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GWU honors grad’s social responsibility

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At a recent fundraiser for campus charities, graduate students at the George Washington University School of Business honored a local alumnus who they say has successfully incorporated social responsibility into his business.

Nearly 240 students, alumni and businesspeople attended the music-filled night at the House of Sweden, an event that also showcased the talent of business school students — and an administrator. Doug Guthrie, dean of GWU’s business school, wowed the crowd when he played “Proud Mary” and “Don’t Stop Believing” on his guitar.

Organizers say the event came at a time when business students are thinking more about corporate ethics and social responsibility in light of the lingering impact of the 2008 financial crisis, which has spawned the recent Occupy movement.

“It’s a ... new thing for the school, but a reflection of the student body,” said Katherine Oglietti, co-chairwoman of the second annual Business Gives Back event and an MBA student. “More students are including a component of wanting to do something that makes the world a better place.”

That’s a sentiment Dan Simons, principal at hospitality consulting firm Vucurevich Simons Advisory Group, said he supports.

Simons, a 1992 graduate of the business school, took home the event’s first distinguished alumnus award for his efforts promoting energy efficiency and organic farming.

He exhorted students to view their MBA degrees as a way to make a difference in the world and not merely to make a profit.

“There’s more value in an MBA degree if what it translates to is the power, authority and credibility to do the things that matter,” Simons said.

VSAG, the managing company of the Farmers Restaurant Group, provides scholarships, supports employee volunteerism and sustainability research. It recently established a partnership with the university to build a honeybee farm on the school’s rooftop to research the restaurant’s honey production.

Simons said VSAG sets aside $10,000 each year to distribute to local schools and community needs.

“For us, profit is not the primary driver,” Simons said. “It’s about sleeping well at night and being a role model.”

The event’s sponsors included KPMG, PricewaterhouseCooppers, RBC Wealth Management, Washington Gas and Deloitte.

The Business Gives Back event raised $5,000 for charity last year. This year’s charities include The George Washington Financial Literacy Program, which teaches financial skills to D.C. public high school students; The Jena Ashley Smiles 929 Foundation, created in memory of a business school student’s deceased wife; and Music for Matt, created in memory of a business school student’s friend who died while serving in a Peace Corps assignment in Mali.

Organizers will continue to collect funds until the end of the week.

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