Alum Joins Walmart to Create Change

Jackie_edit (1)When Jackie Saumweber started her MPA degree at Brigham Young University, she wasn’t sure where she wanted it to take her. Over time and after a detour through the Ballard Center for Economic Self-Reliance, she found a niche that united her passions and skills—corporate social responsibility.

A 2014 MPA graduate, Saumweber will take a position this summer with Walmart’s sustainability team as a manager of strategic initiatives. There she will help them create and carry out policies concerning healthy food initiatives and sustainability issues, ensuring that the multi-billion-dollar company is socially responsible.

“Jackie is a bright, motivated person, and we need people like that,” says Andrea Thomas, senior vice president of marketing for Walmart and a BYU MBA alumna. “Her experience really adds value to us, and social responsibility was an area that she was really interested in.”

Saumweber’s path to her ideal job started when she was a public health major at BYU. She applied her public health degree improving health conditions in Africa and saw that good management is essential to realizing any good idea. After enrolling in the MPA program she was introduced to corporate social responsibility in a class taught by Todd Manwaring, the director of the Ballard Center.

“I got excited about CSR because I saw it as a way to bring business and public health together,” Saumweber says. “Through CSR I would get to work with people, empower communities, and start change.”

Starting change is one of her strengths, and that has helped her reach the position she has now. In her first semester as an MPA student, she approached Walmart, which is headquartered in her hometown of Bentonville, Arkansas, and offered her services. She got the internship and experienced the possibilities of working for a large corporation in CSR.

Saumweber also helped a friend develop a microenterprise and business training program in Nicaragua as part of the Ballard Center’s Social Venture Academy. She says that involvement with the center helped her see that making change in the world starts with ideas.

“Making change is a process, and it takes effort. But it has to start with someone’s idea,” she says. “At the Ballard Center I saw a lot of those ideas early on. It’s inspiring to think that some of the ideas that are changing the future originated in those programs.”

She is also looking forward to her own future in CSR, where she will analyze data acquired from Walmart’s shoppers to spot buying trends and help consumers purchase healthier foods. Walmart is one of the largest retailers in the world, and Saumweber says that is exactly why she wants to work there.

“It’s going to be a great learning opportunity,” she says. “I think there’s a lot of room to be innovative, and Walmart has the reach to make real change when they choose to tackle an issue. It’s exciting to be a part of that.”