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My Summer as a Farber Fellow: Great Expectations Exceeded! – Katie Orovecz, University of Chicago, Booth School of Business

I talked to a few of the alumni of the REDF Farber program before applying and I knew my summer experience would be great, but it was even better than I could have imagined!

From the first week, when our Farber cohort met and was immersed in the REDF retreat (an annual gathering of the leaders from all the REDF partner social enterprises from around the country), I knew I had made the right choice for my summer internship. From my perspective, the REDF Retreat accomplished two main goals: 1) It got the Farbers acquainted with each other and with REDF through quality time together and learning 2) It brought together the widest network of people interested in employment social enterprise I’d ever seen, which allowed for deep conversations, knowledge sharing, and really energized and motivated me to get to work on my projects for the summer. This retreat was just the beginning!

Once I got to Denver I began working for Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO), a social enterprise that offers individuals just coming home from prison the ongoing support necessary to build career capital and financial stability. At CEO I was surrounded by passionate, caring, and extremely dedicated people. My project focused on helping CEO rethink how they were providing retention services to their participants across their numerous locations (24 at the time and over 27 now). Personalized retention services, like career coaching, help ensure that CEO participants continue to succeed after they enter the competitive job market. Through this experience, I was able to talk with participants currently in CEO programming and those who were placed in full-time jobs. These inspiring individuals shared their stories of how CEO helped them re-enter the workforce after incarceration and obtain more stability in their lives. It was a tough project to rethink how the last year of programming could add even more value for participants, but I wasn’t alone. CEO connected me to everyone in the organization, REDF portfolio managers offered advice and shared their resources, and my fellow Farbers provided a great sounding board for ideas and deliverables.

The nine weeks at CEO went so fast! It was intermingled with two trips to San Francisco to meet with REDF and the other Farbers to gain valuable perspective on our projects as well as the employment social enterprise space. I wouldn’t believe it if you told me, but through just those three convenings with the Farbers we developed deep friendships and I even made what I am sure will be a lifelong friend with the other Farber who was working in Denver! Being with people who all believe that business can be a force for good was amazing. Our bonds are so tight, we’ve made plans to meet up in Arizona in February for own mini Farber reunion!

You only get one summer during your MBA, and I can assure you, you won’t regret spending it with REDF through the Farber Program.

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