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Author and founder of poverty-relief venture to speak at Mendoza College graduate commencement

by Carol Elliott

May 6, 2011

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The founder of an organization dedicated to relieving global poverty through entrepreneurship will be the graduate commencement speaker for the University of Notre Dame Mendoza College of Business.

Jacqueline Novogratz is the founder and CEO of the Acumen Fund, nonprofit global venture fund that uses entrepreneurial approaches to solve the problems of global poverty. The venture employs a unique paradigm that combines philanthropy with a market-based model, investing philanthropic capital in the form of loans or equity – not grants – in ventures that yield both financial and social returns.

The Mendoza College of Business Graduate Ceremony and Conferring of Degrees for the school’s Executive MBA, MBA, MNA and MSA programs takes place at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 21, in the Joyce Center Purcell Pavilion.

Novogratz, who also will receive an honorary doctorate from Notre Dame, has led the Acumen Fund team since its launch in 2001. Under her leadership, the Fund has invested $40 million in more than 35 companies serving 25 million low-income customers in the developing world. The investments focus on delivering affordable, critical goods and services, including health care, water, housing and energy.

Acumen success stories include an organization that brings safe drinking water to 287 villages in India, and a textile mill that produces 20 million bed nets in Africa, which provide protection from malaria for almost 40 million people.  Acumen has offices in New York, Pakistan, India and Kenya.  The nonprofit also includes the Acumen Fund Fellows Program, which focuses on training the next generation of business leaders with an understanding of global issues and poverty.

Novogratz is a frequent speaker at international conference, including the World Economic Forum, the Clinton Global Initiative and TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design). She is the author of the best-selling book, The Blue Sweater, which gives an account of her leaving the world of international banking and her pursuit to understand global poverty.  The title of the book came from a story she tells about her favorite blue sweater that she donated to Goodwill when she was 10 years old.  Eleven years later, when she traveled to Rwanda, she saw a young boy wearing her sweater, with her name still on the tag. 

Novogratz earned a bachelor’s degree in Economics/International Relations in 1983 from the University of Virginia, and her MBA in 1991 from Stanford University.

For complete Mendoza College of Business commencement information, visit http://business.nd.edu/commencement/