May 4, 2014
A member of the board of trustees for the Darden School of Business says the school's focus on ethics pushed her to do something more with her degree.
Carolyn Miles has found a way not only to give back to her alma mater, but also help struggling kids and families around the world.
"Seeing the lack of opportunities they had was really what turned my path away from business and toward the nonprofit world," she said.
A graduate of UVa's Darden School of Business, Miles spent years in the business world overseas. About 16 years ago, she decided to make a personal and professional choice.
"I really thought there must be something I can do about this injustice that's poverty in the developing world," Miles said. "And I think my background here at Darden, that strong kind of focus on ethics and doing the right thing, is definitely part of why I ended up going in that direction."
That direction was Save the Children, an international nonprofit in 120 countries with $2 billion in resources for making the lives of children better.
After 14 years at the organization, she became CEO about two and a half years ago.
"It's not just good enough to do good things for kids," Miles said. "We actually have to make sure that what we're doing is resulting in kids' learning to read and kids' staying in school, in children surviving past the age of 5."
Five years ago, Miles accepted the offer to serve on Darden's board of trustees.
"Actually, there's a lot of threads in my life that Darden connected for me," she said.
Miles' husband is a Darden grad, as was her first business partner. The person who introduced her to Save the Children also went to Darden.
"There were all these Darden people kind of all along the way, so when they contacted me and said would you be willing to be on the board, I said, 'Sure, I probably owe something to the place,'" she said.
Miles recently returned to grounds for a board of trustees meeting on the heels of one of Save the Children's major reports, the State of the World's Mothers.
"It brings the attention of the world to the challenges that moms and kids face," she said, "making sure that mothers have the prenatal care they need, making sure they eat well when they're pregnant."
The rankings will be released this week, and Miles said some may be surprised where the United States sits on the list.
"The U.S. is actually losing ground on being the best place to be a mother," she said. "It used to be quite high. It's now dropped in the rankings, so there's still a lot of work to do here in the U.S."
A businesswoman by trade, Miles said Save the Children faces a number of the same issues any global business would have.
"I'm a firm believer that the nonprofit world can learn a lot from the business world, and there are a lot of skills that are very transferable, and I guess I'm good proof of that," she said.
And while her life has taken her to places she never expected, Miles said she finds fulfillment in her current role.
"I have to say this was not in my original plan, so I didn't think I would go and run a large nonprofit," she said. "But I can kind of look back now and say there were a lot of things I learned at Darden that have really helped me through the years."