I am the co-founder and CEO of Propeller Collective. We're an early stage nonprofit organization that creates community, resources, and mentorship opportunities for current college students who are the first in their family to go to college or from limited-income backgrounds.

Starting this organization was a long-term goal of mine. Going into graduate school within the field of education, I was also looking for a way to enhance my business skills. As a result, I joined the very first cohort of CORe in the summer of 2014.

Founding Propeller Collective

My personal background is the source of inspiration for the work I do today. I grew up half low-income and half working-class between divorced parents in metro Detroit. I thought my golden ticket to a better life came when I was accepted to one of my state's flagship universities, but despite receiving substantial financial aid and quickly earning top grades, I struggled with the new, foreign environment so much that I left after my first year.

By the time I graduated from the University of Michigan four years later (which included two years of study at my local community college), I had seen several high-achieving, low-income students from my hometown and communities like it do the same, only they never went back to school.

Propeller Collective’s mission is to support students through college, from college matriculation to college graduation, to increase the number of college graduates from first generation and limited-income backgrounds. We recently completed our first pilot program with a small group of students at a large, public research institution in the Midwest, and we plan to expand our program sites in the coming academic year.

Why HBX

My desire to help first generation and limited-income college students led me to the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Right after my acceptance in March 2014, I heard about a new program being offered by the Harvard Business School, HBX!

Going into my graduate program, I knew graduate school would allow me to gain the subject matter expertise I needed to develop and evaluate programs for students, but running a nonprofit would require business skills I hadn’t yet acquired. I also knew that I wanted to run a tight ship, especially when it came to finances. 

I was also drawn to HBX because of the ability to complete the lessons as my schedule allowed. I worked full-time throughout the program, and made my way through the courses on nights, weekends, and during lunch breaks. Furthermore, I liked that I had the ability to complete CORe the summer before I started graduate school. I figured it would prepare me for upcoming coursework in statistics, and I thought it would be a great way to get back in the studying game since five years had passed since I graduated from college. Both proved true!

Credential of Readiness (CORe) - Master the fundamentals of business. Learn more!

How I Use HBX at Work

Out of the three courses that comprise CORe, the concepts from Business Analytics have been especially applicable. Going into graduate school, I was surprised to learn that I qualified for a higher-level statistics course since I had already covered the basics of data analysis in Business Analytics.

Today, collecting, analyzing, and interpreting data is essential to Propeller Collective’s work as a nonprofit organization. Data analysis allows us to develop and evaluate our programs. Are our efforts achieving the desired outcomes? How are our students performing? What does their performance look like in relation to their peers? Why? Data analysis is also crucial to obtaining funding since it measures the extent of our programs’ effectiveness..  

The HBX Network

One of the things I really liked about HBX is the interactive map on the platform that allows you to see who else in the world is studying with you at that moment. Seeing classmates in my time zone working through course material at the same time as me was motivating, while seeing peers logged on halfway around the world inspired a true sense of community. 

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I also have to mention that I met one of my closest friends through HBX (shout out to Cheng Qian, CORe '14, Ed.M. ’15!). We kept seeing each other on the platform, connected on Facebook and found out we were going to be enrolled in the same degree program at the Harvard Ed School. On the first day of orientation, we randomly sat at the same table and said, “You look familiar!” We made it a point to stop by Cardullo’s in Harvard Square for a photo op in honor of Financial Accounting, and the rest is history.


Kori Crockett

About the Author

Kori Crockett serves as CEO of Propeller Collective, a nonprofit organization that supports current college students who are the first in their family to go to college or are from limited-income backgrounds. She is a graduate of the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the University of Michigan, and she completed HBX CORe in 2014.