Zari Havercome ’16, MBA/MA SID’22

Zari Havercome ’16, MBA/MA SID’22
Zari Havercome

Recipient of the Heller Diversity and Inclusion Scholarship

Zari Havercome ’16, MBA/MA SID’22, has dedicated her life to service, from distributing canned goods and school materials in her grandmother’s home country of Guyana as a child, to working for AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps after graduating from college.

“Shirley Chisholm said, ‘Service is the rent you pay to live on earth,’” says Havercome. “It felt like my moral duty. I want to support communities that are disenfranchised, under-resourced, taken advantage of—the people experiencing cyclical poverty and hunger. We have come too far for people to still suffer from things they don’t have to.” 

As an undergraduate at Brandeis, studying Health: Science, Society, and Policy and International and Global Studies, Havercome was interested in the Heller School, but wanted to gain some real-world work experience before returning to graduate school.

She first joined AmeriCorps, teaching third grade in Brooklyn, New York, where she grew up, then continued to work as a youth and development specialist as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Thailand.

“I hold teachers in very high regard, and I take working with kids very seriously,” Havercome says. “There were a lot of people who encouraged me to believe in myself—I feel empowered to do anything—so paying it forward is my duty. There’s something incredible about supporting little babies and kids and teens.”

Through those experiences, she realized many of her fellow volunteers had joined the service organizations as a way to pad a resume or travel, rather than out of real desire to serve.

“There are not a lot of people who can afford to be AmeriCorps volunteers and earn $1,000 a month in New York City for a year. I think there could be a better model to get the people who truly mean well, as well as get the professional development experience,” she says. 

That led her to back to Brandeis and to Heller, where she’s pursuing dual MA in Sustainable International Development and Social Impact MBA degrees.

“I would like to tackle that issue programmatically and think about ways to better recruit, retain and support the folks who are driven to service and international development, who have that passion and make it something that can sustain them,” Havercome says.

In addition, she says, “As I learn more about impact investing, I’m leaning toward corporate social responsibility” as a way to use the financial strength and influence of major companies in a way that’s ethical to create large-scale, sustainable change for vulnerable communities worldwide.

Though her first semester back at Brandeis has been unusual during the pandemic, she's finding ways to build community even when classes are largely virtual. She's a member of the Heller Student Association, engaging with scholars across the programs, and she says, “I join as many social events put on by different Heller groups as possible.”