Philippa Smit ’17

Post-MAM Position: Strategic Analyst, South Africans Against Drunk Driving

After university, I worked at a road-safety organization and then I went into a nonprofit in Cape Town, a grassroots nonprofit working with people affected by HIV and AIDS. I felt that there needed to be more management between nonprofits and the social sector and business and society at the South African level. That’s what started me in the process of doing my MBA.

When I learned about the MAM, about what Yale stood for and what the School of Management stood for—“business and society”—it stood out that this was something different. This was a way that I could get an education—a global education—that could have an impact at a local and a national and a global level. It seemed like my entire path up to this point was so that I could go to Yale and learn more about social impact. It was really a lightbulb moment: “This is my path. This is why I’m doing this.” I feel that I’ve come from a place of privilege. Getting this opportunity is the biggest privilege on Earth, and no one can lose touch with that.

Taking Yale classes outside SOM blows your mind. You think, “At SOM, I have this incredible selection, but wait, here’s more!” The hardest course I did was called The Concept of Independence, where we discussed literature and poetry based in America; I wrote a paper on “Song of Myself.” One day, the lecturer said, “Okay, we’re going to Beinecke Library.” The librarian takes out these books, and these are first editions that show the way Walt Whitman put together all of his poems. It’s his handwriting! You’re allowed to touch it; you can pick it up. And we saw the manuscript for Langston Hughes’s poem “Montage for a Dream Deferred”—hand-typed, coffee-stained, crossed out in pencil. So, in just one class, I got to interact with these students across campus, go to Beinecke Library, and actually see the material we’re studying.

I chose to do my Global Network Week in Bangalore through IIMB. It was about creating models for sustainable development in emerging economies—more specifically, looking at social-enterprise models. They took us to a microfinance institution that was based on the Grameen Bank, the first microfinance model in the world. For the first time ever, everything I’ve learned about was now realized in front of me. You’re seeing, living, breathing the experience. We sat and spoke to small groups of women who were given microfinance loans and asked them about their experiences. They were showing us their books, how they manage their loans. Women who couldn’t read and write 10 years ago were now in a situation where they were managing money. They were growing their farms. They had 10 cattle instead of one, they had built a well, they were selling their goods.

Interviewed on May 10, 2017