The Difference Maker
Growing up in a business-oriented family, earning an MBA was a logical step for Rebekah Burgin. Her father owns his own company and her sister has an MBA, so for Burgin, the question wasn’t whether to enter an MBA program, but where.
“My Dad is a University of Tennessee alum, and he always wanted one of his kids to go here,” Burgin says. “But my decision came down to which school offered the best program for my concentration — entrepreneurship and innovation.”
After graduating from the University of Richmond with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, Burgin spent a year working in sales before entering the Haslam’s MBA program. She matriculated knowing she was destined for a business career, but her experience at UT helped her redefine her long-term goals.
“I have always been involved with non-profits and volunteer work, but I had never thought about combining that aspect of my life with a career,” Burgin says. “The MBA program crystallized for me that, eventually, I want to end up in the non-profit sector. I want to make a difference on a daily basis in a way where you can see the people who you are helping. In the future, I want to use the skill set I’ve developed to be an asset for individuals.”
Burgin credits an entrepreneurship course called Innovation in Practice, required of all Haslam MBAs, with igniting her passion to work for in the non-profit sector. The class pairs teams of students with small, local non-profits to help solve real-world problems the organizations face. Burgin’s team partnered with Allies for Substance Abuse Prevention (ASAP) of Anderson County, located just north of Knoxville.
“ASAP is doing an awesome job helping to address substance abuse issues like prescription drug use and meth labs in Anderson County, but they needed help promoting their name and their accomplishments,” Burgin says. “We spent the semester looking at different ways they could approach the market and generate revenue from increased awareness.”
The experience got Burgin thinking about how she could apply her business skills in the not-for-profit arena. She followed it up with a summer internship in South Africa working for Urban Africa, a for-profit company that funds a not-for-profit named Afro Graphic. As one of two international interns assisting in a one-employee shop, Burgin had the opportunity to apply her MBA skills in a wide variety of challenges.
“It was really a great experience for me because it was all encompassing,” Burgin says. “The company had been in operation for seven years, yet they didn’t even have a budget. I drew upon every class I had in the MBA program to do everything from start to finish with the business, including day-to-day marketing on Pinterest, long-term strategic decision making, production planning and profitability tracking.”
At the end of the three-month internship, Burgin returned to Haslam for her final semester more confident in her skills and in her long-term goal.
“So many non-profits could be more viable, help more people, attract more donors and volunteers and fulfill their mission if they had people skilled in marketing, logistics and general financial management on their team,” she says. “Having someone with an MBA background could make a huge difference.”
Degree: MBA, Entrepreneurship and Innovation