The ESG Initiative at the Wharton School

Bendheim Awardees Share Their Social Impact Success Stories

Two Wharton graduates and Bendheim Loan Forgiveness Awardees followed very different paths to build gratifying careers in social impact. They spoke recently to the next generation of undergraduates in the Turner ESG Fellows program to share their inspiring stories and offer practical advice.

As a journalist who moved from the newsroom to the corporate office, Dan Petty uses his Wharton MBA every day in his role as director of audience strategy at ProPublica, a nonprofit investigative news organization.

He often finds himself referring back to professor Patty Williams’ class on branding, thinking through how organizations create long-term value like he did in professor Kevin Kaiser’s class, or applying professor Peter Fader’s models in forecasting audience growth while focusing on customer centricity.

“Just because you’re a nonprofit doesn’t mean you don’t still need to run a functional business,” said Petty, WG’22. “There are still expenses and there is still income, and you’ve got to balance those things in such a way that you’re sustainable for the long term.”

Screenshot of a Zoom showing 25 people smiling, including 2 Bendheim Awardees, Turner ESG Fellows, and ESG Initiative staff.

Petty was one of two alums who spoke during a webinar held in December for undergraduate students in the Turner ESG Fellows program, which provides speaker sessions, networking, and professional development for undergraduates who demonstrate a commitment to environmental, social, and corporate governance topics.

The students heard from two 2023 Bendheim Loan Forgiveness Awardees, a select group of outstanding social impact leaders chosen for the John M. Bendheim Loan Forgiveness Fund. Created in 2005 by John Bendheim, W’40, and his son Tom, WG/Lauder’90, and managed by the ESG Initiative, the loan forgiveness fund has awarded over $2.45 million to 120+ alumni.

“Wharton graduates have an enormous amount to offer the not-for-profit and public service sectors.”

– Tom Bendheim, WG’90 G’90

Tom shared, “Wharton graduates have an enormous amount to offer the not-for-profit and public service sectors. Our goal is to encourage and support our MBAs’ choice to work in careers where they can have a significant social impact.”

The webinar also marked the first time that Bendheim Fellows interacted with the Turner ESG Fellows program, sharing their personal stories and what they’ve learned along their career journeys. The supporters behind both programs – Bobby Turner, W’84, and the Bendheim family – embraced the opportunity for these programs to collaborate for this event.

Turner shared, “Our undergraduate fellows stand to gain a lot from interacting with recent alumni, and our Bendheim Awardees are uniquely positioned to offer insights on translating classroom knowledge into practice, pursuing profits with a purpose, and entering the workforce.”

Dan Petty

Dan Petty smiling in a blue button down and dark grey suit in front of a grey background.

Dan Petty completed his MBA at Wharton in 2022 with majors in finance and strategic management. He is the director of audience strategy at ProPublica, a non-profit, non-partisan news organization that investigates abuses of power and betrayals of the public trust. He leads a team focused on understanding and reaching audiences for the organization’s journalism through digital platforms and partnerships.

Shawn Yavari

Shawn Yavari smiling in a red sweater over a white button down in front of a tree.

Shawn Yavari is a 2020 MBA graduate who concentrated in Business, Energy, Environment, and Sustainability at Wharton and International Studies at the Lauder Institute. He is currently a Chief of Staff as part of the Global Rotational Development Program at CMA CGM, the third-largest global shipping/logistics company with a strong commitment to sustainability and decarbonization.

The webinar also featured Shawn Yavari, a 2020 MBA graduate of the Wharton MBA/MA Lauder Joint Degree in International Studies program. This unique curriculum combines a Wharton MBA with intercultural leadership skills, interdisciplinary coursework, language studies, and research – providing a foundation for graduates to excel in their careers around the world.

As a first year student Yavari gained real-world experience as a consulting fellow for the Wharton Social Impact Initiative, which became a part of the ESG Initiative in 2022 as the Impact Investing Research Lab. Yavari graduated during the COVID-19 pandemic, which he said put his dedication to social impact to the test.

“You’re freaking out for half a year, figuring out who is going to hire you. Meanwhile, your classmates who locked in consulting and banking jobs are not. They’re chilling,” he recalled. “It was really scary and really challenging. But I stuck to my plan, and six months after graduating I found three amazing environmental opportunities.”

After graduation, he worked as a senior specialist in electric vehicle demonstration for Con Edison, the utility company for New York City and Westchester County. There, he managed the launch campaign of NYC’s first curbside electric vehicle chargers to facilitate the electrification of transportation in the biggest city in the US.

He now lives in Marseille, France where he works as a project manager at Pulse, CMA CGM Energy Fund, a fund that invests in startups and projects that decarbonize the supply chain.

For Petty, the decision to earn an MBA was driven by his love for journalism and his desire to sustain it. He began his career during the Great Recession, which kicked off a period of significant financial transition in the news industry. Professional organizations have been struggling to retain audiences amid budget cuts, technological disruption, changing consumer behavior, and competition from nontraditional news outlets.

“My feeling is more journalists with MBAs is a good thing,” he said. “I feel like now, having had the education I’ve gotten at Wharton, I’m very equipped to manage the fact that this industry is changing, and [I’m] in a good position to continue impact in the years ahead.”

Petty and Yavari said there is a lot that Wharton students can do while they are still in school to help them secure meaningful social impact careers after graduation. Here are some of their tips:

Learn hard and soft skills

It’s important for students to learn all they can from their classes, but equally important are “soft skills” such as leadership traits, conflict resolution, diplomacy, and negotiation. Opportunities to gain these skills can happen on and off campus. Petty applied and got into the Marine Corps Civilian Leadership Program at Quantico, where he said he “learned some formative things I’m never going to forget.”

Use the wide array of campus services

Finding a job and making the right connections can be difficult, even at a world-class institution with access to extensive alumni networks. Petty and Yavari encouraged students to take advantage of all the resources available on campus, including Career Services, which helped both of them polish their resumes and apply for internships.

Find the right fit

Every student wants to leap into a dream job after graduation, but Yavari and Petty cautioned them to slow down and consider their decision carefully. It’s critical that the organization’s goals and values match your own, and that it just feels right – a place where you can bring all of yourself to work. Petty said impact is ProPublica’s “north star,” and Yavari said he believes that he’s making a difference because of his company’s commitment to net zero emissions.

Don’t give up

Perhaps the hardest piece of advice for students to hold onto is not to give up on their goal of a social impact career, especially when they feel pressure to pursue more common paths such as finance or consulting. Remember that in addition to making a difference in the world, there are wonderful personal opportunities in social impact. Petty has traveled to Kazakhstan and other places to collaborate with foreign news organizations, and Yavari moved to France for his job.

“I don’t think I would have gotten these opportunities if I had caved and just taken the first thing that came up,” Yavari said. “It’s definitely a scary process sometimes, but I think if it’s really what you want and you keep chasing it, it can pay off.”

By Angie Basiouny


Learn more about the John M. Bendheim Loan Forgiveness Fund.
Learn more about the Turner ESG Fellows program.