to understand how business works in India, the experience made me want to explore the idea of making a social impact even more.”

In summer 2009, she got her chance. As the business development intern at Global Mamas in Cape Coast, Ghana, Anderson helped the Ghanaian fair trade nonprofit in its goal to support women-led enterprises in West Africa. While there, she developed a course to teach basic business and math skills to members of the Global Mamas cooperative and analyzed sales data and store layout issues for their retail store. She also learned some important life lessons.

“With no public transport other than privately owned 16 passenger buses running up and down major roads and electricity often going out in our office for hours at a time, I soon realized that my American attitude about work would have to end,” she says. “I appreciated the beauty of the country and its people. I learned to take my time and treasure human relationships rather than strictly my work and deadlines.”

Her Indian and African experiences helped her solidify her goals, but it was a two-month stint in Cleveland, Mississippi, last summer that clinched them. Anderson has always been interested in the issue of public education, and a question has been niggling at her brain for a while: why do children in low-income environments have less access to high-quality education in the United States?

To explore the issues of education inequity, Anderson interned for Teach For America, a nonprofit that trains recent college graduates to teach in urban and rural U.S. schools.  As an  operations intern at TFA’s Delta Institute, a seven-week program that instructs and trains roughly 650 incoming teachers, Anderson created and executed the institute’s visitor management system as well as helped meet dining, housing, and classroom management goals.

She enjoyed being able to use her business skills to help TFA, but there was one unexpected benefit. “I always thought that working in the social impact field would be a side interest, but my experience at Teach For America showed me that I could make that passion my profession.”  Success surely can’t be far behind.

Published March 15, 2011