Solving Society’s Challenges with a Startup Mentality

Students In Classroom

The Dean's Alumni Advisory Board Scholarship is helping Carey student Maia Sciupac channel a personal passion into a professional purpose

By Kristin Hanson

As a college student, Maia Sciupac learned a stunning personal secret about a close family friend: As a young girl, the woman was sexually trafficked.

"I didn't realize that slavery still existed," says Sciupac, recalling the shock of the news. "I never thought that it could touch me so personally."

The knowledge inspired Sciupac to spend the first several years of her career working on successful initiatives addressing human trafficking. Now, she wants to apply the multidisciplinary problem-solving approaches she's learned in the field to other daunting social challenges through her own business, Create&. With support from the Dean's Alumni Advisory Board Scholarship, she's taking steps toward that goal at the Carey Business School. 

"Maia's going to business school to make the world a better place," says Jeri Fellerman, chair of the Dean's Alumni Advisory Board, whose 24 members came together in 2015 to collectively endow the scholarship. "We as a board want Carey to attract students like Maia, and we need to make it possible for them to come here — especially if they otherwise would not be able to afford it."

After graduating from the University of California at Berkeley, Sciupac worked in advocacy, policy, and research roles, including campaigning to pass Proposition 35, a ban on human trafficking and sex slavery, in California; the measure passed with 81 percent of the vote in 2012.

But Sciupac found her niche when she became the coordinator for the Human Exploitation and Trafficking (HEAT) Watch Program, an initiative of the Alameda County District Attorney's Office that united law enforcement, service providers, and the community to implement strategies to combat the commercial sexual exploitation of children. One of their most successful initiatives was a billboard campaign that sought to target victims of sex trafficking during National Human Trafficking Awareness Month in 2013. The number of calls from Alameda County to the National Human Trafficking Hotline jumped 18 times during the campaign, compared with only three times for Los Angeles, Sacramento, and San Diego counties.

"There was a startup mentality to HEAT Watch when I joined. We found that we could implement business acumen in our work, but instead of making money, we were creating value for the community by stopping this horrible crime," Sciupac says. "I learned so much in that job that I wanted to start refining those business-oriented skills by going to Carey. 

She enrolled at Carey after she and her husband relocated to Washington, D.C. Bonnie Robeson, a senior lecturer at Carey, says Sciupac — who was balancing her courses while working for a nonprofit organization developing technology tools to prevent child sex trafficking — stood out among her peers.

"You could tell Maia wasn't just in the class to pass or get a good grade," Robeson says. "She was there to absorb the material so she could apply it and use it."

"I've had access to professors who are helping me understand how to structure a company, and I'm learning important finance skills like business modeling," Sciupac says.

She'll be relying heavily on those skills as she grows Create& to help businesses, organizations, and entrepreneurs launch big ideas for social good. One of Create&'s first projects, UNLEADED, is a meetup she co-founded with a friend, Melanie Charlton from Brllnt. UNLEADED brings together D.C.-based designers and entrepreneurs to help organizations use structured, creative, problem-solving techniques — design thinking — for innovation. A recent workshop focused on ideas for how to redesign a community response to family homelessness in D.C. 

"While UNLEADED is largely a meetup of innovative and creative people, we're working to develop an educational model around design thinking and other methodologies for social entrepreneurs that could also benefit clients and become a sustainable business," Sciupac says.

Sciupac knows that much of the progress she's made in the past year — from enrolling in a graduate program to starting her own business — would likely have been a challenge without support from the Dean's Alumni Advisory Board Scholarship. But she's excited for a chance to pay it forward.

"Graduating with as little debt as possible opens so many doors for you professionally," Sciupac says. "The financial assistance I've received has helped me put more toward Create&, so that I can become the kind of leader that Carey talks about when they teach 'business with humanity in mind.'"

This article was originally featured on the website Rising to the Challenge: The Campaign for Johns Hopkins

Posted on October 12, 2016 In Master of Business Administration, Flexible MBA, Alumni Story, News Item, Student Story, Alumni, Current Students, International Students, New Students, Prospective Students