Master of Arts in Sustainable International Development

Monique DeSimone, MA SID/MBA’23

Monique DeSimoneRecipient of the Reaching Out MBA Scholarships (LGBTQ+)

Monique DeSimone, originally from Seattle, Wash., joined the Heller community from Honolulu, Hawai’i, where she had an eight-year career in financial services.

Driven by her personal experiences following the loss of her father, her career path was largely motivated by the desire to help make financial concepts and tools more accessible for people in need. In her first role as an insurance broker, she worked with low-income families on O’ahu, providing training on the basics of financial literacy and protections.

As she transitioned into banking and eventually landed at a wealth management firm, DeSimone knew she wanted to do more to help close the social welfare gap and provide better outcomes for people and the planet. This passion led to the development of two thematic, socially responsible wealth portfolios that invest in a sustainable planet and social equity for women and LGBTQIA+ individuals. However, she found the investment selection was limited and often only accessible to the wealthy.

“During my time in wealth management I learned the fundamentals of wealth analysis, but I found myself questioning how we can go beyond the bottom line,” she says.

Because finance is such an inherently capitalist institution, DeSimone says, she struggled with the inability to see the impact of investment directly in communities. This desire to develop more community-oriented solutions led her to organizing alongside Native Hawaiian and transnational women with the grassroots organization AF3IRM Hawai’i. Observing the challenges Native Hawaiian people face fighting for the right to steward their land made her realize the need to address sustainability issues from a community-driven and community-based lens.

“I hope to redirect funds from traditionally capitalist institutions back into Black and indigenous communities of color,” she says. Leveraging those resources to address and adapt to the climate crisis will not only increase local climate resilience but will also help address historic inequity.

DeSimone came to Heller eager to build off her financial services expertise and learn more about program management and equity-centric frameworks. She is pursuing dual master’s degrees: an MA in Sustainable International Development and a Social Impact MBA with a concentration in social entrepreneurship and impact management.

A recipient of the Reaching Out MBA Scholarships (LGBTQ+), DeSimone says she appreciates that Heller has so many students and faculty from around the world, which will help her expand her perspective beyond Western viewpoints and reconsider how she conceptualizes certain issues.