October 17, 2023
Colby Brown ’24 combines social responsibility with studies in management
By Stasia Walmsley
Five students sat chatting comfortably in a classroom at Nowell Academy, a public charter high school in downtown Providence serving pregnant and parenting young adults. The walls around them were covered in inspirational signs. “Yes, you can!” one sign read. “If you never try, you’ll never know,” another encouraged.
At the front of the room, under a poster that promised, “Everyone is welcome here, everyone belongs,” Colby Brown ’24, a management major in the Providence College School of Business, called a meeting of the First Generation Investors to order. “OK, let’s start by reviewing what we learned last week about taxes.”
Jessica Waters, the academy’s executive director, peeked through the doorway. The topic turned to the FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, and financial planning for college. A hand shot into the air. “But how does a family get the money?” asked Nina, a 20-year-old who was nearing graduation.
“Great question. I love all these questions,” Brown said, and the executive director beamed.
Brown is one of 16 students from Providence College and Brown University serving as a tutor for the First Generation Investors program. Administered through a national nonprofit, the program offers an eight-week financial education curriculum to high school students who may not otherwise have resources to learn about investing and financial management.
“They are just loving it,” Waters said of the participants, who also receive a $100 grant to invest in an Exchange-Traded Fund or a mutual fund at the program’s completion.
Brown helped to launch Rhode Island’s inaugural First Generation Investors chapter at Nowell Academy last year. Eight tutors from PC continue to work at the school this semester and more locations are planned for the future. The program combines two areas in which Brown has become increasingly interested at PC: management and social responsibility. Because of the latter, he has decided to minor in sociology.
“It’s a niche area of management, but I’m compelled by the idea of solving business issues using a sociological perspective,” Brown said. “All business practices are sociological. Studying sociology has made me a more well-rounded student and will make me a more well-rounded professional.”
Brown credits classes with Eve Veliz-Moran, Ph.D., associate professor of sociology, and Kelly Ramirez, director of PC’s new Donald Ryan Incubator for Entrepreneurship in the Arts and Sciences, with igniting his interest in the social impact of businesses. With Ramirez, he’s also begun a consulting project for the car brand Hyundai Genesis, reviewing case studies and advising on the best corporate social responsibility strategies. He says that being a student in PC’s business school has allowed him to explore pathways he might not have been able to pursue at another institution.
“PCSB has set classes in your major, but the curriculum also allows you to apply what you’re interested in. Once I told my professors about my interest in social impact, they were very vocal about their willingness to help.”
Faculty support has led to several additional experiences for Brown, including internships with Cape Abilities, a Cape Cod-based service organization for people with disabilities; Raytheon Technologies, in their global trade office; and with a tech start up in London helping to develop DEI mentoring programs.
“One of my favorite things has been being able to study abroad in England — but not only studying abroad, also having an internship to gain international business experience and technical skills in a foreign environment,” Brown said.
Being comfortable in the variety of business settings is due to the skills he developed as a student studying Development of Western Civilization in the Honors Program, according to Brown.
“It’s where I learned to be comfortable having conversations with professors,” he said. “It’s such an important skill to communicate effectively, to use your voice. My professors encouraged us to disagree, and to engage in debate effectively and politely. They taught us that it’s cool to disagree with people as long as it’s in an open way and respectful.”
Brown is a member of Friars Club, PC’s premier service organization, and gives campus tours to prospective students. He loves talking with others about his experiences at the college, though he admits it can be a lot of responsibility.
“I could have an impact on someone’s decision, just like my tour guide had an impact on me,” he said.
Brown initially thought he wanted to attend a larger school further from his home in Tewksbury, Massachusetts.
“Providence ended up being a perfect blend of small enough to connect with professors and have small class sizes, and also had the best of what a big school would offer, like alumni support, sports, and school spirit. Providence College had a different energy than the other schools I visited. It had a much more personal feel.”
Ultimately, Brown said, that initial feeling of connection has lasted through his four years in Providence.
“There’s something about the community here that is just different,” he said. “What differentiates it day-to-day is that professors go out of their way to help you. They want you to succeed.”