Fighting the fitness gap

By Karen Shih

Brooke Rosenbauer ’09, MS’12, turned her lifelong dedication to sports and fitness into a career with global impact—and she believes every Heller student can do the same.

“Find your passion and let it be your guiding light,” says the senior manager of community impact for social purpose at Reebok. “Develop yourself as a person while you develop your career.”

She’s worked at Reebok since 2014, starting with the kids’ fitness program BOKS, an initiative of the Reebok Foundation that provides a before-school physical activity curriculum for kids in all 50 states as well as Canada, South Korea and Japan. Now, she’s expanding her role with Reebok community impact, including the daunting task of helping the company reshape its social purpose strategy: to tackle the fitness gap.  

“People who have resources are getting fitter, and people who don’t are having horrible health outcomes because they can’t access fitness,” she says. “The head of Reebok said, ‘Our mission needs to be social justice-oriented,’ and I was like, ‘Yes!’ I happened to be in the right place and was the right person to shape that.”

At a “Lunch and Learn” session hosted by the Heller Career Development Center, Rosenbauer told a group of students it was essential to find a company with a social purpose that’s aligned with the company’s core business, rather than being an afterthought or obligation.

“You can help them use that corporate power for good,” she said. That’s what consumers want, particularly younger generations, so “the heat is definitely on. You guys know how to make an impact and how to measure it, so you’re going to be so much more valuable to these companies.”

Rosenbauer grew up playing soccer, and first turned her passion into a social justice opportunity as an undergraduate at Brandeis. She directed a student campaign for Grassroot Soccer, which teaches HIV/AIDS awareness in Sub-Saharan Africa, and raised more than $200,000 through a series of soccer tournaments on campus. After graduation, she took a job with Partners of the Americas, which works with at-risk youth throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. But after working for a few years, she realized she wanted to go back to school to learn more about health and business—and Heller was the perfect choice.

“The people at Heller are so wonderful,” she says. “The faculty are practitioners with real-life experience, so pick a few mentors and stay in touch with them. I also learned so much from my classmates. Most of them were from different professional backgrounds, including doctors, and different countries.”

She packed her schedule as she earned MS in Global Health Policy and Management, adding MBA and sustainable international development electives, all of which have served her well as she’s climbed the corporate ladder.

“Heller has become more valuable the more years I’ve had in the working world,” Rosenbauer says.

Rosenbauer speaks to a student during a "Lunch and Learn" session, hosted by the Heller Career Development Center