Kerri-Ann Anderson (PhD Candidate, Biological Sciences ’23)
2022-2023 Alumni Engagement Committee Member
I had once envisioned myself leading groundbreaking initiatives to combat threats to human health in low- and middle-income countries. Since life put me on a path to a Ph.D. rather than an M.D., I spent my first few years at Vanderbilt searching for a direction that could lead me to that vision. Somewhere along the line I became conflicted; until I was introduced to the TFC, I believed that a career serving those in need meant sacrificing my own financial security. Even if I had decided to pursue a business venture, I presumed that one which focused on social improvement could not be profitable. I found myself now trying to decide which value to compromise for my future career: security or service?
In Fall 2018, at a graduate student organization fair, former TFC Graduate Associate Megan Skaggs introduced me to the Turner Family Center for Social Ventures. I was pleasantly shocked, as the idea of a social venture was something I thought improbable, but the very thing I was trying to figure out how to accomplish. Thus began my involvement and growth with the TFC. Despite my (what I believed to be) “not traditionally TFC associated” background (a biomathematician pursuing a Ph.D. in the BioSci department), I have always felt welcomed and valued at the TFC. I will always remember former TFC Board Chair Mike O’Hara making it a point to chat and check in with me after I questioned whether someone with my background could hold a TFC leadership position. That, in addition to Mario and Kathleen’s enthusiastic greetings and interest in my academic progress, and the positivity and support that emanated from several people I’ve connected with throughout the years, motivates me to continue my involvement, even as my career interests and trajectories evolve.
The TFC has shaped my perspective throughout a variety of experiences. As a student involved in the Social Enterprise Consulting Program, I, along with a team of fellow graduate students, worked as a supply chain and distribution consultant for Dispensary of Hope. Dispensary of Hope is a charitable medication distributor committed to ensuring individuals with low-incomes can access affordable medication, avoiding medical emergencies that can occur without this access. As a consulting team, we researched the pharmaceutical for-profit distribution model as well as appropriate agreements and contracts. We also provided points of intervention to create and supplement partnership opportunities with medical wholesalers that result in excess medication being donated to supply DoH’s charitable distribution.
As a student in the Project Pyramid course, I served as the Team Lead for a group of interdisciplinary Vanderbilt graduate students to support the business development plan of MassChallenge Mexico, a branch of the international nonprofit committed to stimulating entrepreneurship and innovation. As a consultant team, we assisted in the creation of business development toolkits and a resource library applicable to the Central and South American entrepreneurial landscape, supplementing MC Mexico’s business development training program and accelerator program expansion.
Beyond Social Enterprise Consulting and Project Pyramid, I have engaged with the TFC through a variety of touch points. The TFC’s Lunch & Learns have taught me that it is possible to have a career that addresses social needs without having to sacrifice my security. Resumé workshops with Mario helped me see that my experience and expertise are marketable outside of academia and science. And, having the opportunity to work with Owen’s Leadership Development Program team helped me to begin dismantling my notion of a single optimal leadership style, allowing me to become more comfortable with the idea that my leadership style could be just as effective. I also found value in the unmet expectations, as these impressed upon me the importance of considering work environment, team dynamics and culture when exploring potential careers.
After participating in the TFC, receiving guidance and support from various members of leadership, and being granted the opportunity to work with local and international groups to solve complex problems, I feel drawn to give back to the organization that has expanded my horizons and helped me grow in self-awareness and self-acceptance. I served as part of the 2021-2022 Academics & Experiences committee, and this year I have been chosen to serve on the Alumni Engagement committee. I anticipate this experience, like the last, will teach me more about myself, expand my outlook and connect me with more interesting and passionate people. I’m excited to see what unfolds this year.