Christine Mahoney is optimistic about making changes in the world.

Armed with this optimism, she has taken 15 University of Virginia students to Southwest Virginia as part of her January term course, “Impact Investing in Action: Appalachia,” to show them what strategic investment can achieve.

A professor of politics and public policy at UVA’s Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, Mahoney also directs Social Entrepreneurship at UVA, a center that offers a social entrepreneurship minor and sponsors events and speakers, career advising and research fellowships, all aimed at exploring investment and entrepreneurship as tools to relieve poverty.

“It is about using business models in service of social and environmental challenges,” Mahoney said. “The idea is, ‘How do we develop financially sustainable approaches to solve the biggest challenges of our time?’”

Mahoney said she became concerned about environmental devastation by the fifth grade and was first introduced to intense poverty at age 19 as a college student taking part in the ship-based Semester at Sea program.

“I had seen poverty in Philadelphia where I grew up, but the deep poverty I witnessed in Brazil, Kenya, South Africa and India was on a different level,” Mahoney said. “The need was so great and it seemed then to my young eyes that even small resources could go a long way and that each of us should do something to help contribute to alleviating that suffering.”

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