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Ignatian Service Fellowship Offers Former Jesuit Volunteer a Unique MBA Experience

A year ago, current One-Year MBA (OYMBA) student Anastasia Zuniga was looking for a life change. 

Zuniga, who graduated from the University of San Diego in 2017, joined the Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC) after graduation and spent her volunteer year working at a food bank in Tucson, Ariz. Her work brought her face-to-face with clients every day, and she enjoyed getting to work alongside co-workers who were passionate about food justice.

SLU students on campus

The Ignatian Service Fellowship offers a $20,000 scholarship to the Chaifetz School's One-Year MBA. In addition to the scholarship, Fellows are guaranteed an internship position with SLU's Service Leadership office or with the Habitat for Neighborhood Business, a SLU partner organization. 

After JVC, Zuniga started a job at a different food bank in her native Houston, Tex. But the job wasn’t a good fit, and she knew she wanted something different. Someday, she said, she might like to start her own business. She turned her thoughts toward graduate school.

“My undergrad background is in economics and supply chain, so I’ve always had the idea of getting an MBA in the back of my mind,” Zuniga said. But she couldn’t find any MBA programs that offered benefits to JVC alums, and she felt a bit apprehensive about re-entering the business realm after several years in service-oriented positions. 

“I was about to enroll in the Master of Public Administration at the University of Houston,” Zuniga said, “but then I got an email about the new MBA fellowship at SLU. It felt like a sign.”

“This is a rare route, but it’s a necessary one,” says Zuniga, who thinks that Ignatian Service Fellows bring an important perspective to the classroom. “We’ve got to have service-oriented people in business. We need that intersection.”

Launched in 2020, the Ignatian Service Fellowship offers a $20,000 scholarship and a paid internship with a community service organization. Fellows also work with a local nonprofit as part of the OYMBA program’s business analytics practicum experience. 

This year’s fellows provide support to the Chaifetz School’s Service Leadership Program and Habitat for Neighborhood Business (HNB) offices. HNB is a partner organization that provides support and mentorship for minority entrepreneurs in St. Louis. The Service Leadership Program coordinates an academic minor for Chaifetz School undergraduates looking to develop as servant leaders through coursework, leadership workshops and community service. 

“Anastasia has been a great resource for our office this year,” says Ben Smyth, Service Leadership Program Manager at the Chaifetz School. "We've had interns for a while, but the JVC connection feels different—there's a definite Ignatian approach to the work."

With their passion for serving others, Former Jesuit Volunteers are a perfect fit for the Chaifetz School’s unique mission in business education. 

“The Chaifetz School is committed to offering a different kind of business education - one that equips our graduates to make a difference for the greater good through their careers,” said Barnali Gupta, Edward Jones Dean of the Chaifetz School of Business. “We’re thrilled our Ignatian Service Fellowship can help those committed to others earn an MBA through our nationally ranked, full-time program.”

Zuniga notes that pursuing an MBA is a more unusual path for a former full-time volunteer. Many former Jesuit Volunteers obtain degrees in social work, law or education after their year of service, and fellowships offered in these disciplines are more common. But for her, it’s been the right decision. 

“The Ignatian Service Fellowship has given me the opportunity to build and shape a business career on a foundation of service for others,” Zuniga says. “While looking for the best MBA program for me, an education that aligned with my passion for serving the community around me was a top priority."