Elliot Carleton ’21 analyzes the complex relationship of small business loans and community development at Business Impact NW in Seattle, WA

This summer I am working as a portfolio manager intern at Business Impact NW. Business Impact NW is a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) in Seattle, which uses small business loans and business training to foster economic growth amongst underserved and underbanked populations, with a specific focus on minorities, women, LGBTQ+, and veterans. Over the course of this summer, I will be working amid the lending department at Business Impact NW. The main project I am focused on is restructuring the risk rating system. Restructuring means I will be analyzing different components of the risk rating system–such as the collateral pledged by borrowers and their credit scores–with the ultimate goal of having loans given by Business Impact NW more accurately rated.

I am very excited about my internship at Business Impact NW because it allows me to use the knowledge gained from my classes at Whitman to help promote economic growth and improve lives within underserved populations. When I tell people that I am majoring in economics, the most common response is for people to ask if I want to make a lot of money and if I have any investment advice for them. While an economics degree can be used for these purposes, I am more interested in how economics can be used to develop progressive social policies and promote economic growth within underprivileged communities. My internship at Business Impact NW allows me to gain experience in implementing my economics knowledge in a way that can help other people, while also helping me to see firsthand how non-profits and community development organizations function to help communities in need.

As a part of this learning process, I attend a weekly meeting between the loan department every Wednesday during which we examine all potential and current loans. These meetings have already taught me a substantial amount about how the lending process works from start to finish. Furthermore, these meetings help me understand how the constantly fluctuating macroeconomy can affect the lending process, and in this way, the knowledge I am gaining at Business Impact NW is helping me to build upon and effectively use my economics classes from Whitman to understand the real world. Finally, I have even learned briefly about how Business Impact NW can play a role in preventing harmful predatory lending by bringing attention to organizations that have previously harmed Business Impact NW clients. So far, my internship at Business Impact NW is absolutely furthering my hope that an economics degree can be used to facilitate economic development and progress within marginalized communities.


Experiences like Elliot Carleton’s are made possible by the Whitman Internship Grant, which provides funding for students to participate in unpaid internships at both for-profit and non-profit organizations. To learn how you could secure a Whitman Internship Grant or host a Whitman intern at your organization, click here or contact Assistant Director for Internship Programs Mitzy Rodriguez

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