This summer, four BYU Marriott School of Business students were paired with financial literacy startup FinLit for an internship. The partnership came about through a social impact project (SIP) at BYU Marriott’s Ballard Center for Social Impact, which provides students with opportunities to develop business and personal skills while applying social impact principles in real-world settings.
The student team consisted of finance junior Mick Buck from San Antonio, accounting junior Arlen Lee from Hong Kong, pre-business sophomore Francesca Paul from Pittsburgh, and pre-business sophomore Marissa Scott from Springfield, Missouri. FinLit, which aims to teach personal finance principles to low-income communities, asked the student team to identify potential organizations to which the company could market its product. Paul also led an effort to translate FinLit’s content into Spanish.
“The project was meaningful because everyone needs personal finance,” Lee says. “As a team we expanded the FinLit reach and content so that more audiences, such as refugees, could have access to the company’s resources.”
One of the biggest ways students benefited from the project was through gaining professional experience. “This internship definitely helped build up my résumé and prepared me to work toward landing my dream job,” says Lee, who plans to become a CPA. “Any exposure to the business world along with work experience is a benefit, especially since financial literacy is something that I’m interested in.”
Paul, who is preparing to apply to BYU Marriott’s entrepreneurial management program, appreciated the behind-the-scenes look at business that the project provided. Because FinLit is a startup, she was intrigued by the company’s trajectory as she hopes to start her own business one day.
“Working with FinLit gave me an understanding that whatever I do, my ideas don’t have to be perfectly solidified with everything ready to go initially,” she explains. “My team and I worked directly with the CEO, and he is still working on FinLit’s content and trying to improve the company. Realizing he was still growing along with his company gave me inspiration to take my future ideas and run with them because eventually I will end up where I want to go.”
Paul also adds that taking the SIP class was divinely inspired. She had been praying for opportunities to increase her exposure to the business world when she saw the Ballard Center booth at a campus career fair. Paul says she felt prompted to take the center’s SIP class, MSB 492R: Social Impact Projects, which eventually led her to FinLit.
The personal connection Paul felt to the class is an important part of course instructor Jill Piacitelli’s curriculum. The course mainly involves students working with their assigned organizations, but occasional class periods are required as well. In those sessions, Piacitelli focuses her lessons on staying motivated, growing as a person, and remaining balanced with all aspects of life.
“Professor Piacitelli taught us how to be balanced professionally, spiritually, and emotionally,” Paul says. “Those lessons helped a lot in the internship when our team was unsure about how to do certain aspects of the project. For each of us, this experience was our first time doing a marketing project for a company. The classes provided motivation to grow as a person while also maturing in our business abilities.”
The interns’ progress—both personally and with FinLit—is one of the reasons the organization continues to partner with the Ballard Center. FinLit CEO and founder Adam Turville, a 2013 BYU alumnus, has worked with several SIP teams in the five years since he started his company. He initially sought out Ballard Center interns because he had also participated in the center when he was at BYU and enjoyed the impact various programs had on him.
“Adam built a deep connection with the Ballard Center as an undergraduate at BYU. His time at the center shaped and directed a lot of his interest in social impact. He knows how to create meaningful experiences with students. He also appreciates students’ willingness to roll up their sleeves and do the groundwork of growing an organization,” Piacitelli explains.
Students interested in a SIP can enroll in MSB 492R, which is offered every semester at BYU Marriott. More information can also be found online at sip.byu.edu or through stopping by the Ballard Center. The center is located in the Tanner Building, room 360.
Writer: Mike Miller