Making the World a Better Place

Peace Corps - celebrating the end of a girls education camp with other volunteers
Emma McKay and other Peace Corps volunteers celebrating the end of a girls’ education camp.

Emma McKay (M.B.A., ’20) is devoted to the public good. After growing up in Seattle, she pursued an undergraduate degree in international business at the University of Denver, following which she joined the Peace Corps.

headshot of Emma McKay
Emma McKay

Her time with the Peace Corps was spent doing economic development work in Senegal, teaching individuals how to start small businesses. One such business, the Chicken Coop, was a cooperative effort among 20 or so neighbors who raised eggs and chickens. Another project was with a federation of women’s groups; about 1000 women grew rice, which then was parboiled and transformed to be nutrient rich.

After a year and a half, McKay left the Peace Corps and spent time traveling with her mother, who loves sailing, and did part-time work. When she decided to return to school, she looked on a Peace Corps website to find the right graduate program and learned about CSU’s Impact MBA. The focus of this program is to make the world a better place, not simply make a profit. When she was in the program, there was a cohort of 30; it now has about 45 and is listed as #5 “Business for Good” program in the United States and #20 worldwide. She says it was a program that aligned with her values.

Emma with her friend and now-fiancé Josh and language teacher Alassane during training while they were in the Peace Corps.

While she was enrolled, COVID hit, leading her and classmates Audrey Snyder Welsh (M.B.A., ’20) and Marya Skotte (M.B.A., ’20) to look for some way to help others. They started a nonprofit, the Fort Collins Delivery Network, that delivered food and supplies to individuals who were immunocompromised. They set up a website on which those individuals could order groceries or necessities, which then were delivered by volunteers. The organization lasted 10 months, ending when the cohort group graduated.

She also took a statistics course and taught herself some basic coding skills. McKay now works as data coordinator for TGTHR, a nonprofit in Boulder that works to end youth homelessness and improve youth experience. It employs approximately 75 individuals. Among their programs are Emergency Shelter, where homeless youth can drop in and get a meal or spend the night.

TGTHR also has a permanent supportive housing complex for individuals aged 18 to 24. Those living there can get a job and pay a portion of their salary to help support the complex. The front desk of the complex is staffed. there is an LGBTQ group, and a case manager helps residents develop life skills and find a job. The organization plans to open a similar housing complex in Denver.

Colorado State University Global Social and Sustainable MBA students gather for a group photo, September 12, 2019.

In addition to working for TGTHR, McKay promotes working to improve the lives of others.  For example, she did a presentation for CSU students via Zoom on “Working for the Public Good.” Among her messages to participants was that there are many ways to work for the public good beyond working for a nonprofit. She also stressed that students desiring careers focused on the public good do not have to major in social work or similar disciplines, as these organizations need workers with a variety of skills, just as any business does, citing her own degrees in business and her coding skills.

She also explains that working for the public good takes privilege, and it is okay to choose not to do so in favor of a higher salary or self-care. “I didn’t have student loans to pay back, so it was a lot easier for me to volunteer with the Peace Corps and spend my free time working on my own non-profit. I am lucky,” she explains. “I’ve also sacrificed self-care a little too much in my life, leading to some bouts of panic attacks and depression. I have learned that it is incredibly important to always put yourself first in this line of work.”

McKay recently completed yoga teacher certification. Her long-term goal is to do data analytics part-time while running a yoga center. Given her passion for helping others, that center no doubt will focus on yoga for the public good!