See how University of Utah students contributed to an investment in Liberty & Justice

Liberty & Justice is obviously having a huge impact on its community in Liberia.

But the company has also changed the lives of the students at Sorenson Impact Center who worked on securing funding. Impact fellows work with real money and real companies — just like Liberty & Justice — to gain experience that will benefit them in their careers.

“One thing they do really well is giving students real-world experience and deploying actual money,” said Alaina Velarde, who spent two years as an Impact Fellow while pursuing her degree in Entrepreneurship.

Velarde was tasked with leading the due diligence investigation on Liberty & Justice before leading the presentation to the investment committee. She was in charge of project management and oversaw the other Impact Fellows working on the project, as well as conducting research and development. She completed the final draft of the project write up, and then had her shot to pitch the company to Jim Sorenson and his board of investors, a notoriously tough task, since many worthy and impactful companies are competing for funds.

“It helped me learn to conduct myself in a professional manner,” Velarde said. “Presenting to the board really helped polish my professional presence. It gave me a lot of confidence. Those meetings were notoriously tough, and I always got very nervous. But they got better as I did more.”

Velarde’s time as an Impact Fellow also included traveling to India to work on microfinance and getting involved with the University Venture Fund. Those experiences led her to pursue a master’s degree in Finance from the Eccles School. She now works as a financial representative with Fidelity Investments in Seattle.

“Get involved as much as you can while you are at the Eccles School,” Velarde said to current and prospective students. “It was the best thing I did when I was in college.”

To learn more about the Sorenson Impact Center Student Fellows program, visit

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