Business & Economy Society & Culture

Terry College program puts focus on innovation

Nathan Stuck (photographed by Scott Duvall of Jawavi Films)

New area of focus in Social Innovation allows students to do business with purpose.

Nathan Stuck didn’t return to Athens to change the community, much less the world.

After a decade into his career working at a small business, then a large one, and even for himself, Stuck came back to Georgia to get an MBA—and to just hit reset. He stumbled into the movement to improve companies’ social and environmental impacts, and he helped lay the groundwork for UGA’s Terry College of Business to prepare students to balance profits and the public good in their business careers.

As an MBA student, Stuck found an opportunity to help the tech services firm Ad Victoriam Solutions (based in Atlanta) fulfill its founder’s vision to become a socially conscious company. And not just based on its own standards. Companies can become certified B Corporations by undergoing a rigorous audit of their business that looks at a company’s impact on its community, environment, work force and customers.

In the process, Stuck not only helped Ad Victoriam achieve its goal, he also landed a job as director of corporate culture.

The experience of Stuck and other students who helped companies get B Corp certification got Santanu Chatterjee thinking. Chatterjee, the director of Terry College’s Full-Time MBA and MS in Business Analytics programs, was watching two significant trends in business: 1) corporations increasingly striving to be socially responsive, and 2) a growing workforce that increasingly values purpose-driven careers.

“The big question for us is how we’re preparing the future minds that will lead our economy and our businesses and society,” said Chatterjee. “Are we preparing them well enough to address some of these big challenges? These challenges are both at the local and community level as well as the national and global level.”

To make sure Georgia MBA graduates are well equipped and empowered in their pursuit of purpose-driven careers, the Terry College established an area of focus in Social Innovation for Full-Time MBA students starting last fall. They can work on a skill set in social innovation by taking courses on sustainability, public policy or innovation, and by working on an applied learning project—such as serving on a non-profit board, working on a service learning project in the Athens community or, like Stuck, helping a company attain B Corp certification.

“Letting these students know that they can bake purpose and impact into everything they do is important for us,” said Jake Mosley, director of student engagement for Terry’s Full-Time MBA and MSBA programs.

And it’s the experiential learning that Stuck said became so critical to his career trajectory and new-found passion for socially responsible businesses. Stuck is now co-founder and chair of B Local Georgia, which is trying to grow the B Corp movement in the state.

“These projects give you a kind of crash course in how businesses work and their connection to their employees and their communities. It gives you the chance to open your eyes and realize that there are other opportunities out there if you want to seek them out,” Stuck says. “And, you never know they might hire you.”