Business Schools

An MBA Student's Desire to Help


Improving the lot of "invisibles" in society is a personal goal—and an important issue for business students

As I write this, I am 35,000 feet in the air, returning from a weeklong trip to Japan. My friends and I chose to stay in Tokyo the entire time and leisurely explore the city, rather than run from one photo opportunity to another. Despite a missed connection with my luggage and a bit of a culture clash (I'm vegetarian), I had an amazing time. But even Tokyo, a city of wealth, glitz, and technological marvels, has its homeless. They crowd into cardboard shantytowns (the neatest I've seen) in underpasses and lie out of the way, ignored by the passing crowds. Regardless of continent, country, or city, an invisible class exists everywhere I've gone. Be it the homeless, the destitute, or sometimes the service class, the "invisibles" are everywhere but rarely noticed. They are ignored for the most part and sometimes even shunned. This mental block on the part of society toward such a large group of people bothers me and is something I spend a good amount of time thinking about. I first realized that I had been blind to them about six years ago. I was visiting India. I had just finished drinking a bottle of water that I then crushed and threw away. A homeless lady picked up the bottle and tried to reinflate it so that she could use it to carry around her meager supply of clean water. The sight made me thoroughly ashamed: How could I have missed people who depended upon my trash for day-to-day survival? I've since been taking a careful look at what I consume and how I consume. I try to pay attention to everyone around me. I still think about this incident, and how I might help people like that homeless woman. Who are these invisibles? How did society get to this point? Can this group be helped? Is charity the best alternative? Should the goliaths of society—corporate entities—play a role in the rescue and rehabilitation of this group? How do we strike a crucial balance between shareholders and other stakeholders? Sick Society

I am 26 years old, an d I have a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from the University of Texas-Austin. Currently a consultant with Accenture (ACN), I will be starting the full-time MBA program at the Jones Graduate School of Management at Rice University in the fall. Improving the problems faced by the invisibles in society is one of my personal goals. While seemingly better suited to a student of cultural studies or public policy, the issue is important for business students. After all, a sick society cannot support healthy companies. On a professional front, I want to convert my passion for exploring the different facets of any problem into a career in strategy. In my current role as a technical consultant, there is sometimes too much of a focus on products, and we lose sight of how we affect people during these times. I wish to focus on the human factor of strategy, with the applied technology taking a supporting role. I plan to use my two years at the Jones School to help me identify and explore opportunities to advance and align my personal and professional ambitions. My search for an MBA program that would allow me to accomplish this had many twists and took two years, but I believe that I am going to the right place. I don't claim to know where the next two years will take me, but I'd like to invite you all along for the ride as I find myself and define my path.

Prem Chandrasekaran is enrolled in the full-time MBA program at the Rice University Jones Graduate School of Business with an expected graduation in 2011. Before entering the Jones School, Chandrasekaran worked at Accenture in Austin, where he last served as a production support consultant. He is fluent in Tamil and has a working knowledge of Hindi. A Jones academic scholarship recipient, Chandrasekaran earned an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering from the University of Texas at Austin in 2004.

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