Students meet impact investor and Calvert Foundation CEO at Wharton Power Dinner

lisa hall

By Stephanie Kim, Manager of Community Impact, Wharton Social Impact Initiative

Wharton Social Impact Initiative was thrilled to facilitate a Wharton Power Dinner at the Cira Center Oct. 7 with 12 MBA students and Lisa Hall, W’87, departing President and CEO of Calvert Foundation.

Hall led a wide-ranging discussion on topics like impact investing theory and Calvert Foundation’s Community Investment Note.

She also shared her path to becoming CEO, insights into her more than eight years within the Calvert Foundation, and above it all, juggling work-life balance. This year, Hall will step into a newly-created position—Managing Director of Impact Investing—for a large European family office and will be building a global portfolio focused on social, environmental, and financial returns.

 Through each topic, the running theme of the conversation was to “do what you love.”

Asteria Lumanau (WG’14), a WSII Social Impact Fellow exploring gender-focused investment,  has admired Hall for years and was excited to have the special opportunity to meet her in person.

“I enjoyed hearing [Hall] describe her career path that led to where she is today,” Lumanau said.  “[She] was very transparent about her challenges as a CEO and gave us insights into how she deals with them.  She continues to inspire me to pursue a career I’m passionate about.”

Students were eager to hear Hall’s thoughts on the emerging field of local and global impact investing on women—female consumers, board members, and entrepreneurs—and her experience helping launch Calvert Foundation’s Women Investing in Women Initiative (WIN WIN) in 2012, which has already invested more than $10 million in women’s economic empowerment.

Hall encouraged academics and researchers to take a collaborative approach in measuring and evaluating the impact of these types of investments and the financial performance of a gender-specific portfolio.

“While a vast amount of information is being collected in various studies on investing in women, it should be gathered in a way that lends itself to quantitative analysis and modeling,” said Sarah Weidel (WG’14), who also attended the dinner and is working with Lumanau to explore the gender-focused investment field.

“Initiatives like gender-focused investing must be evaluated using a data drive approach requiring good data and credible information in order to conduct regression analyses and provide meaningful insight into what works and what doesn’t.”

The conversation flowed as abundantly as the coffee ordered with dessert, after which the students finally headed out to end the night in midterm study sessions.

Sponsored by the Zweig Fund and Wharton’s Student and Young Alumni Engagement Initiative—a task force consisting of staff members from the external affairs and graduate division as well as MBA students—this dinner was the sixth of a seven-part series of opportunities for students to meet with leading Wharton alumni. These professionals represent a broad range of industries including social impact, government, consumer goods, real estate, technology, financial services, and healthcare.

Finishing up its third year of programming, the 2013 Wharton Power Dinner program also included a dinner for MBA students participating in the Semester in San Francisco, as well as dinners for the east and west coast Executive MBA programs.

Alumni participants are selected based on student interest across various enterprise industries. Next year, WSII will continue to collaborate with the Power Dinner program to identify alumni leaders in the social impact space. Interested students can sign up for the 2014 series via lottery early next fall.