When Austin Cole ’11 majored in development studies and Latin American and Caribbean studies at Brown University, he had an idea where his studies would lead.
“I envisioned working in Spanish-speaking communities in Latin America, helping improve the quality of jobs, infrastructure, and the affordability of housing,” said Cole. He spent a semester in Cuba, completing an independent project on race and sports there, and he wrote his senior thesis on the Afro-Ecuadorian social movement. As a Fulbright Scholar, he conducted independent research on social and economic development in Medellin, Colombia.
Cole’s career is in community and economic development, but he discovered he prefers to do this work in the United States. Since August, Cole has been a portfolio associate at Blue Meridian Partners in New York City. Blue Meridian financially supports organizations with missions that meet its funding priorities. With Blue Meridian, however, support is treated more as an investment, and Portfolio Associates advise on strategy and track return on investment.
I believe people have to have a say in their communities.
“Our overall goals are poverty alleviation and improving social and economic mobility,” said Cole. “We do that through health, criminal justice, education, and workforce development, among other domains.” Separately Blue Meridian recently committed $100 million for COVID-19 emergency relief to help those at the greatest risk of falling through the cracks during this emergency.
Before joining Blue Meridian, Cole was a management consultant at Bain & Company in Washington, D.C., and then in London, working with companies in the private sector in strategic and operational changes. “I had internships in government and nonprofits, and I noticed that people in government and foreign service work with people in business,” said Cole about joining Bain. “I wanted to get experience in the business world.” He chose Bain specifically because of the social impact of their expertise. Cole stayed at Bain for four years, acquiring the experience he needed to earn his current position at Blue Meridian.
In both D.C. and London, Cole consulted with two nonprofits that he continues to work with as a volunteer, Black Benefactors in D.C. and Turn to Love in London. “I believe people have to have a say in their communities,” said Cole, when discussing giving people agency over their lives. But the same could be said of Cole himself, who feels a responsibility to make a difference wherever he lives.