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Haiti Research is Focus for MBA Student

Published: September 19, 2013
Tammy Charles ’12 MBA '14 was awarded the society’s national Love of Learning Award.
Tammy Charles ’12 MBA '14 was awarded the society’s national Love of Learning Award.
Tammy Charles ’12 was sitting in class one day during the last semester of her senior year, when a professor, dressed in full graduation regalia, walked into the room and read from a scroll, announcing to the whole class that she was being invited to join the Phi Kappa Phi honorary society.

“It was so embarrassing,” said Charles of the ritual tapping of inductees to the nation’s oldest, largest and most selective all-discipline honor society.

Now an MBA student planning to graduate in Spring 2014, Charles, who is the society’s vice president of the UT chapter, said the embarrassment was a small price to pay for the access to Phi Kappa Phi’s resources, including scholarships, career connections, academic advisement, leadership summits and opportunities to publish work.

“It’s the best honor society I’ve ever been a part of,” said Charles, who recently was awarded the society’s national Love of Learning Award; one of 147 winners out of more than 1,400 applicants.

According to the society, the Phi Kappa Phi Love of Learning Award program was initiated in 2007 to help fund graduate or professional studies, doctoral dissertations, continuing education, career development and travel related to teaching and studies for active society members.

Charles has specific plans for the $500 award, which she plans to use to fund her research on Haiti. This includes her participation in a National Society for Experiential Education conference in September to present her paper, “Non-Governmental Organizations in Haiti: The Case for Sustainability,” her attendance at the Nonprofit Leadership Center of Tampa Bay’s fund development conference this fall, and in her work with a social innovation start-up called Ambrosia Global that has been formed by several UT alumni, graduate students and one undergraduate.

Stephanie Thomason, associate dean of the Sykes College of Business, said research not only will help Charles when she applies for a doctoral program, but it broadens her skill set by learning through experience.

“Research at this level forces you to think critically, which Tammy has done throughout the whole process,” said Thomason, in whose office Charles is a graduate assistant. Thomason is advising Charles as she furthers her research this year, collecting data and performing an empirical review.

In 2011 Charles took her first trip to Haiti with the nonprofit Haiti Underground. In her travels, she heard from Haitians that they felt manipulated by non-governmental organizations, all without getting the help they sought. Charles said Haiti has the second largest number of NGOs per capita in the world yet remains impoverished.

“Prior to my experience travelling in Haiti, I knew I wanted to work in philanthropy,” Charles said. “These trips struck a chord within me and have confirmed my calling.”

Charles said working on community development and environmental sustainability issues in Haiti specifically speaks to her personally. Her parents moved from Haiti to the U.S. before she was born.

“I have a vested interest,” she said in helping Haiti. “I look at them, and I see myself.”

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