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Jan 16, 2024

Alumni Spotlight: Jessie LaMasse ’21

Jessie LaMasse ’21 on Making an Impact and the Value of Reflection

A graduate of the Class of 2021, Jessie LaMasse shares about her Carolina experience, her professional
journey, and lessons learned along the way. When Jessie enrolled and graduated from the program, it was still referred to as Kenan Scholars. Because of a generous gift from the Luther Hodges family, the program is now known as the Luther Hodges Scholars program. Thank you, Jessie, for your continued support of our growing community!

What is your hometown? Crystal Lake, IL
Where you do currently live? New York, NY
What are some of your hobbies? Outside of learning more about the low-carbon transition and
sustainability, I love being active and outdoors. I spend my weekends with friends at parks in NYC and doing yoga.

Why did you pursue a business degree? From a young age, I was volunteering in my community which
created a strong foundation for my values. To me, business is an opportunity to advance change. The industry has a strong influence on the way we live and the potential to correct complex problems. I wanted to utilize my business degree to promote sustainable projects that improved communities. When I learned about sustainable finance and impact investing, I was immediately driven by my curiosity to work in the space.

Why did you decide to become a Luther Hodges Scholar? I saw the Kenan Scholars program as a place
where my values were aligned with my goals. Business school was intimidating to me, and I wanted to pursue business with a change-making mindset. Kenan Scholars felt like a safe space and an innovative incubator for like-minded people driven to see cross-sector work as a force for the public good.
What is your overall experience at UNC/KFBS and as a Scholar? Kenan Scholars was my favorite aspect
of my business school experience. It provided me with a brilliant cohort, inspiring mentors, ample resources, and most importantly an encouraging environment to grow beyond the boundaries of traditional business. I was able to achieve so much academically and personally because of the opportunities [afforded by the program].

Why did you choose to study at UNC/KFBS? No other place felt like home. I toured a lot of colleges near
my hometown in Illinois, but none of them felt like a place I could grow and be surrounded by a supportive environment at the same time. When I found UNC, I knew instantly that this was the place for me. Kenan-Flagler was like the cherry on top that gave me the extra prestige and challenge that I wanted to have in a college experience to push myself beyond my expectations.

What person, course, or experience most influenced you when at KFBS/UNC? It’s so hard to pick just
one because the Scholars program has so many pieces that allowed me to grow in different ways.

  • Research: Professor Jeff Mittelstadt (thesis advisor) – On the first day of his job, I went to Jeff’s office. I was eager and excited to have a professor who focused on sustainability at KFBS. From that day on, not only did Jeff come to be my thesis advisor, but he was a mentor and consultant for all the thoughts and ideas I had about sustainability in business. Additionally, his interdisciplinary career path is an inspiration and reminder to me that you don’t need a linear or industry-specific path to still have it all fit together like a puzzle.
  • Mentor: Martin Sather – Martin was an enormous help in preparing me for the job that I have now. In preparation for my interviews, I would practice with Martin and ask him questions that I did not feel comfortable asking in class about finance and the stock market.
  • Peer: Andrea Prego – Andrea and I participated in the program’s Kenan Foundation Asia summer internship in 2019. Surviving another country together on the other side of the world and working together on projects that supported the Thai community created a [forever] bond between us. I know I can count on her for anything. Andrea is a life-long friend and sponsor of my career path.

What is your current employer or job title? I am a Product Strategy Associate for iShares Sustainable
ETFs at BlackRock.

What exactly do you do day-to-day at work? I am expected to be a product expert on the iShares US
Sustainable ETFs which entails 4 key roles: content creation, sales engagement, product development, and data and analytics.

What has your career path been like? I have been at the same company and team for two years now.
Prior to working at BlackRock, all of my internships and work experience had been at non-profits.
How did you end up where you are in your career and with your current employer? I interned with
BlackRock during my junior year summer. My interest and credibility in joining the sustainable team were driven by completing the honors thesis, which focused on sustainability.

What has your time “in the real world” taught you as it pertains to your career? Reflection is
essential. There are no more papers or group discussions to make you think about what is going on in your day-to-day and where that will take you next. I make sure to set aside time to reflect and journal in order to reset my purpose with my daily routine, to remember why I do what I do, and to determine next steps in my career.

What life lessons would you like to share with students? Whenever possible, walk away from tech and
reconnect with your community. The best connections, opportunities, and lessons I have had in life happened offline. I’ve learned that there is great value in taking time away from the desk to check in on those around you and to develop your soft skills.

What advice do you have for students who are transitioning from college to the ‘real world’? Seek
out learning opportunities. There are no more required classes or reading assignments, and it is quite easy to fall into only learning about your job and industry since that will become your new daily routine. However, the things that got you to where you are now will not get you to where you want to be. Find opportunities to follow your curiosities through reading, classes, or peer group activities. Every person, place, and thing can be a learning opportunity if you have an open mind and seek to understand.

Is there anything else you’d like to share? If there is one thing I could tell all scholars, it’s to make the
absolute most of the program. If you engage at events, meet with mentors, and pursue research that you care about, the things you will get out of this program will take you much farther in life than you’d ever expected.

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