Student Spotlight: Carissa Keen

Mandisa Thomas
June 11, 2024

Executive student spotlight featuring Carissa Keen. Carissa is the Executive Director of the Keen Wealth Foundation. In her role, she leads and directs giving strategies that align with Keen Wealth Advisors‘ values while also identifying new opportunities for community impact and donor engagement. Read her spotlight below to learn about her journey as a student in our social impact strategy program.

In addition to her role as Executive Director at the Keen Wealth Foundation, Carissa serves in governance and/or volunteers at over 10 non-profit organizations, including The Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Kansas City, The Kansas City Girls Preparatory Academy, and The Veterans Community Project.

Why did you choose the Executive Program in Social Impact Strategy?
Having previously participated in Wharton’s Women’s Executive Leadership Program and CHIP’s High Impact Philanthropy Academy, I was familiar with the exceptional value of programs offered by the University of Pennsylvania. The instructors are top-tier, and they also bring a wealth of practical knowledge that has expanded my understanding and enhanced the intentionality of my work. The CSIS’s Social Impact Strategy Certificate resonates with my aspiration to bridge the gap between intention and action in the realm of social change. We are being taught not to be social entrepreneurs but to be social innovators and true changemakers.

Carissa shares her personal story and her work in the social impact space.
My personal experience of overcoming has given me a sense of duty and a deep drive to create meaningful social impact. As an adolescent, I endured abuse and abandonment, spent time living in a girl’s home, and then became a young, single mother living in poverty, having to choose between feeding my toddler or paying the gas bill. (By the way, once I learned I didn’t need gas and could heat water on the electric stove to give her a warm bath, it was an easy choice.) My life was transformed through determination, hard work, public resources, education, and a support network of genuinely caring individuals. I am one of the fortunate few to have escaped those circumstances.

As the Executive Director of the Keen Wealth Foundation, I oversee and help direct substantial annual financial grants. Our grant making philosophy is to take a collaborative approach to funding. I volunteer for and serve on several nonprofit boards and committees, including Angel Flight Central, The Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Kansas City, Happy Bottoms, The Kansas City Girl’s Preparatory Academy, and the Veteran’s Community Project.

I also work alongside the Keen Wealth Advisors Team to provide over 1,000 hours of community service annually. In addition, I am an advisor to the Keen Wealth Community Impact committee, where I facilitate a propriety process for nonprofit evaluation and innovative sustainable impact.

It has been said that “Money can’t buy happiness,” but if you are riddled with strife and anxiety around scarcity of resources, you will never be the best version of yourself for yourself, your family, colleagues, and your community. Through partnerships with other non-profit organizations, financial acumen programming, and financial assistance, my mission is that every family and every child has an equitable chance to become the best version of themselves.

Carissa’s advice for future applicants
CSIS’s Social Impact Strategy Certificate program attracts some of the brightest individuals in the social impact space. During some of my first interactions, I must admit that I felt a bit of imposter syndrome. My advice is to be confident in who you are and what you have to offer while taking advantage of the opportunity to learn new concepts and have your perspectives challenged.

How do you envision this program impacting your career?
I love the program’s hands-on practicum approach, which allows me to immediately apply new tools to my daily work. It has expanded my thinking, connected me to a diverse network, and boosted my credibility through an Ivy League institution. This program is not just a learning experience; it is my strategic roadmap for driving social innovation.


Interested in learning more about the Executive Program in Social Impact Strategy? Sign up for our info sessions starting this July 30, 4 pm EST.