Our Stories

Venturing Collaboratively for a Better World

Turner Family Center draws nonprofit veteran to Vanderbilt

Cali Livingstone
Director of Customer Operations, LUCI

Vanderbilt MBA 2020

The Turner Family Center for Social Ventures at Vanderbilt was made for people like Cali Livingstone. She spent most of the first decade of her career working with nonprofits such as Mercy Corps, a large international NGO. She’s traveled to 30 countries—from China (she’s fluent in Mandarin) to Kenya—and been involved with everything from improving supply chains for smallholder honey farmers in East Africa to microloans for female entrepreneurs in Honduras.

Based on her experience, Cali believes that “for society to thrive, we need business, government, and civil sectors to collaborate in more meaningful ways.” As an example, she says, “There are huge gains to be made in how international supply chains consider environmental and social impacts of their sourcing methods. I believe that business—with directions from communities and incentives by the government—is in the best position to make massive, positive impacts in this space.” With that in mind, she decided to enter the corporate world.

And to get there, she resolved that her next move would be to pursue an MBA. “Even though I had new job offers on the table,” she says, “I knew I would not be prepared for the leadership positions I am most interested in pursuing in five to 10 years’ time without the rigorous financial and analytical training that an MBA provides.”

The Turner Family Center (TFC)—a student-led organization committed to alleviating poverty through market-driven forces and enterprise—was a big draw. During her first year, Cali was able to organize three separate “Community Immersion Treks” through the TFC, focused on topics ranging from the impact of gentrification on less affluent communities to businesses in a small Alabama town supporting their community’s access to health, education, and economic development to a rural Appalachian community’s transition from coal mining to eco-tourism.

She believes her experiences have validated her choice. “I think at TFC students come thinking: ‘I want to have this type of impact in my career and in my life.’ We help provide the experiences and skillsets to students [so they] can lead this impact in future careers.”

Fun Fact: After coming to Vanderbilt, Cali adopted Maple, a Great Dane-Lab mix who often accompanies her to the hilltop dog park near campus at Nashville’s Centennial Park.

“For society to thrive, we need business, government, and civil sectors to collaborate in more meaningful ways.”