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Gearing up for Social Impact

Betsy West bridges her nonprofit background with ‘hard skills’ from an MBA

Betsy West
Strategic Business Communications Manager, Mars Petcare US

Vanderbilt MBA 2016

After working in the Washington and Nashville offices of her Congressman, Betsy West began carving out a career for herself in the nonprofit world. She worked for two national organizations based in D.C. — the Ocean Conservancy and the Council on Foundations, an entity whose members are philanthropic organizations.

Those experiences cemented Betsy’s interest in sustainability and corporate social responsibility. In addition, at the Council on Foundations, she helped the CEO implement a comprehensive restructuring that sparked her interest in human capital, organizational strategy and change management.

“Coming from a non-traditional work background,” says Betsy, a psychology major in college, “I needed to round out my general management and ‘hard’ skills. I saw an MBA as a stepping stone toward working in corporate responsibility in the private sector, and I hoped to bridge my nonprofit experience and interest for social impact with skills learned from an MBA.”

For the Nashville native, Vanderbilt was an easy choice. In fact, she says, it was the only business school to which she applied. Looking back, she says, “Choosing Owen was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”

Along with gaining the business knowledge she sought, Betsy’s involvement with Net Impact — the sustainability/social impact club with a chapter at Owen — led her to the organization’s national conference in Seattle, where she made connections she says were helpful in her internship and job search.

Now, with a position in the global leadership development program with Mars, Inc., she has an opportunity “to explore several roles within different segments of the company” — the kind of experience she was hoping to gain.

“Before Vanderbilt, I knew very little about how business works,” Betsy says. “Now I am confident enough in my own capabilities to feel comfortable in a variety of business settings. And I have developed some incredibly strong connections here that I think will last a lifetime.”

Fun Fact: When she was 10, Betsy was accidentally left alone in Kenya for an entire day. (Her horrified grandparents thought she was with others in their group.) The experience has not diminished Betsy’s love for travel.

“Before Vanderbilt, I knew very little about how business worked. Now I am confident enough in my own capabilities to feel comfortable in a variety of business settings.”