Interviewed March 2008
Sometimes knowing what we don't want can better define what path we take in life. This has certainly been the case for Paula Wertheim (MBA 2009), a rising second-year MBA student at UNC Kenan-Flagler and the newly elected president of the school's Net Impact Club.
Paula grew up in the idyllic suburbs of Atlanta, where she attended public schools and was an avid participant in Girl Scouts. Her perspective changed radically after her junior year in high school, when she spent that year living communally on a kibbutz in Israel. This transformative time led her to reconsider societal expectations of her. When she came back to the U.S. she decided that the "go to college, get a job, get married, have children" journey was not the one for her.
Paula's mother convinced her to apply to colleges and then defer for one year. So Paula applied to liberal colleges in the Northeast that she didn't really intend to go to. Serendipitously, she happened upon the Bryn Mawr campus and felt it was a place that she could keep to her evolving ideology while pursuing a degree. She decided to try it for a year and graduated 4 years later with a degree in Social Policy Analysis.
After college, Paula joined Co-op America, where she worked for five years first as Member Services Coordinator and, later, Membership Marketing Manager. Co-op America is a nonprofit organization that promotes green business through a number of innovative programs.
When she started looking at business schools, Paula Wertheim focused solely on schools with well-established sustainability programs. "Kenan-Flagler stood out because it was team-oriented in its approach," she said. "There is a relaxed, collegial atmosphere, yet the rigor and intellectual vibrancy are very high level."
This summer she will be an intern at B Lab, a nonprofit organization that certifies and promotes "B corporations" — companies that meet social and environmental objectives as well as financial ones. Paula will help create the auditing program for the certification of businesses as B corporations.
After graduation, Paula plans to eschew conventional post-MBA positions. "I enjoy making connections and problem-solving, and see a need between small, triple-bottom-line businesses and the skills that MBAs can bring to them. As these businesses grow and become viable, I would like to help bridge the gap between green businesses and MBAs looking for jobs in this sector. Ultimately, I want to see sustainable businesses becoming the standard and taking the competitive advantage away from non-sustainable ventures."
Combining the Scout motto of "leaving a place cleaner than it's found" with her desire to navigate new, uncharted areas in the sustainability sector, Paula should create an interesting path for others to follow.
Sustainability Reading Recommendations:
Raising the Bar: Integrity and Passion in Life and Business — The Story of Clif Bar, Inc., by Gary Erickson "I read this book 3 years ago and it still stands out and resonates for me."