Jessica Friesen, MBA
Public & Nonprofit

Penang, Malaysia

“The relationships between people whose social and professional skills cover a wide range. I’m really impressed, and I’ve benefited from that a lot.”

A Grassroots Developer

Jessica Friesen grew up on the tropical and multicultural island of Penang, Malaysia where, alongside the rich diversity of Indian, Chinese, and Malay cultures, she was exposed to the challenges of a developing country working to find its foothold in the global economy. With both parents working as teachers in Southeast Asia, she was born in Thailand, but lived in Malaysia until completing high school. “Growing up in a context where people couldn’t avoid the strains of the developing economy embedded in me a desire to get involved to try and find solutions,” she says.

After completing high school, Friesen moved to the United States to study theology at Wheaton College in Illinois. For one summer, she interned in Malawi with World Relief, an international development NGO, which reinforced to her the real world challenges a majority of the population is forced to endure. The experience motivated her to get even more involved in community development.

Upon graduating in 2008, Friesen spent a year and a half participating in the AmeriCorps VISTA program in Chicago. Again, her interest in the nonprofit industry grew, and she decided to go back to school to study nonprofit management from the business angle.

“The way that the world’s moving towards disintegration between the public sector, the nonprofit sector, and for-profit sector, I really felt an MBA would equip me for all the changes,” Friesen says.

In her first year as an MBA student at BU, she’s come to appreciate a few things about the School that she wasn’t expecting. One of them is the varying backgrounds of her classmates, both professionally and culturally. She has classmates from the health sector, from finance, and from manufacturing.

“The relationships between people whose social and professional skills cover a wide range,” she says. “I’m really impressed, and I’ve benefited from that a lot.”

Apart from the rigorous life she has earning her degree, Friesen is on the board for OneWheaton, a nonprofit organization that provides support for LGBT Wheaton College alumni and students. On Columbus Day weekend, she helped organize a homecoming for LGBT alumni who wouldn’t normally feel comfortable going back to the school.

“Wheaton is a very conservative, evangelical school,” Friesen says. “Our homecoming was a very healing event for many alumni that also allowed us to provide an important presence on campus for LGBT students who may be struggling. It’s something that’s close to my heart.”

Once she gets her degree, Friesen hopes to work in upper management at a grassroots community development organization, helping in both the strategy and operations side.

“I believe that the solution to many of our world’s most pressing challenges reside in the communities where they exist,” she says. “I want to use my skills and experience to help nonprofits gain access to resources to run effective programs and achieve real results.”