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Meet the Meng Impact Investment Fund Management Team!

Meet the six students from Yale's School of Management, School of the Environment, and Jackson School of Global Affairs who have been working behind the scenes to launch SOM's first student-run impact investment fund.

The Meng Impact Investment Fund's Management Team operates across four workstreams - operations, platform, education + training, and investments - to direct the Fund's strategy, support deal teams, build new infrastructure, and establish on- and off-campus partnerships. Meet the team and learn more about why they wanted to join the Meng Impact Investment Fund!

Grace Aranow - Chief Operating Officer

Grace Aranow

What is your degree program?: MBA + Master of Environmental Management

What did you do before coming to Yale?: Prior to Yale, I helped to launch and manage a nonprofit business accelerator called The Clean Fight NY, which supports growth-stage climate tech startups in their efforts to scale commercial deployment within the U.S.. Previously in my career, I have worked in government and political organizing.

What did you do over the summer?: I spent the summer on the deal team at Spring Lane Capital, a private equity firm based out of Boston and Montreal that focuses exclusively on sustainable technologies. Spring Lane sits between early stage venture investing and large scale infrastructure finance, providing both corporate equity and project equity to emerging climate-focused developers.

Why did you want to join the Management Team?: One question that guides my graduate studies is – How can we 1) unlock and 2) better leverage private capital in service of scaling the most promising climate mitigation and adaptation technologies. While at Yale, I have also become invested in expanding the universe of young people who can envision successful careers for themselves that center around impact. The opportunity to help design and launch Yale SOM’s first ever student-led  impact investment fund represents the ultimate opportunity to pursue both of these interests. 

What are you most excited to see the Meng Fund accomplish in the next 1-2 years? I am most excited to see the Meng Fund continue to expand access to impact investing opportunities to more students of more diverse backgrounds, building the next generation of impact-minded leaders. For me, the ultimate success of the fund will be determined by the careers that Fund members go on to have post-graduation.

Alexandra Baker-Brown - Co-Head of Platform

Alexandra Baker-Brown

What is your degree program?: MBA

What did you do before coming to Yale?: I was a Principal at Klaros Group, where I advised fintech companies and banks at the intersection of regulation and business strategy. Before joining Klaros Group, I worked for BBVA, first on the Global Economic Research and Public Affairs team in Madrid, and then as Head of Marketing at BBVA’s open banking venture in San Francisco. I’m passionate about supporting the launch and scale of new ventures that generate positive returns for people and the planet, and as such have been a volunteer, social enterprise consultant with Acumen, Seed Consulting, and BBVA Momentum.

What did you do over the summer?: I was fortunate to do two internships. First, I was a Summer Associate at the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation working on the Social Enterprise Finance Team. After that, I joined a social enterprise accelerator in Mumbai called Greenr (a TechnoServe Initiative funded by Visa and Ikea Foundations).

Why did you want to join the Management Team?: I knew I wanted to be part of the impact investing community at Yale before coming to SOM, so when the Meng Fund received its seed endowment from Leon Meng in November 2022 I was thrilled to become involved with launching the new fund. The opportunity to build something from the ground up, create opportunities for future students to learn about impact investing, and test my own potential career thesis in portfolio success for an impact fund were all key motivators for me in my decision to get involved.

What are you most excited to see the Meng Fund accomplish in the next 1-2 years?: There are so many things I am excited to see the Meng Fund accomplish in the next few years! At the top of that list are: 1) Seeing the fund make its first investments, and 2) Identifying the unique role the fund can play in the Yale and impact investing community. This will involve partnering with groups across Yale, founders and other impact investors so I’m equally as excited about what we’ll uncover in the process as the outcome.

In the long run, I hope to see the fund motivate students to adopt an impact focus in their career, even if that ultimate career is not impact investing. I hope that the fund can be part of educating leaders across sectors who genuinely care about the impact they make on people and the planet.

Monica Charletta - Co-Head of Platform

Monica Charletta

What is your degree program?: MBA + Master of Environmental Management

What did you do before coming to Yale?: I was a Senior Consultant in Monitor Deloitte's ESG Strategy and Transformation practice, where I designed supply strategies around key agricultural products for restaurant and processing clients transition that improved environmental sustainability, grower engagement, animal welfare, and supply transparency.

What did you do over the summer?: I was an EDF Climate Corps Fellow with BFA Global, a boutique consulting, advisory, and impact investment firm based out of Nairobi, Kenya, that focuses on financial inclusion, climate adaptation, and technological innovation. My work involved building an early stage strategy for the next phase of BFA's climate venture accelerator and developing a toolkit of resilience-building tech-enabled financial services products in emerging markets.

Why did you want to join the Management Team?: The opportunity to shape SOM's first impact fund was actually a key reason I came to Yale. I met one of the previous Management Team members as a prospective student, and they told me about this new Fund they were launching. I knew I wanted to pivot to impact investing because of its ability to generate social and environmental change, so this was a great way to learn more about the space while building something from the ground up that would also benefit other interested students!

What are you most excited to see the Meng Fund accomplish in the next 1-2 years? While I'm certainly excited to watch the Fund generate real impact through its investments in the coming years, I'm feeling so energized by the community that we're building. This group is made up of students across Yale's graduate and professional programs, which speaks to the student interest in generating environmental/social impact through financial markets, and I can't wait to watch this group continue to learn, transform, and grow both on and beyond campus!

Dylan Gerstel - Head of Education + Training

Dylan Gerstel

What is your degree program?: MBA + Master of Public Policy

What did you do before coming to Yale?: I mostly worked in economic policy research in Washington, DC. I focused on international trade and investment as well as domestic competitiveness and industrial policy. Through that work, I came to appreciate the power of public-private partnerships and the potential for impact capital to catalyze meaningful change.

What did you do over the summer?: I worked at HASI, an investment firm focused on climate solutions. I conducted diligence on community and residential solar portfolios and put together a market map of renewable fuels. In my first summer at Yale, I interned at Align Impact, an impact investing advisory firm, where I researched how impact investing can support climate justice.

Why did you want to join the Management Team?: I am passionate about impact investing and excited to expand the opportunities available to get involved. The deal experience offered through the Meng Fund is a great way for students to explore their interests and launch their careers, all while supporting inspiring founders 

Tell us about a trend that you are most excited about and believe has the potential to make a large, positive impact: The continued development of distributed energy resources (DERs) and related policies will help address energy poverty, resilience, and carbon intensity. Thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act, there are significant tax incentives for DERs serving low and middle-income communities and an expanded set of groups that can access those benefits. As these resources scale, we will see uptake of technology that enables Virtual Power Plants, or networks of DERs that provide similar energy services as utilities. This will help communities monetize the value of their energy resources while supporting the grid with load management and reliability.

Neha Jain - Co-Chief Investment Officer (Impact)

Neha Jain

What is your degree program?: MBA

What did you do before coming to Yale?: I worked on Google’s global affairs team to help craft data-handling policies, negotiate service agreements, and consult business clients on legal risks. I also served as a supervisor at CASA of San Mateo, where I oversaw court-appointed volunteers dedicated to advocating for children within the dependency system

What did you do over the summer?: I worked as a consultant at The Bridgespan Group. My team collaborated with The Gates Foundation to write a report on democratic philanthropic funds to provide donors with a framework to navigate democratic giving and unlock capital to strengthen the United States' civil and electoral landscape.

Why did you want to join the Management Team?: I came to SOM to explore opportunities that create shared value for society and business. I believe private capital needs to help tackle societal problems if we want sustainable systems of positive change. I am excited to explore and learn about impact investing, support my peers in their learning, and structure the future of impact resources on campus to encourage more students to this exciting field.

What are you most excited to see the Meng Fund accomplish in the next 1-2 years?: I am super excited for the Meng Fund to create a robust network of VCs, accelerators, startups, and alumni! I hope that students can remain involved as alumni beyond their few years at Yale and we can create strong systems of continuity.

Lee Larson - Co-Chief Investment Officer (Finance)

Lee Larson

What is your degree program?: MBA

What did you do before coming to Yale?: I started my career in consulting with Deloitte and BCG before working within the impact and sustainability team at a private equity firm, TPG. In that role I advised the Rise and Rise Climate funds on which investments were most likely to lead to additional, differentiated positive impact - in other words, which companies generated the most environmental and social impact per dollar invested. This experience inspired me to pursue my MBA to pivot to an investor role at a climate- or energy transition-focused private markets investment firm.

What did you do over the summer?: I spent the summer working with Piva Capital, a San Francisco-based venture capital firm that invests in companies transforming the energy, industrial, and materials sectors. As an intern I supported the team in day-to-day sourcing, due diligence, and investment memo composition, and also conducted deep dive research projects into the future of synthetic biology (programming microbes to produce new medicines and materials) and specialty chemicals production.

Why did you want to join the Management Team?: My goal in coming to Yale SOM was to transition to an investor role at a venture capital firm, and being part of the Meng Fund is a great way to continue meeting startups and staying current on trends and barriers in my sectors of interest. We’re indebted to a fantastic group of recent alumni who drove the vision for the fund forward when they were students, and I feel very lucky to be here in the year when we actually launch the fund. Thinking deeply about the processes, organizational structure, strategy, and management challenges for a brand-new fund has given me a valuable window into the operations side of venture capital as well, and what has to happen beyond the due diligence and pitch meetings to make a firm like this function smoothly. 

What are you most excited to see the Meng Fund accomplish in the next 1-2 years?: The fund has a threefold mission: provide experiential education for students, achieve competitive financial returns, and generate meaningful positive impact for society. Of course I hope we make good deals and back impactful companies, but I’m perhaps most excited to give more students the opportunity to participate in impact investing and learn if it is the right career path for them. We have a very supportive and close-knit community of alumni who advise students and help them work in impact investing post-graduation, but I’m most excited about expanding that community and providing opportunities to learn and experiment to a broader group of students who might not have otherwise had a chance to sit in that investor seat.