Staff

Turner Family Center for Social Ventures

Mario Avila

Director

Owen

Bio

Mario Avila

Director

Mario serves as the founding Director of the Turner Family Center for Social Ventures at Vanderbilt University, a new hub that serves as a resource and thought leader for people across the university interested in combining revenue-generating businesses with social impact objectives. Most recently, he was the CEO of Emerge and founder of Contigo Financial, a socially-responsible consumer lender headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. His management experience includes finance, education and consulting in three different countries. He was a Fellow of Vanderbilt University’s Cal Turner program for Moral Leadership in the Professions and helped develop a hybrid housing-microfinance model to finance mortgage needs of people at the base of the pyramid in Central America. Mario serves on various boards including the Vanderbilt University Credit Union, Conexión Americas, the Nashville Food Project, and formerly the Nashville Social Enterprise Alliance. He earned an AB from Dartmouth College and an MBA from Vanderbilt University.

Estefanía Calmet

Graduate Associate

M.Ed. International Education Policy and Management '24

Bio

Estefanía Calmet

Graduate Associate

I graduated from Universidad Antonio Ruiz de Montoya in Lima, Peru, with a B.S. in Education, and I am an International Education Policy and Management master’s Candidate (Spring ’24) at Vanderbilt University.

I believe in a free society, and I seek to help develop projects to tackle the most pressing issues like health and education, presenting feasible solutions that can work in specific contexts.

I look forward to becoming a more qualified professional and better leader, promoting better opportunities for everyone. Being part of the TFC has been a valuable experience, and I know it will help me achieve that goal.

Brooke Timberlake

Program Coordinator

Bio

Brooke Timberlake

Program Coordinator

Brooke serves as the Program Coordinator for the Turner Family Center for Social Ventures at Vanderbilt University, where she supports student leaders and the center’s daily operations. Most recently, she was the Undergraduate Program Specialist in the History Department at Vanderbilt. During her time there, she supported over 60 faculty members while also managing travel, course scheduling, and expenses for the department.

Brooke is thrilled to be working with the TFC as she is no stranger to supporting non-profits. She was a founding member of the Best Buddies Memphis Chapter in 2012 and served as a Co-President until 2017. Best Buddies International is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment, leadership development, and inclusive living for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Brooke holds a BFA in Music Business from the University of Memphis, where she graduated in 2021. Outside of the TFC and Owen, Brooke enjoys hosting friends with her husband, Stephen, and taking their pups, Monty and Beale, on walks around the neighborhood!

Executive Board

Ben Ferrell Executive Board Chair MBA '24

Ben Ferrell

Executive Board Chair

MBA '24

Bio

Ben Ferrell

Executive Board Chair

Currently, an MBA student at Vanderbilt University Owen Graduate School of Management pursuing a concentration in Strategy.

I have found immense value in learning from members and leaders within the TFC in my first year at Vanderbilt.  The interdisciplinary atmosphere of the TFC has shown me new and unique perspectives that I look forward to learning from in the coming year.

Pivoting from a career as an Army Officer, this summer I will be completing a consulting internship in Atlanta, Georgia. I am excited for the new opportunity and exposure.

Outside of Owen, I enjoy playing the violin, playing racquetball, and swimming. 

Academic & Experiences Chair LOP '24

Sarah Hagan

Academics & Experiences Chair

LOP '24

Bio

Sarah Hagan

Academics & Experiences Chair

I am currently in the M.Ed. program for Leadership and Organizational Performance at Vanderbilt University. I hold a bachelor’s degree in communication studies from the University of Cape Coast in Ghana, West Africa.

I am passionate about promoting equitable and inclusive opportunities for individuals to excel and realize their potential.

I strive to contribute my significant quota to making the world a better place.

I am excited for the opportunity to be a part of the TFC and look forward to building meaningful experiences.

Avery Hale

1st Year Board Chair

MBA '25

Bio

Avery Hale

1st Year Board Chair

Avery is an MBA Candidate and Dean’s Scholar at Vanderbilt University – Owen Graduate School of Management pursuing concentrations in Finance and Strategy. Prior to Owen, Avery worked in the technology consulting industry. She gained experience in many different areas, including data security, intelligent automation, software design, and large-scale project management. However, she felt that her work was not a reflection of her passions, and sought to pivot her career by attending business school. As an MBA student, Avery is focusing her involvement on the Impact Investing and Venture Capital communities. Growing up in Panamá, she saw firsthand how much of an impact intentional investments can make. She specifically is interested in entrepreneurial finance as it relates to environmental and health-related endeavors.

Social Innovation Partners Chair MD 25'

Lance Johnson

Social Innovation Partners Chair

MD '25

Bio

Lance Johnson

Social Innovation Partners Chair

I am an MD student at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and am originally from the Hartford, Connecticut area. Prior to medical school, I worked in Boston managing finances at a nonprofit that distributes anti-malarial bed nets in Sub-Saharan Africa and later as a strategy analyst at a health software startup. I developed a passion for healthcare systems innovation and health equity while in Boston and felt right at home at the TFC upon arriving in Nashville.

I am always excited to see when complex social problems electrify creative people into action. Innovative thinkers and ideas transform lives every day, and it is a privilege to nurture those ideas through Innovation & Social Startups at the Turner Family Center.

Social Innovation Strategy Chair MBA '24

James Keck

Social Innovation Strategy Chair

MBA '24

Bio

James Keck

Social Innovation Strategy Chair

James Keck considers his service with the TFC an essential part of growth as an impact-minded business leader. James is an MBA candidate at Vanderbilt University pursuing a concentration in Finance & Operations. He holds a Bachelor’s of Arts in Economics & in Psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

James founded a software startup that produced Custom Web Applications for niche service businesses. Prior to that he served as an international Director of commercial operations for a biomedical startup, leading marketing teams building new markets, product teams developing new products, and service teams offering new services across global markets.

James believes that service is a central part of meaningful community involvement. Currently, James serves on the board of the Vanderbilt Credit Union. Previously, he has served as a Big Brother as part of the Big Brother Big Sister program. James has also volunteered with ReWork, a non-profit helping the displaced reconnect with employment habits and skills.

Summit Chair MBA '24

Amrita Keswani

Summit Chair

MBA '24

Bio

Amrita Keswani

Summit Chair

I am pursuing my MBA at Owen Graduate School of Management, concentrating on Human and Organizational Performance and Operations and Analytics. I hold a bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of Delhi, India. Before joining Owen, I was in the technology consulting space, helping companies adopt emerging technologies such as the internet of things, blockchain, and artificial intelligence.

I am an impact- and people-oriented person, highly motivated by opportunities to help people around me. Hence, I am most comfortable working in an organizational culture that is employee- and customer-centric. 

Turner Family Center is one of the reasons, I joined Owen. I am drawn to its mission of alleviating poverty through a business lens. In addition, my Project Pyramid experience taught me how to use my business skills to create a social impact – something I can leverage back in India, a developing nation.

I am pleased to start my journey on the TFC board and contribute to its mission.

Margarita (Maggie) Orlova

1st Year Board Chair

PhD Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering '26

Bio

Margarita (Maggie) Orlova

1st Year Board Chair

Hi Everyone! I’m a PhD student in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and currently call Boston, MA home. Prior to Vanderbilt, I received both my master’s and bachelor’s degrees from Princeton University. Despite being an engineering student at Princeton, I was able to take two entrepreneurship courses through the Keller Center and complete the Business Skills for PhDs in Academia & Beyond certificate program. Upon graduation, I was a Princeton Project 55 (P55) Fellow in the Cell Biology Department at Harvard Medical School. During my time working at Harvard, I completed their Mini-MBA and Healthcare Innovation and Commercialization (HIC) programs. These programs have provided me with a great entrepreneurial foundation. I am particularly interested in social entrepreneurship, as one of my most memorable experience was interning at Hyacinth AIDS Foundation in New Jersey during my time as an undergraduate. The internship allowed me to investigate the structure of the organization and find gaps in access to care. I decided to get involved with the TFC due to the mission of developing socially and environmentally conscious leaders. This type of work really speaks to me and I’m ecstatic to be a board member this year!

Project Pyramid Chair PhD Anthropology

Allie Reichert

Project Pyramid Chair

PhD Anthropology '26

Bio

Allie Reichert

Project Pyramid Chair

Alexandra (Allie) Reichert is a PhD Student in the Anthropology Department at Vanderbilt University, with concentrations in global health and Latin American studies. Her research focuses on how we can use the tools of anthropology to work toward health equity for women, with specific attention to Indigenous women, across the Americas.

She graduated from Dartmouth College in 2018 with a B.A. in Philosophy and a minor in Anthropology of Global Health. She spent a year as a Fulbright scholar in Ecuador researching barriers to health care for Indigenous women in the Amazon. She also has experience in domestic and global health policy, working as a researcher at the Aspen Institute, Project HOPE, and the Georgetown Center for Global Health Science and Security in Washington, DC. 

In her role as Project Pyramid chair, Allie hopes to build on these research interests to explore how grassroots and international actors might work together to achieve health equity, reduce poverty, and create justice.

Immersions Chair MBA '24

D’Ana Rogers

Immersions Chair

MBA '24

Bio

D’Ana Rogers

Immersions Chair

I am an MBA student at Vanderbilt University Owen Graduate School of Management, concentrating in Operations & Analytics and Healthcare. I was born in Honolulu, HI, and lived in a suburb of Atlanta, GA, before moving to Nashville. I graduated from Georgia State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Linguistics and Spanish. I have worked in healthcare data analytics with a start-up and then supported the state of TN in its COVID-19 vaccine distribution efforts.

After coming to Owen, I discovered the TFC and began to work with them through the Summit Committee, and I learned the value of coming together to create meaningful change sustainably. Another thing that resonated with me was the program’s interdisciplinary nature. It expands outside of Owen, and you can meet and learn with many new and exciting people. I participated in the Project Pyramid immersion trip to Guatemala this year, which was life-changing. I am excited to bring this experience to a new group of students.

Aryan Thapa

Brand & Marketing Chair

LOP '24

Bio

Aryan Thapa

Brand & Marketing Chair

I am currently pursuing M.Ed. in Leadership and Organizational Performance at Peabody. I am from Nepal and hold an MBA degree with a specialization in marketing. Prior to joining Vanderbilt, I was a Captain in the Nepal Army and also served as a helicopter pilot under the Nepal Army Aviation unit. Apart from aviations, I am also very passionate about teaching – I used to  facilitate  a course on “Organizational Behavior” as an Adjunct Faculty for undergraduate students at King’s College, Kathmandu. 

During my MBA program, I was actively engaged in various business incubation programs and workshops for exploring the concepts of design thinking and community focused business innovation. I am  thrilled to be a part of the TFC and collaborating with students from different disciplines and all over the world. I am positive that the connections and relationships I will form through the TFC will enable me to contribute to the social impact sector in Nepal by fostering meaningful partnerships.

 

Parker Willmon

Impact Investing Chair

PhD Biomedical Engineering '25

Bio

Parker Willmon

Impact Investing Chair

Howdy, y’all, I am originally from Houston, Texas and am pursuing a PhD in biomedical engineering focusing on biophotonics (how light can be used for the diagnosis and treatment of disease). In particular, my research focuses on surgical guidance systems that can be brought to market by startups. This interest in entrepreneurship originates from spending four years in the backroom of my dad’s office while my parents tried to get their business off the ground. This interest developed overtime and led to me competing in several pitch competitions while an undergraduate at Louisiana Tech. After coming to Vanderbilt, I jumped at the chance to participate in the Social Enterprise Pitch Competition – my first experience with the TFC.

As someone who has been a Department of Child Services mentor and tutor, I have seen the impact volunteers can have on the disenfranchised. However, the fact that businesses can strive to help these groups and still succeed as a business was a novel idea that has sucked me in. Now, I attend as many TFC events as I can be they immersions, lunch and learns, or classes.

Advisory Board

Shani Dowell

CEO & Founder, Possip

Bio

Shani Dowell

CEO & Founder, Possip

Shani Dowell is the founder and CEO of Possip. A product of Houston public schools and a public school teacher and parent, Shani loves supporting the work of schools. She started her career as a consultant at Bain & Co. and helped launch the Boston office of the Posse Foundation, a nonprofit organization that works to increase student retention and engagement on college campuses. She has also worked for Houston Independent School District, KIPP Foundation—a national network of charter schools, Teach For America, Bridgespan Group, and Relay Graduate School of Education. Shani earned her BA at Howard University in Washington, DC, and her MBA at Stanford University. In starting Possip, Shani seeks to support schools by elevating the ideas of parents, teachers, and students.

Hattie Duplechain

Director of Learning Experience and Impact Measurement, Innovation Space

Bio

Hattie Duplechain

Director of Learning Experience and Impact Measurement, Innovation Space

Hattie Duplechain is currently the Director of Learning Experience and Impact Measurement at the Innovation Space, an incubator for early-stage tech startups affiliated with the University of Delaware. She is also a lecturer for social entrepreneurship coursework there. Hattie has over 12 years of experience leading innovation initiatives across K12 and higher education with organizations including Ashoka, The New Teacher Project, and the U.S. Fulbright Program. Hattie holds an M.Ed. in International Education Policy and Management from Vanderbilt University and dual B.A. degrees in Communication Studies and English from Clemson University.

Ryan Lojo

Manager, Simon-Kucher & Partners

(Owen MBA '21)

Bio

Ryan Lojo

Manager, Simon-Kucher & Partners

Ryan is a Manager at Simon-Kucher & Partners. He is focused on industrial, tech, and non-profit clients, as well as those looking to grow their sustainability presence. Ryan earned an MBA from Vanderbilt University in 2021. While at Vanderbilt, he was a two-time board member for the Turner Family Center for Social Ventures (Alumni Engagement and Social Startup) and project lead for a Project Pyramid team working in Guatemala.

Prior to Vanderbilt, Ryan was a Peace Corps volunteer in a rural village of the Dominican Republic, where he served as a Community Economic Development consultant leading small business creation, micro-finance, and infrastructure activities in his community. Following that, he was named a Fulbright Scholar in Mexico City. During his grant and follow-up work, he worked with startups across Mexico, focusing on scaling operations, product development and digital marketing. When not in the office, Ryan can be found hunting for the best tacos and dumplings.

Brian McCann

Faculty Director

Owen

Bio

Brian McCann

Faculty Director

A long-time supporter and partner in the work of the TFC, Professor McCann is a celebrated teacher, mentor, and faculty member in the Owen Graduate School of Management. As faculty director, he will collaborate with center staff and student leadership to continue building the Center’s strategy for programming and learning at the intersection of social impact and business.

Professor Brian McCann is an authority in the field of strategic management. McCann has more than ten years of industry experience, including running JMD Development, Inc., a residential land development company; serving as the CFO for the Internet start-up Solve Interactive; and developing new strategic initiatives for the Dayton Development Coalition, a non-profit economic development group.

His research spans strategic management and entrepreneurship, including governance choices in interfirm relationships and the effects associated with the propensity of similar firms to co-locate geographically.  He has also studied a variety of decision choices in entrepreneurial ventures.

Professor McCann’s work has appeared in such leading journals as the Strategic Management Journal, Organization Science, Journal of Business Venturing, Journal of Management Studies, and the Journal of Management. He is also the co-author (with fellow Owen professor Luke Froeb) of the leading textbook Managerial Economics: A Problem-Solving Approach, which was originally published in 2007 by South-Western and is currently under revision for a fourth edition.

Bio

Emily Sheldon

CEO & Co-Founder, African Health Innovation Centre

Bio

Emily Sheldon

CEO & Co-Founder, African Health Innovation Centre

Emily Sheldon is most passionate about using market-based approaches to solve complex challenges throughout the African continent. Her global development experience spans sub-Saharan Africa and includes diverse engagement in facilitation and training, capacity building, and programme design. Emily serves as co-founder and CEO of the African Health Innovation Centre, Ghana’s first organization dedicated to the utilization of innovation and entrepreneurship to improve health outcomes.

Prior to establishing AHIC, Emily served as the Director of Health Innovation for Impact Hub Accra, and held a second role as Africa Regional Lead for the Impact Hub global team, driving strategy and business development throughout the continent. Emily has worked in the non-profit, for-profit, and consulting fields with a predominant focus on process leadership, project management, and strategy. She holds a Master of Public Health with a concentration in Global Health from the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, TN, USA.

In addition to her work at AHIC, Emily supports entrepreneurs through a variety of advisory roles. She currently serves as a Mentor-in-Residence for the Yale Sustainable Health Initiative and as co-Ambassador for the Vanderbilt Master of Public Health program. She also serves as the Chair of the Board of Directors for Crowdfrica (Ghana), and as an advisory board member for the Turner Family Center for Social Ventures at Vanderbilt University (USA), AlephEngineering (Ghana), Rare Disease Ghana Initiative (Ghana), and PocketPatient MD (Kenya).

Courtney Watson

Co-Founder & Partner, Chestnut Catalyst Group

Bio

Courtney Watson

Co-Founder & Partner, Chestnut Catalyst Group

Courtney is a co-founder of Chestnut Catalyst Group, a woman-led company that through research, strategic capacity building, and investment works to advance social innovation for thriving, diverse, and sustainable communities. Courtney is a partner in Chestnut Opportunity Zone Fund, a qualified opportunity zone fund focused on community-aligned, real estate projects that have the potential to provide both financial and social value. She is also a partner in the Chattanooga Renaissance Fund, a venture capital firm that has invested in early-stage companies in the Southeast. Courtney serves on the board of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Chattanooga as well as The Enterprise Center.

Courtney received her Bachelor of Science in Commerce from The University of Virginia with a minor in French and a Master of Business Administration in Finance and Strategy from Vanderbilt University.  She is often found in the mountains, on a yoga mat, or watching her kids on the sports fields. Courtney lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

TFC intentionally builds relationships with businesses who are motivated to use their resources as a catalyst for the alleviation of poverty. Our partners in the local community, throughout the nation, and around the world help us increase our reach and change the status quo.

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