Social Entrepreneur Funds International Experiences

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Jeanne Voigt supports learning abroad scholarships to advance the common good

The Carlson Global Institute provides international learning opportunities with lasting impact. In addition to designing exceptional programming, CGI strives to make learning abroad financially accessible to students of all backgrounds. Jeanne Voigt is one key benefactor who funds the scholarships that make learning abroad a reality for all.

Jeanne Voigt

From entrepreneur to philanthropist
Alumna Jeanne Voigt, above all else, is grateful to the mentors, teachers, and supporters that helped her along a winding career path. She attributes her success as an entrepreneur to the educational opportunities she received from the classroom, the executive suite, and the landscape of developing nations.

Voigt, '81 MBA, embarked on a lifelong learning journey as an undergraduate, studying music. As a finance student at the Carlson School, she discovered how to fuel a successful business. And after mastering the analytical skills she honed in the banking industry, she started Mindware, provider of brainy toys for kids of all ages.

The gifted business owner struck the perfect balance between her left and right brain skills in running the company. But while leading Mindware, she discovered it was grooming talent that truly got her excited.

"I learned about my management style, and how I operated as a leader," she says. "As the company grew, it became more and more motivating to mentor the people I hired."

After 15 years refining Mindware's core offerings to meet market demand, Voigt sold the company and embarked on several philanthropic ventures to support young professionals. It was then she reconnected with her alma mater and designed her namesake scholarship.

Global opportunities
Voigt underwent a transformative experience on her first trip abroad as a young professional, and later applied her finance expertise to help people in developing nations. In Kenya, she taught women in small communities how to make a profit from raising chickens. That knowledge was fundamental to Voigt, but meant big changes for the women she met.

"That was the most impactful and phenomenal thing I had ever done. I could see the light bulbs go off for these women, who were so excited to understand their work in a new way," she says.

Voigt has enjoyed getting to know her scholarship's recipients -- many of them women, nearly all working on women's and community issues abroad. This first-hand experience instigated Voigt's interest in supporting students interested in leveraging their business skills and knowledge to advance the common good.

"I came from a very ordinary background, and was able to get a good education, borrow money and start a business. I want to help young people build their confidence and achieve their dreams, in addition to contributing wealth. That's my legacy," she says.

Funding learning
Sixty percent of funds from the Jeanne Voigt Foundation support scholarships and educational advancement. Voigt believes education lies on one end of a continuum that leads to building businesses and contributing to economic growth.

Beyond providing financial support, Voigt is involved with the Carlson School's Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship and the alumni advisory board.

Scholarships for education abroad
The Carlson School is one of the first business schools in the United States to require all students to incorporate a global experience into their business education. But thanks to benefactors like Voigt, there are financial resources to make international learning accessible to all students. In 2012-2013, 61 percent of undergraduate and 49 percent of graduate students who applied for a study abroad scholarship received an award.