In the second half of the 2021-2022 school year, graduate students from across a variety of Vanderbilt’s schools came together in Project Pyramid, an interdisciplinary class taught at Vanderbilt’s Owen Graduate School of Management by TFC Director Mario Avila. As part of the program’s unique experiential learning component, teams of students were paired with social enterprises across the globe whom they worked as consultants for. The projects varied in scope and final deliverable, but provided students with valuable learning experiences across the board.
Conacado is the leading business holding in the production, processing and marketing of cacao in the Dominican Republic, and the world’s largest exporter of organic cacao.
Vanderbilt students Bryce Cirbo (MBA ’23), Libby Crowe (MBA ’23), Will Husted (Higher Ed Administration ’23), Ross Klepetko (MBA ’22), and Brandon Valentine (’23) centered their consulting project on building greater recognition of Conacado’s primary role in the organic cacao industry. Their deliverable focused on three main components: aggregation of client data, leveraging of Tableau, and integration of an interactive cacao farming and distribution map into Conacado’s marketing materials.
De La Gente is a Guatemalan organization dedicated to creating economic opportunities for coffee-producing communities through support of small farmers, cooperative assistance, and sustainable commercialization. The De La Gente team was made up of five students – Emmy Banks (MBA ’23), Noah de Comarmond (MPP ’23), Connor Jackson (Leadership & Organizational Performance ’23), Jake Menges (MBA ’23), and Alyssa Patel (MBA ’23). The De La Gente team’s project focused on marketing tracking through digital platforms.
Nudge, a social enterprise connecting entrepreneurs committed to social impact and environmental sustainability with larger markets, had two Project Pyramid teams working as consultants for two separate projects this year.
Nudge – Impact Investing
One of the two teams, which included Ergisa Bejkollari (MA Economics ’23), Artie Ihomori (MBA ’23), Joe Love (MBA ’22), Will Radney
(MBA ’23) and Maria Sheridan (MPH ’22), focused on developing Nudge’s Impact Fund. Throughout their project, the team conducted a regional comparative analysis of other impact investing funds and delved into academic literature, ultimately identifying a framework, opportunities, and needs for Nudge’s own Impact Fund.
Nudge – Impact Measurement
The other Project Pyramid team working with Nudge focused on measuring impact of the investment they make into socially- and environmentally-conscious entrepreneurs. The Impact Measurement team was composed of Sumit Kar (MBA ’23), Rocío Posada-Castañeda (MPH ’23), Ryo Sakai (MBA ’22), Parker Willmon (PhD Biomedical Engineering ’25), and Ariane Willson (LOP ’22). The team’s final deliverable included a comprehensive set of recommendations for Nudge’s impact measurement process, taking into consideration best practices from venture capital, program evaluation methodology, and data analysis strategies.
Pomona Impact is a Guatemala-based impact investing fund focusing on supporting innovative social entrepreneurs in Central America, Mexico, Colombia and Ecuador whose business focuses on agriculture, basic services, or the digital economy. The Project Pyramid team working with Pomona Impact – Andrew Lin (MBA ’23), Kristen Meyer (MBA ’23), Anne Peterson (MBA ’23), and Tim Satterthwaite (LOP ’22) – focused on a digital marketing strategy and creating a viable plan for sustainable revenue.
In working with Yspaniola, a Dominican-American education nonprofit dedicated to providing high-quality education to people across the Dominican Republic, this Project Pyramid team was dedicated to creating a final deliverable that employees at Yspaniola would find truly useful. Following a robust research process including interviews with educators, stakeholders, and Yspaniola staff, Noor Ali (MPH ’22), Alekhya Maddila (MBA ’22), Stepanie Noll (MBA ’23), Urja Thapa (MA Economics ’23), and Julia Weber (MBA ’23), created a series of workshops for Yspaniola educators focusing on technology integration, lesson planning, and teaching methods.