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Youn Impact Scholars: Innovating for good

Kellogg students, alumni take on a wide-range of global missions for critical social change

Expanding mental health access for youth. Managing energy resources in the Pacific Ocean. Leading innovative telemedicine initiatives.

These are just a few examples of the contributions of the newest cohort of Kellogg Youn Impact Scholars. The Kellogg School of Management has announced 10 new Scholars, each committed to driving impact with their professional skills and networks.

The program is named after Andrew Youn ’06 (pictured above), cofounder of the One Acre Fund.

Kellogg’s Youn Impact Scholars program creates and supports a global community of students and alumni innovating for social impact. Each Scholar, part of a growing community of leaders, exemplifies the school’s commitment to effecting positive, significant, sustainable global change.

Each year, Kellogg chooses five “Emerging Changemakers” (scholars still at Kellogg) and five “Impact Leaders” (scholars who are alumni) based on their past, current and envisioned impact. Now in its seventh year, the program supports a community of 70 Scholars, with years of graduation from Kellogg spanning ’81 to ’20. Every two years, the entire Kellogg Youn Impact Scholars group meets at Kellogg’s Global Hub to collaborate, supporting one another’s work and leadership and providing inspiration and insights to current students and faculty.

Creating global social impact

Kellogg’s Youn Impact Scholars take on wide-ranging social missions and impact endeavors: launching and leading enterprises, influencing public policy, and marshalling private-sector practices and resources to drive critical social change.

“This year’s group of new Scholars reflects the breadth of Kellogg alumni engagement in social impact endeavors globally,” says Megan Kashner, Kellogg Clinical Assistant Professor and Director of Social Impact. “From social entrepreneurship to impact investing, natural resource protection and public health, these Scholars are making an incredible difference. We are proud and pleased to weave these new additions into the larger group and help each one inspire the Kellogg community as a whole.”

2020 Youn Impact Scholars

Emerging Changemakers

  • Bhargavi Ammu (2Y ’20)
  • Hanna Colin (2Y ’20)
  • Brent Kuennen (Evening/Weekend ‘20)
  • Sinthuja Nagalingam (2Y ’20)
  • Sam Vance (2Y ’20)

Impact Leaders

  • Andres Idarraga (EMBA ’20), Creci, Transcending Through Education Foundation
  • Thomas Liu (2Y ’09), United States Bureau of Ocean Energy Management
  • James Margolis (2Y ’84), ERM
  • Lara Metcalf (1Y ’95,) TSEF: The Social Entrepreneurs’ Fund
  • Prentiss Taylor (Evening/Weekend ’99), Doctor on Demand

Improving educational opportunity

Emerging Changemaker Sinthuja Nagalingam ’20 is a former economic consultant and high school math teacher through Teach for America. She was inspired to apply to become a Youn Impact Scholar to boost her impact through her ed-tech startup, Tilt, which aims to make college financial aid and admissions processes more accessible for teens navigating the admissions process without sufficient support.

“Low-income students face so many challenges around transitioning to college,” Nagalingam says. “That includes navigating the financial aid system and budgeting enough to get through college.”

changemakers2020 Emerging Changemakers (from left) Bhargavi Ammu, Hanna Colin, Sinthuja Nagalingam, Sam Vance and Brent Kuennen.

Nagalingam launched Tilt as a web-based platform to provide underserved high school students support related specifically to understanding and securing financial aid. “Our first area of focus is to help them understand financial aid letters,” Nagalingam said. “These aren’t standardized across colleges. One type of federal loan can be referred to in over 120 different ways. Some of the terms don’t even include the word ‘loan’ in them!”

Today, Tilt is working with three high schools — two Chicago public schools and one charter school — and one college-access-focused nonprofit. The enterprise is on track to benefit hundreds of college-going students by 2020’s end.

In the short term, Nagalingam will focus on building Tilt out more fully to help students make smart financial decisions related to traditional college. Longer term, she plans to widen the focus to other higher-education options including technical schools, 2-year colleges and others, still with the goal of minimizing debt.

“I’ve really valued being part of Kellogg’s innovative, forward-thinking social impact community,” Nagalingam said. “Through the Youn Scholars program, I can connect with amazing people who are further along in their social enterprise careers than I am. I’ve already met with Scholars who run organizations doing similar work to mine. I’m so excited to learn from their expertise, while sharing what I’ve learned.”

Transforming businesses and lives

Impact Leader Andres Idarraga (EMBA ’20) also drives social impact, through multiple avenues. A former corporate litigator and in-house attorney, he is cofounder and CEO of Creci (pronounced “Kre-si,” a play on the Spanish word for “to grow”), which facilitates social impact investments, and cofounder and President of the Transcending Through Education Foundation (TTEF), which supports those in U.S. prisons who are seeking post-secondary education.

Creci provides a platform connecting U.S.-based investors with small social-impact businesses in the U.S. and Latin America. The enterprise also provides online tools to help target businesses identify, measure and report their impact to better attract investors. “I’m thrilled when entrepreneurs tell us how we have helped,” Idarraga said. “We support a young Colombian female entrepreneur who employs indigenous people who make purses now sold in the U.S. She said our loan helps her employ 60 people now. Another female entrepreneur in Colombia expanded her water-cleaning business with our funds. That’s our reason for existing.”

impact2020 Impact Leaders (from left) Andres Idarraga, Thomas Liu, James Margolis, Lara Metcalf and Prentiss Taylor.

TTEF has awarded nearly 30 scholarships, funded multiple in-prison college courses, and provided information and mentorship to education-seekers “We offer a mechanism to help people in prison transform their lives. That means helping those who many have given up on,” Idarraga said. “For example, we recently received a letter from someone we’d supported despite his challenging disciplinary record in prison. He said we were one of the few organizations that believed in him, and he made a commitment to make the most of the resources we provided. He was working on his paralegal degree, with our support.”

Idarraga has ambitious goals. “We want Creci to become the go-to fintech platform helping local businesses drive impact across all 17 UN sustainable development goals,” he said. Those include poverty, hunger, healthcare, education and others. “We’d love to have $50 million of lending to offer in Colombia and $75-100 million in the U.S. over the next five years, with a goal of bringing digital banking to social enterprise,” Idarraga continued.

“Youn Impact Scholars include many people who grew an idea into a substantial project, including Andrew Youn himself,” Idarraga said. “I’m eager to learn best practices and collaborate with people in the same space I’m in, to help each other raise funds and tap into a stream of knowledge and connections. I’ll contribute from my background in law, operations and fintech. The EMBA has been extremely helpful in supporting my ideas, and I’m grateful to Kellogg and the Youn Impact Scholars Committee.”

One Acre Fund

The nonprofit One Acre Fund now directly serves 1 million African smallholder farming families annually, reaching another million farming families through public and private partnerships. Over the next several years, the enterprise aims to help farmers earn more than $2 billion of cumulative new profits and assets, while improving farming-practice sustainability. Youn founded the One Acre Fund while a student at Kellogg; his work has inspired students and alumni worldwide.

The Youn Impact Scholars program is made possible through a generous gift from the Combe family — part of their commitment to support Kellogg social impact efforts. Chris Combe, Trustee of Northwestern University, said, “Our family is thrilled to welcome these deserving Kellogg students and alumni as Youn Impact Scholars. We are confident that, through the collaboration and support of Kellogg and their fellow Youn Impact Scholars, they will have a dramatic impact on the greatest needs of our world.”

Each new Youn Scholar, like their predecessors, is committed to making real global impact. The inspiration, insights, guidance and potential collaborations the program supports will help each one maximize the difference they make in the world.