On September 18, the Gephardt Institute welcomed Ian Lever, BSBA ’16, for a special Meet the Leader event. Launched in 2018, the Meet the Leader series features a range of local and national civic leaders who offer insights to students as they navigate into their lives as civically engaged alumni. Ian is a former Goldman Fellow and Danforth Scholar currently working on the U.S. Corporate Citizenship core team at Accenture. Gephardt Institute staff and Civic Scholars, students minoring in the business of social impact, and even a few curious first-year students were eager to attend and learn about Ian’s professional path.
Q: What was your life as a student like at Washington University?
Lever: I graduated in 2016 with a degree in economics & strategy and minors in Arabic and global studies. The most formative aspects of my WashU experience were hands-on pursuits that happened outside of the classroom. Participating in the Center for Experiential Learning and Goldman Fellows programs allowed me to work alongside community organizations in the St. Louis region. As a Goldman Fellow, I was lucky to be part of an awesome cohort with great mentors. For my fellowship, I worked with Arch Grants, a nonprofit organization providing grants and support to St. Louis start-ups in their early stages of business. I developed an economic impact study to help Arch Grants articulate its impact on Greater St. Lois Region. In my senior year, I also helped to start Olin’s Small Business Initiative that paired students with small businesses in North St. Louis that served as anchor institutions to in their communities.
Q: What’s your favorite part about your new position at Accenture?
Lever: Accenture is a multinational professional services company. I worked on traditional consulting projects during my first year and a half with the company. The skills developed on those prior engagements helped lead me to the position I hold today. Now tasked with supporting our corporate citizenship practice, I work with our teams responsible for our philanthropic efforts, investment and donating to non-profits, grant giving and pro-bono consulting, employee engagement, and sustainability.
We have recently invested in reskilling programs for displaced workers affected by automation technology in the business industry. We invite leaders from the private sector, the social sector, and the public sector and host community conversations around what it means to engage in workforce development and reskilling for the future. During one of our sessions related to continuous learning, I met an incredibly motivated older woman who entirely defied stereotypes regarding older workers and their hesitancy to adapt to modern technology. When it came to embracing and adapting to change, she was light years ahead of me. She discussed her interests in augmented reality and was excited about the eight-week course she enrolled in to earn a cyber security certification. Age aside, this woman had a thirst for knowledge that was courageous and motivating.
Q: How do you motivate groups, who might not otherwise be engaged, to prioritize social impact?
Lever: We believe in trying to find mutual interest and mutual paths forward. We try to understand their interests and their goals. Sometimes, as we think of how to bring social impact forward with our clients, reframing a social problem as a business problem can lead it to appeal to a broader audience. A lot of the major corporate social responsibility initiatives that gain momentum (workforce development & sustainability) are ones that simultaneously address a business and societal challenge.
Q: What’s your one piece of advice for current WashU students?
Lever: Take advantage of the various opportunities at your fingertips in college. Talk to people day-in and day-out about things that excite you. Ask questions, connect with others, and try something new.
At the end of the event, Ian reversed the Q & A format. He asked attendees what they are concerned about and want to prioritize on campus. Excited to respond, several hands shot high into the air. One student spoke about concerns on dirty coal consumption at Washington University and the need to refocus our spending on fossil fuel divestment and the use of renewable, clean energy. Another member of the audience expressed her concern for the growing aging population. “Our nation is approaching an impending economic uncertainty,” she said, “with high retirement rates and little organized support and care.” Many students expressed similar concerns regarding the structural violence and systematic racial divides within St. Louis and the surrounding region; housing inequities; immigrant communities in need of translation; and a lack of trauma informed mentoring in our community. Ian responded and listened carefully, giving everyone the opportunity to talk to him one-on-one after the session ended.
Are you interested to attend our next Meet the Leader event? Join us at Stix House (6470 Forsyth Blvd.), on November 13 from 12-1pm to hear from Claude Marx, an award-winning journalist and reporter for MLex and FTC Watch. RSVP here.
You can also read about our October 25 event featuring Pushkar Mohan Sharma, AB ’06. Sharma is an independent policy strategist and writer, and he discussed his professional path with particular focus on his work with the United Nations. Read more.