Jody Bell’s educational journey has not been linear. Going from a shy student who didn’t raise her hand in high school to an Honors College junior preparing to speak at a TEDx event, her path more closely resembles a matrix.
Although she knew she wanted to study business at the College of Charleston, Bell switched majors five times before settling on finance. She says she wouldn’t have been able to attend the College, much less have had the freedom to follow her intellectual curiosity and explore a wide variety of studies within the School of Business, without the Guy E. Beatty Scholarship – which, since 1997, has been awarded to 100 incoming freshmen intending to major within the School of Business.
Philanthropy is important to Bell. That’s why, when she entered CofC, she was deeply engaged with I.C.O.D.: In Case of Deportation, a philanthropic venture she founded in high school to educate and empower children of undocumented parents. She knew that, as a business major at the College, she would learn foundational skills to expand her passion for entrepreneurial ventures for I.C.O.D., which was gaining attention at the time.
“My goal with I.C.O.D. was always to start a conversation,” says Bell. “Telling the story about my friend who was living in fear because her parents were undocumented put a human face on immigration issues. Deportation has become so political, and people forget about the individuals whose lives are affected. Every person who is deported is leaving family members behind.”
As a first-year Beatty Scholar, Bell was invited to speak at the 2020 TEDxCharleston about the humanity behind immigration, but the COVID pandemic struck two weeks before the event. Campus closed, and everything that seemed certain about the future was uncertain. Bell moved home to live with her grandmother and became increasingly frustrated. She felt helpless, and the isolation of the pandemic made her question her career goals. It was during this time that she discovered her motivation came from helping people. Bell is a “fixer,” and needed to get to work.
“I came back to campus and, on a whim, I took an impact investing course,” says Bell. “It was one credit for an hour on Monday nights, and there I met Jason Britton, a professor who changed my life.”
In this class, she learned about sustainable investing, an approach that supports the technology and companies that are investing in progress and recognizing the financial value of companies that are solving the world’s biggest challenges.
“Jody is one of those students who was equal parts passion and curiosity,” says Britton, adjunct professor of impact investing in the Department of Management and Marketing. “From the moment she stepped foot in my impact investing class, she began thinking about ways to leverage finance to help make the world a better place. She came to the College an eager young entrepreneur who had started her own philanthropic venture back in high school to become our student investment fund’s environmental, social and governance analyst. … Jody is an example of what someone who is deeply committed to change can accomplish. I can’t wait to see where she goes next.”
On March 23, 2022, Bell is going to the TEDxCharleston stage, where she will join the other speakers who are sharing their stories at the renowned event. She’s been rehearsing her speech and looks forward to the opportunity to start another conversation about immigration.
Long gone is the 15-year-old girl sitting in the back of the classroom afraid to raise her hand – she has moved on. And, when she graduates in 2023, Bell plans to leave I.C.O.D. in good hands.
“I want the organization to grow with people who are better equipped to deal with immigration,” says Bell. “I maximized the value of what I could give to that program, and it’s time to move on.”
In other words, she’ll follow her curiosity to the next issue – and be part of the solution.
Check out her TedXCharleston talk on Youtube.