Consulting with Caras Con Causa During COVID

Hello Everyone, 

My name is Alex Firestine, and I’m a sophomore pursuing a double major in Finance and Accounting with certificates in Leadership & Ethics and Business Analytics, and a minor in Economics. I’m originally from Montgomery County, Maryland, which is a quick metro ride outside of Washington D.C. I attended a rural high school, where I developed a passion for volunteerism and social impact research, which guided me to the University of Pittsburgh Honors college and ultimately, the College of Business Administration. Prior to college, I had a fair amount of international travel experience as my mom was originally born in the U.K, and we would often take trips to visit family. The summer before coming to Pitt, I was approached by acting Dean of the Honors College, Dean Audrey Murrell, about participating in a pre-freshman year study abroad trip to Dublin, Ireland. This turned out to be one of the most impactful experiences I’ve had at Pitt thus far, and it truly increased my global competency, inciting excitement to pursue future international experiences. In addition to the international site visits, lectures, and cultural experiences, I had the opportunity to meet family I had never met before on the trip. Hungry for more international engagements, I pursued the Plus3 maymester study abroad opportunity, and was planning on travelling to South Korea, until the COVID-19 pandemic struck. I’m extremely grateful that all the amazing people in CBA’s international programs office were able to coordinate this remote international experience, and I anticipate it will be extremely insightful and rewarding to work with these organizations.

Before I delve into my professional and academic experience, I’ll enlighten everyone with some interesting facts and experiences about myself. As one may gather from reading the rest of this post, I’m involved with many different opportunities, and in order to retain interest I’ll present some of the most interesting here towards the beginning. I’m an avid licensed shark fisherman, and I’ve caught over 40 sharks this past summer alongside my two brothers, with the largest being an 11 ft Sand Tiger Shark. We’re known locally as the “Shark Brothers” and often draw nightly crowds in the summer that watch us fish for monsters. Shark fishing is an art that takes dedication, patience, and the ability to work quickly under pressure. I’m also an avid car enthusiast, and I participate in road rally events and charity cruises that raise money for local community organizations. I’ve previously owned a camo car that Chancellor Gallagher himself has seen, which he thought was “cool.”

I’m heavily involved on campus in activities that reflect my personal passions, and currently hold numerous leadership positions on campus. As President of the League of Emerging Analytics Professionals, I lead an organization that acts as PittBusiness’s hub for data analytics. We introduce guest speakers, provide immersive training sessions and workshops for various programs, and coordinate an annual extracurricular institute for analytics with PittBusiness Administrators. I’m extremely passionate about analytics, and while I’m not enthralled by the pure programing aspect of analytics, the potential for these systems to transform businesses is astounding. Delivering effective analytics solutions to clients who have the potential for impact is one of my primary career aspirations, and for the past year I’ve worked as a Data Analytics Consultant for Food21, a local Pittsburgh nonprofit that focuses on building resilient local food systems. Food insecurity is at the forefront of social issues I’m passionate about, and I’ve been volunteering in the Food distribution space since I was 12, when my grandfather first brought me along to a food drive event. Working with Food21 for the past year, we’ve made strides towards developing a data analytics tool to measure regional food insecurity. This experience working as a consultant for a nonprofit directly related to this new international engagement, as I’ve developed a particular expertise in implementing cost effective open-source software to offer effective and optimized business solutions for nonprofits. I hope to leverage these skills in this upcoming project, and also expand my knowledge on a nonprofit consulting industry I wish to pursue as a career in the future.

This project will be working with the nonprofit Caras Con Causa, a sustainable development organization that facilitates educational programs for students from disadvantaged neighborhoods and the management of local natural resources. Our team will be working specifically with Caras Con Causa’s environmental sciences laboratory. We’ve currently engaged a long-term plan with them, ending in 2028, with their going being that by that time the lab will be self-sustaining and generate revenue for the entire organization. This is essential to Caras Con Causa as a majority of their funding comes from donors and government grants, which support their wide variety of community programs. In a preliminary meeting with Caras Con Causa, they mentioned that many donors had dropped off due to COVID-19, and their fundraising was not as successful as it was in previous years. This is why it is ever more important for the Environmental Sciences lab to begin gaining traction on a global scale. Previous teams have worked with the lab to develop marketing strategies to universities in the US, and our goal for the third year of the project is to have universities using the lab as an extension of their campus and courses. A difficult task, but I’m confident we’ll be able to provide support for the lab to address the challenges they have and capitalize on opportunities. This will also be a rewarding educational experience for me, as I’ve never consulted with an international client before. It will help strengthen my client management skills across language barriers and other potential challenges due to the virtual format. I’m extremely excited for this opportunity and look forward to meeting with our client in the Environmental Sciences lab for the first time next week!