Investments taking over donations with Impact Investing

A group of Brigham Young University finance students are finding unique ways to use their investing skills while helping those in poverty worldwide.

Through the Ballard Center for Economic Self-Reliance, students help improve living conditions of the poor and learn about impact investing by interning with the University Impact Fund. The idea of impact investment rests on a goal to benefit poor people around the world, while still bringing a financial return to the investor.

"An investment, as opposed to a donation, helps people be accountable for the money they receive and helps them perform well," says Wilfried Eyi, a senior finance major from Libreville, Gabon, and fund associate. "The idea that you can analyze a business and see how it will impact a whole class of people, like fishermen in Indonesia or women entrepreneurs in India, is fascinating."

When the UIF was founded in 2010, it was the first student-run impact investing firm in the world and pulled from the Marriott School and the University of Utah Business School. The Ballard Center provided this avenue to offer an internship where students could work with companies while learning about impact investing.

"I'm a part of the business world, but I wanted to serve others as well," says Andrew Scheuermann, a strategy senior from Eden, Utah, and fund associate. "This was the perfect blend in education of social impact with financial return that I wanted."

Last semester, Scheuermann and James Zelnick, a second-year MAcc student and UIF associate, were part of a team hired to research whether investing in an Indonesian company would be a good venture. The team worked endless hours to compile analyses of the company and look at competitors, the market and how the company was projected to grow. The team presented its research to the chief officers of the San Francisco based investment fund, an opportunity not many business students have.

"Investment companies tend to be pretty small, so when you're working with them you do tend to work with the CEO, CFO or managing director," Zelnick says. "It's somewhat intimidating at first because you don't want to sound uneducated, but the experience is good because you become more natural around those people."

Zelnick says exposure to real investments and interactions with companies' CEOs come often and make him feel like he was part of the larger picture of the impact investment model.

"When I interviewed for a consulting job, working with UIF was something that was highlighted. I have real experience with real companies and real funds," Zelnick says. "It is hands down one of the best experiences I've had in college."

Students are encouraged to apply this month for internships with the University Impact Fund. Find more information about UIF and other opportunities in impact investing at the Ballard Center website or

The Marriott School is located at Brigham Young University, the largest privately owned, church-sponsored university in the United States. The school has nationally recognized programs in accounting, business management, public management, information systems and entrepreneurship. The school's mission is to prepare men and women of faith, character and professional ability for positions of leadership throughout the world. Approximately 3,000 students are enrolled in the Marriott School's graduate and undergraduate programs.

Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Miriam Shumway