Donors’ multifaceted support focuses on climate action and tech entrepreneurship
UBC MBA alumni Ray Kruck (left) and Jennifer Vancini (right) pictured in the early ‘90s during their student days.
Jennifer Vancini and Ray Kruck are the parents of two teenagers and when they sit down for dinner together, climate action is what their children want to talk about. The high-schooler and middle-schooler notice their parents’ choices in the cars they drive and the food they eat. And living in the San Francisco Bay Area, they have a front row seat to the ongoing drought in Northern California. The climate crisis is not lost on this family, and it motivates them to give back in a series of meaningful ways.
“Our kids make us hyperaware so it becomes more important to us because it’s a family issue,” says Kruck, CEO and founder of Tugboat Logic. “They see a grim future for their generation.”
Though their children encourage them to see the climate crisis through a different lens, it’s clear that the two UBC Master of Business Administration (MBA) alumni are themselves personally invested in the cause.
“It’s hard not to be passionate about it when you see it as the greatest threat to humanity and all living creatures, and our way of life,” says Vancini, who works as General Partner at Mighty Capital, a venture capital firm based in Silicon Valley. “It requires massive effort and innovation to address the challenges, which opens up exciting opportunities for young leaders.”
New MBA entrance award for climate action leaders
To play their part in addressing the challenges, the alumni have established the Ray Kruck & Jennifer Vancini Entrance Award in Climate Action Leadership at the UBC Sauder School of Business.
Through their gift, two entrance awards of $10,000 each have been made available annually to support outstanding applicants entering the UBC MBA program who wish to pursue a career in sustainability and climate action.
The awards, which were first offered in the Fall 2022 term, will enable aspiring climate leaders to study at an innovative institution that aligns with their values and make a difference in this growing field.
“There’s an intersection between values and business and we’re trying to bring that to life,” says Vancini. “We know it’s important subject matter for students today.”
Their hope is that the award attracts MBA candidates with varied academic, cultural and philosophical backgrounds to ensure the program is a breeding ground for fresh perspectives. Kruck and Vancini consider diversity of thought as one of the most important tools in addressing the climate crisis.
“Many climate change solutions won’t come from inventing a magic lightbulb or something that runs on zero carbon energy consumption. Solutions will come from leaders inside ordinary companies who make small decisions about people or processes,” says Kruck. “While moonshot innovation is important, real progress can also be made with incremental steps in behaviour, policy and product adaptation that is enabled with creative iteration within the business school.”
Aside from the broader societal considerations, Vancini also anticipates that the entrance award will cultivate young talent in a burgeoning field.
“I’m in venture capital, and economically, climate technology is a big growth sector. There are a lot of opportunities for disruption and growth, and everybody wants to understand that industry. It makes sense to study where the future is going.”
Supporting the vision of the new Technology Entrepreneurship Centre
Vancini and Kruck have also recently given to UBC Sauder’s Powerhouse Project in support of the construction of a $120 million, 11-storey building that will provide the school’s growing population with new space and programming to transform the student experience and equip business graduates to drive positive change in business.
The pair donated specifically to the Technology Entrepreneurship Centre (TEC), a space that will be dedicated to training entrepreneurial thinkers and supporting start-ups. The TEC will aim to activate a flow of talent, knowledge and new ventures across disciplines and industries. Part of their gift will go towards hiring an individual to launch TEC pilot programming.
“There is an aspect of personal legacy because we consider UBC and Vancouver to be our second home,” says Kruck. “It’s a place where we met, where we started building our lives together at a young age, and the new building is a physical manifestation of that sentiment.”
The pair also wanted to support a brick-and-mortar space in the hopes that students, faculty and staff will come together and thrive.
“Buildings and spaces inspire people to excellence,” says Vancini. “When environments are built a certain way, it leads to collaboration.”
Driven to attract and equip top talent
“The best applicants look at the whole package when they are making selections about which school to go to,” says Vancini. “Showing support for technology entrepreneurship will attract some of the best minds and talent.”
According to Vancini, not only will the TEC draw the best and brightest to the school, it will also help prepare them to launch their careers. “We want to make sure students experience the learnings they need so they have the skills to translate into the world.”
In addition to augmenting the student experience, the TEC also has the potential to elevate UBC Sauder’s global reputation for driving innovation.
“[The Centre] will show that technology entrepreneurship at UBC Sauder is much more than a sideline stream,” says Kruck. “Adding prominence and resources will be compelling.”
On board for the UBC Sauder Founders’ Pledge
Vancini and Kruck are also two of the earliest backers of the UBC Sauder Founders’ Pledge. They are part of a growing group of entrepreneurial alumni, founders, and investors who have pledged to donate a portion of their venture’s future success to the university through a personal, non-binding commitment.
It’s yet another piece in a collage of support for UBC Sauder – a place that has played a significant part in their personal and professional histories.
As alumni, Vancini and Kruck reflect back fondly on the lessons they learned and the relationships they formed three decades ago in graduate school. As donors, they pave the way for future students to have equally formative experiences.
Learn more about UBC Sauder’s Powerhouse Project.