Fasika Delessa, class of 2018, is an Impact Ambassador in the Center for Social Value Creation at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business. She recently talked with undergraduate student Huw Ball about his experience as an Impact Ambassador and a double major in operations management/business analytics and marketing with a minor in sustainability studies.
Raised in the small town of Frederick, Md., Huw Ball, the youngest of three, always knew he wanted to be a Terp. The sprawling campus of the state’s flagship university initially seemed daunting, and three years later, he humbly admits that at times it still does. Looking back on his journey, Huw is grateful for the nonlinear, unlikely path that shaped who he is and who he hopes to become. Ultimately, his journey led him to the Robert H. Smith School of Business, where he is deeply engaged in the Center for Social Value Creation (CSVC) and determined to pursue a career that marries environmental justice and business.
Finding one’s place on campus is a strange and unique pursuit each student embarks on with the turn of the seasons. For most students, change quickly becomes a new normal; changing majors, roommates and hobbies, to name a few. For Huw, the one constant over the years has been his passion for environmental justice. Simply put, Huw states that “for as long as I can remember, I have cared and fought for the environment.”
Huw entered UMD as an engineering major, only to find himself sitting in general chemistry that fall of 2015, thinking, "What am I doing here?" With the decision to leave engineering behind him, Huw was then left with a vast sea of majors to explore. After weighing his options with the help of mentors, he decided on business, reasoning that his love of working with people, along with a growing understanding of corporations’ immense impact on the environment, made business the best choice. For the next year and a half, he joined a chorus of students engaged in the rigorous internal transfer process for the business school. After some tough moments, he was granted acceptance, finally declaring a double major in operations management & business analytics and marketing with a minor in sustainability studies after the fall of his sophomore year.
Some may still be left wondering, what’s an environmentalist doing in a business school? For Huw, this exact line of thinking is what inspired him to research socially responsible business’, where he discovered the practices of industry giants like Patagonia and REI, proving that “profit and social impact are not mutually exclusive.” His experience interning with the United States Environmental Protection Agency and University of Maryland’s Sustainability Analytics Lab further demonstrated the responsibility all sectors share in protecting the environment.
Huw was eager to get started in the business school, but could not help but feel the occasional bit of doubt about how he could use his newfound major to advance his passion. Here, he looks back gratefully at CSVC, led by a staff of people he leaned on early in his time in the Smith School and continues to stay involved with. Last spring, he enrolled in a course supported by the CSVC and taught by Lecturer Amy Kincaid, named BMGT 498M, Business Consulting: Social Enterprise and Impact Organizations. Students in this class work directly with local nonprofits and social enterprises on semester-long consulting engagements. His team was assigned to a local organization called the Love Blanket Project. It was in this course that Huw saw the practical applications of skills he learned in the classroom, from coding software to even more theoretical concepts in marketing, translated to help real-life organizations become more efficient and better serve the needs of its community. Huw describes feeling that his major was no longer “something I felt detached from... it was now a channel by which I could still continue fighting for what I believe to be right in the world.”
In the future, Huw hopes to work for a renewable energy company or to aid in energy poverty alleviation abroad. Outside of the Smith School, Huw serves as director of student groups in the Student Government Association, and most recently joined the Technica team, an all-women hackathon designed to introduce and encourage women to pursue careers in the tech fields. For Huw, “Technica has been one of my most meaningful experiences in college,” and he hopes to continue promoting gender diversification in the tech industry throughout his life.
Until then, his advice to younger students on campus is to “live your life exactly how you want, don't be afraid to go against the norm. It took me years to understand that I don't need to do what everyone else is doing to be happy. Your life is your own, so you can live it however you want. Go for the opportunities that spark something within you and never regret it.”
For more information about the Center for Social Value Creation, visit www.rhsmith.umd.edu/svc.
For more information about the undergraduate program at Smith, visit www.rhsmith.umd.edu/undergrad.