By Emma Allison, MBA Candidate

Published 12.17.13


Presidians gather at the San Jose Convention Center

The fall conference season has come and gone, but one conference really stood out for Presidians this year: the 2013 Net Impact Conference. This year’s conference was held in our backyard at the San Jose Convention Center on October 24-26th. A total of 81 Presidians attended the conference, earning our chapter the award for bringing the most attendees from a local chapter.

However, PGS’s involvement in the conference had started long before. In fall 2012, Presidio’s Net Impact Chapter, led by then-Chairs Ayaka Emoto (C15) and Bobby Coucoules (C14), applied to be one of the host schools for the 2013 conference. By January, I had joined the Net Impact team, taking Bobby’s place alongside Ayaka, and we’d learned that PGS, along with five other Bay Area chapters, were selected to co-host the conference.

The planning began almost immediately. Each year, Net Impact creates tracks, or subject areas, to help organize and label the sessions so that attendees can select and attend sessions based on their interests. The PGS chapter took the lead on organizing three of the ten tracks at the conference, the most of any chapter. The tracks we led were Nonprofit Management & Public Sector Innovation; Finance & Investing; and Sustainable Food.

Sam Ruben (C17/PA4), Inna Volynskaya (C13), and Lindsey Kugel (C14) each led the design process for a respective track. Our brainstorming sessions produced format ideas from debates to TED-style talks, and session topics including Local Libations, Social Impact Bonds for Change, and Impact Investing in the Public Sector.

Our members also staffed five conference-wide task forces made up of members from each of the partner schools. Each task force was made up of five or six members, and the PGS Net Impact Chapter ended up having two Presidians per task force, again more than any other chapter:

  • Annika Hoeltje (C17) and Mara Slade (C14) staffed the Silicon Valley Impact Task Force, which recruited local organizations, and developed and facilitated mini-consulting sessions using design thinking methodology;
  • Frank Teng (C17) and Bart Agapinan (C13) staffed the Local Engagement Task Force, building relationships with local businesses, engaging them in meaningful ways to further sustainability and social impact, and securing their participation in conference activities;
  • Casey Schultz (C17) and Michelle Reyes (C15) joined the Special Events Task Force, facilitating a lively and energetic networking component to the conference through off-site event coordination;
  • Shaina Kandel (C18) and Ny-Ann Nolasco (C18) Volunteer Recruitment and Management Task Force, recruiting, scheduling, training, and managing conference volunteers; and
  • I served as Marketing Manager, ensuring strong chapter presence at the conference by outreaching to chapter members, colleagues, and faculty/administrative contacts.

The tasks forces started meeting in April and were responsible for activities such as bringing in organizations to participate in IDEO-inspired workshops, a tour of Google, and the planning and organizing the no-host dinners. Our efforts lasted all summer and right up though the conference.

By the time the conference rolled around in October, Presidio had managed to touch almost every aspect of the planning in some way or another.

The conference itself, with the theme “Change Starts Here” aimed to embody the entrepreneurial and innovative spirit of Silicon Valley. Over 2,500 excited students and thought leaders from all over the country came together driven by the belief that each one of us has the capability to create positive and meaningful change around us. Keynote speakers included a variety of personalities like Denise Morrison, CEO of Campbell’s Soup Company; Caryl Stern, President and CEO of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF; Chip Conley, Founder of Joie de Vivre Hotels and Head of Hospitality for Airbnb; and Blake Mycoskie, Founder of TOMS.

In addition, 15 of our own alumni also spoke at this year’s conference.

All in all, I was honored and proud to be a part of this amazing experience. For a school that may be small in numbers, we are definitely high in impact! Thank you to everyone, students, alumni, administration, and community members that were involved.


Emma Allison, MBA Candidate

Emma is an MBA candidate at Presidio Graduate School.  She has taught kindergarten in Istanbul, Turkey and one time appeared on United Airlines’ in-flight TV programming.

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