Dwight Hall Socially Responsible Investment Fund Advances an Innovative and Ethical Approach to Finance

The Dwight Hall Socially Responsible Investment Fund (DHSRI) is a student-run organization that helps manage Dwight Hall’s endowment with a focus on ethical investment. Founded in 2008, DHSRI was originally seeded by the Dwight Hall endowment and subsequently supported by alumni contributions. The group is the nation’s oldest and largest undergraduate-run SRI fund. 

According to Co-President Cindy Li ’25, DHSRI is divided into three student-led teams. The Portfolio Team helps manage more than $200,000 of Dwight Hall’s endowment, choosing where and how to invest it. The team evaluates its investments through an Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) framework—in other words, with the aim of growing resources for Dwight Hall and doing so in sustainable and socially responsible ways.

“We evaluate [our investments] through an ESG lens, which is a really big part of what we do and what differentiates us from the other finance groups on campus,” Cindy explained.

The second team is the Shareholder Engagement Team. As an investor in corporations like McDonald’s, ExxonMobil, and Amazon, DHSRI gains the ability to engage in shareholder action with these companies. Therefore, it is able to leverage its investments to help change the policies of major corporations.

“We invest in [corporations] so that our shareholder engagement team can submit proposals and encourage these companies to engage in more responsible corporate behavior,” Cindy said. “The Shareholder Engagement Team also partners with big nonprofits in the shareholder engagement space to co-file resolutions, draft proxy memos, and take other actions.”

Finally, the Community Investment Team uses the profits earned from the Portfolio Team and invests them into the New Haven community through grants to local community organizations. This team builds upon Dwight Hall’s broader mission of creating positive social impact, utilizing finance to address challenges in New Haven by supporting grassroots leaders and groups dedicated to social change. Past grantees include Elena’s Light and New Lifestyles Women Empowerment. 

Beyond its year-round grant selection process, the Community Investment Team also holds classes on financial literacy for New Haven public school students. For Nicole Tian ’26, Head of the Community Investment Team, these classes are among the most rewarding experiences she has had with DHSRI. “It was really cool to interact with [students] and do interactive activities on personal finance basics,” Nicole explained.

Nicole, along with Dwight Hall’s Director of Community Outreach and Engagement Johnny Scafidi ’01, recently met with the organizations who were awarded grants by DHSRI in fall 2023: Q Plus, an organization based in West Haven that supports queer youth, and the Huneebee Project, which teaches New Haven and Connecticut youth about beekeeping and environmental advocacy. “It was really fulfilling to see the organizations operating because…this is the most direct interaction we’ve had with their staff members,” Nicole said. “[I appreciated] just getting to talk to them and understand what their organizations are working on. It’s really, really cool to see that this unrestricted grant is helping in concrete ways.”

Looking forward to next semester, DHSRI is organizing a speaker event in winter 2024 that will be co-hosted by Dwight Hall. The event will focus on ESG-conscious investing and seeks to bring together prominent Yale alumni with connections to ESG investing. Additionally, the Community Investment Team plans to overhaul the grant application process, making it more accessible for small nonprofits that cannot afford designated grant writers.

For the Co-Presidents of DHSRI, their time with the organization has been invaluable. “Cindy and I have been with the club for the past three years,” noted Abhinav Karthikeyan ’25, who is Co-President alongside Cindy. “Something that both of us can attest to are the people. [They] have a wonderful way of actually making a socially responsible impact, whether that’s in New Haven, with portfolio investors, or with established companies—that’s sort of the common link…the common fabric between all of us…So I’m very proud to say that…[DHSRI has] been one of the highlights of my Yale experience.”

Cindy agreed, adding that her work with DHSRI has transformed her dreams for the future. “I was really set on pre-med before college,” she said, “but through exploring finance with DHSRI, it helped me see that you can really use finance to do good…one of the most distinctive attributes of DHSRI compared to other finance groups on campus is that we really combine finance with service to New Haven as a community.”

DHSRI’s work is representative of the Advance pillar of Dwight Hall’s program delivery model. Its work in ethical finance provides an innovative way of nurturing and inspiring students as leaders of social change, supporting local nonprofit organizations, and advancing justice and service.

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