Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of sitting down with sophomore Carly Smith, co-president and founder of Unleashed, a new club here at Notre Dame. Read on to find out about how Unleashed members are taking on Wall Street with way more than money on their minds!
So, tell me a little bit about Unleashed. What’s the mission of the club?
It started the summer when my friend, Tommy, called me to tell me about this cool new field called social impact investment. We both got really interested in it and decided to start a club at Notre Dame for students who are interested. Since then, our vision for the club has expanded tremendously. At first, we just wanted a club for students to come together to discuss and learn about social impact investing. But, as we’ve come to learn more about it and started to network with different people in the field (Tommy went to the Socially Responsible Investing conference in Colorado Springs, CO last semester) we’ve realized that there’s a huge opportunity in higher education for institutions to become actually involved in impact investing. Our main goal for the club is to secure funds, which we can use to make actual investments. The idea is that students (along with a board of advisors) would research and decide which investments to make, and then all of the return on our investments would get put back into the club funds and be used for new investments.
What, exactly, is impact investing?
Impact investments are investments made into companies and funds with the intention of not only making a financial return on your investment, but also generating a positive social or environment impact through the work of that company or fund that you invested in. It’s a really exciting field to be involved in because it allows you to simultaneously be financially savvy and make money and also put your money towards causes that make our society and environment a better place.
Apart from yourself, who are the other founders of Unleashed? What was your inspiration?
Tommy Flaim, a sophomore in Alumni, is the co-founder and co-president. He is wildly passionate about impact investing and has made huge gains for our club through building a vast network of contacts. Annalise Burnnett, Nate Stone, Alex Central, Vince Vangaever, and Amanda Conklin (all Notre Dame undergraduates) are all board members of Unleashed. It really has been amazing to watch how dedicated they all are to making this club a success. We’re already seeing the results of the hard work and long hours they put into the club. It’s really inspiring.
You’re the co-president of the club. What responsibilities does that role entail?
I am the co-founder and co-president. Along with Tommy and the other board members, I plan meetings, research possible ways to get funding for investments, collaborate with our contacts across the US to help us plan the future of our club, and do various projects to spread the word about Unleashed.
What has your experience been like starting a club from scratch at Notre Dame?
It has definitely been a learning experience. Establishing a club at Notre Dame includes a lot of paperwork, planning, and meetings. As exhausting and overwhelming as it could be at times, it really did help us to articulate for ourselves what exactly the mission of our club is. And although the process seemed tedious and bureaucratic at times, the University really has been wonderfully supportive and enthusiastic about our ideas throughout the whole process. We have a lot of creative energy bouncing around between our board members and the University has helped us to focus that energy in a constructive way.
Where do you see Unleashed going in the future—say, after you graduate?
That’s a big part of what Tommy and I are planning for – making sure that Unleashed continues on long after we are gone. We want Notre Dame to be a leader in impact investing for a long time to come. We have some very involved freshman members which will be good for carrying on the leadership of the club after us older members graduate. We’re also working to spread our passion for this to various professors on campus (and ideally a social impact investing class that will be a prerequisite to joining to club). Notre Dame has long been a leader in both social justice and business (Mendoza was ranked #1 for the fifth year in a row this year!), so we truly believe that it is the perfect setting to foster the success of a club like Unleashed. It is a main goal of our university, after all, to “create a sense of human solidarity and concern for the common good that will bear fruit as learning becomes service to justice.”
To learn more about Unleashed, contact Tommy Flaim at email@example.com and keep an eye out for the club’s website, which should be launched by the end of this semester!