The 2023 Awards Breakfast, hosted by the Tamer Center for Social Enterprise, has been a long time coming. After a pandemic-induced delay, Tamer Center alumni, faculty, students, and supporters gathered on May 16 to celebrate previously announced honorees S. Mona Sinha ’93 and Andrea Turner Moffitt ’07, alongside two graduating students who have proved to be active champions of social enterprise — within Columbia Business School and beyond.
Since their awards were announced in 2020, Sinha and Turner Moffitt have continued to advance their respective work around a shared goal: elevating women and women’s leadership. Earlier this year, Sinha was appointed global executive director of Equality Now, a legal nonprofit that works to ensure equality for women and girls by changing laws. In her remarks at the May event, Sinha noted how the importance of her decades-long work to achieve gender justice has only been thrown into sharper relief over the past three years.
“The pandemic raised a global understanding of the realities that women face,” said Sinha, who was awarded the Horton Award for Excellence in Social Enterprise, named for Professor Ray Horton, who established social enterprise as an interest area at CBS. The Horton Award recognizes individuals who have demonstrated a passion for social or environmental causes and have used their management skills to benefit society.
“We all heard in the media the stories about how the burden of the pandemic fell in much more severe ways on women who quit their jobs, who had to make a choice between childcare and going to work,” Sinha said. She added that, recently, the cost of school closures and the related childcare was estimated to total $300,000 over the course of a woman’s lifetime.
Turner Moffitt has trained the force of her skills and creativity on the related issue of women’s economic equality — in large part by supporting women-led businesses and social ventures via a venture platform she co-founded, Plum Alley Investments. She has conducted extensive research on the distinct needs and wants women bring to their personal investing and has gathered that research and its takeaways in her book, Harness the Power of the Purse: Winning Women Investors.
To the student honorees, Turner Moffitt offered encouragement to continue the legacy the Tamer Center is establishing as it evolves into a multifaceted force for spreading the ethos of social enterprise throughout the business world.
“Your optimism and relentless drive are infectious,” said Turner Moffitt, who was awarded the Social Enterprise Award, which recognizes midcareer alumni who use business tools and entrepreneurial and management skills to address social and environmental challenges. “We should all be grateful, for the Tamer Center has created an incredible program anchored in a robust curriculum, wrapped with impactful student experiences that create kinetic energy permeating across the school and beyond.”
Today, the Tamer Center is acting on its mission to train the next generation of business leaders to address social and environmental problems around the globe through a rapidly growing roster of programs and initiatives. Those include the Tamer Fund for Social Ventures, which through grants has supported 50 Columbia-affiliated founders, who in turn have raised more than $100 million in investments; the Inclusive Entrepreneurship Initiative, which was launched last fall to elevate opportunities and resources to those systemically excluded from the economy; and the ReEntry Acceleration Program, which trains CBS students to deliver business training to incarcerated individuals and hosts events and forums to foster dialogues about improving economic inclusion for justice-impacted people.
In his remarks, Bruce Usher, co-director of the Tamer Center and professor of professional practice at CBS, emphasized that the Tamer Center’s work extends throughout the Business School — especially thanks to the center’s focus on the intersection of climate change and business. He announced that the MBA has a new curriculum that more deeply explores and integrates climate issues, with seven courses dedicated to the topic. He added that six of the program’s 10 core classes will address climate change in the coming academic year — and eventually, all 10 will.
Present at the event were several next-generation leaders who were involved with the Tamer Center while they were students. Organizers presented the Carson Family Changemaker Award to Kyle Finck ’20, Natasha Gabbay ’21, and Meg Johnson ’20, students who had received the honor in 2020, and to recent graduates Silvia Gelonch Fernandez ’23 and Wilburt Carpenter ’23, who they recognized as embodiments of the Tamer Center’s mission to advance social enterprise.
During her time at CBS, Gelonch Fernandez participated in the Three Cairns Fellowship program, in which students complete semester- or year-long projects with Columbia research faculty or any type of business or organization to address sustainability and climate change issues. Gelonch Fernandez also led a movement among fellow CBS students to encourage Dean Costis Maglaras to take more action around the issue of climate change—a call to which he was receptive.
“I think it’s unique how CBS has been able to enter a dialogue with its students and make change become stronger, bigger, and faster together,” Gelonch Fernandez said in her remarks.
For his part, Carpenter participated in the new Inclusive Entrepreneurship Initiative, which he cited as just one experience at CBS that fulfilled his high hopes for the program. Before attending the Business School, Carpenter had worked in business-to-business marketing within media and technology, hoping to build more inclusive tech ecosystems by addressing the problem of bias and inequality in many everyday tech platforms. He said he had grown increasingly disillusioned by what he saw as the “gap between rhetoric and reality in DEI efforts.” At CBS, he took full advantage of the Tamer Center’s offerings to build the educational experience he wanted and needed.
“Through the Inclusive Entrepreneurship Program, the Social Enterprise Summer Fellowship, the Nonprofit Board Leadership Program, and various Tamer Center courses, I was able to craft an MBA experience that aligned with my very nontraditional MBA aspirations,” Carpenter said.
After the recent graduates received their awards, attendees were asked whether they had been inspired to pledge their own time to become more involved with the Tamer Center. By the end of the day, the “social impact call to action” had made an impact: More than 35 attendees committed to team up with the center around the issues that matter most to them. Many of these attendees also pledged an additional financial donation, joining a group of generous event sponsors led by underwriters Ravi Sinha, Sandra and Tony Tamer, and Cherine and Ahmed Tayeb. As a result, the event raised over $450,000 in support of the Tamer Center.
Read more about Horton Award Winner S. Mona Sinha ’93 and her work here.
Read more about Social Enterprise Leadership Award Winner Andrea Turner Moffitt ’07 and her work here.