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Business Students Take Part in Social Impact Intiatives

Students in the Kelley School of Business are trying to provide the link between small businesses and banks to make it easier to get loans.

Tracey Hodge and her 17-year-old son Dante are the latest recipients of a home from Habitat for Humanity of Monroe County. Hodge and Dante worked alongside Indiana University Kelley School of Business students to build their home.

“They signed up to help Habitat build a house, but they’re building our home,” Hodge says. “It’s where we’re going to make our memories and my son’s going to go off to college and come back to this spot. So for them to want to take part in this, it’s very moving.”

Homeowners through Habitat for Humanity must meet three requirements: need for housing, ability to pay an interest-free mortgage and participation in the construction of the home. In addition to participating in the physical labor of building their homes, they take classes to learn how to maintain them.

“Those of us who buy houses conventionally, frankly, could use a lot of the classes that we give our homeowners,” says Kerry Thompson, CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Monroe County. “We want to build a great community. We also want to build very confident homeowners who are going to take a lot of pride in their homes and know how to maintain them.”

Hodge’s home is the fifth annual Habitat for Humanity on-campus build.

Kelley students have also opened new financial opportunities for the organization.

“We have engaged numerous interns in our office both in finance and in our restore program that have really helped us revolutionize how we do business,” Thompson says.

The work with Habitat is just one of many social entrepreneurship initiatives by the Kelley School of Business. The Kelley Institute for Social Impact (KISI) encourages business students to explore issues including microfinance, social entrepreneurship, fair trade and domestic and international aid.

“We were hearing hundreds of students saying, ‘I really want to use my business degree to make a difference,’” says Kathleen Robbins, co-director of the KISI. “The business school decided this would be an important growth initiative for us and founded the Institute of Social Impact to provide an avenue for students to really use those business skills that they’re gaining in the classroom to get out into the community, both locally and globally.”

Most recently, Kelley established the Hoosier Social Impact Fund (HSIF) to provide a link between banks and small business owners seeking to boost their capital. The student-run initiative also provides financial consulting services. The group made its first loan to a local entrepreneur over the summer and earned full status as a 501(c)(3) organization from the IRS in late September.

The initiative started in a classroom. Students decided to turn their class into a nonprofit to practice using microfinance, as well as fill the gap in the Bloomington community for small business lending.

Hillary Nolting, a Kelley School of Business senior and chief strategy officer of HSIF, says her generation has grown up in a world where social impact efforts are emphasized.

“People who go to higher education have been privileged individuals,” Nolting says. “Being born into the situation that you’re born in, you don’t get to choose. So giving back to people who maybe weren’t as fortunate as you were is important and it creates a better opportunity for the generations to come.”

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