Derek Brown ’24 has long straddled two different worlds. He grew up comfortably in Garnet Valley, Pennsylvania, with top-rated public schools, high home values and low crime rates.
Brown also knew inner-city Philadelphia well. All of his mother’s family is from there. He spent every weekend throughout his childhood and teenage years going back and forth between there and Garnet Valley.
His drive to help others led him to Carolina to study economics and public policy. Here he had, for the first time, substantive conversations with people his age about racial, economic and educational inequalities.
At UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, he met with Jim Johnson, the William R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship and director of the Urban Investment Strategies Center.
“We had a conversation where he used the phrase ‘entrepreneurial solutions’ to talk about alleviating poverty in both rural and urban communities. It was the perfect way to say it,” said Brown.
Brown is now a Kenan Scholar at UNC Kenan-Flagler’s Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise. The institute focuses on solving economic issues with innovative business solutions and a distinct entrepreneurial spirit.
Brown is majoring in business and public policy, combining the technical skills he is developing at UNC Kenan-Flagler with a deeper understanding of social issues and solutions to tackle them.
“I feel called between the intersections of business and social change, especially in the context of inner-city living and communities of color,” said Brown. “Never once at UNC Kenan-Flagler has there been someone who said that I shouldn’t do that. Never once have I felt steered in a different direction. Never once have I felt unsupported.”