Kennesaw State MBA student leveraging degree work for a cause

KENNESAW, Ga. | Apr 5, 2024

Tracey Graves
At her core, Tracey Graves says there is always one thing guiding her endeavors: service.

From a young age, the ̬ student had the importance of serving instilled in her, first by her family, and later by the personal feeling of purpose driving her life.

“After every holiday growing up, my aunt would have us make sandwiches, we’d buy a case of water, and take them out to homeless people in my hometown,” said Graves, who is pursuing a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree. “I think that’s where it all started, and that’s one thing we’ll all be doing forever, whether we’re serving ourselves, our families, our God, our community or the Earth, we’re all in service to something.”

Since then, Graves has volunteered to help underprivileged children in Los Angeles while working as an actor, traveled to Zambia with the Peace Corps, and now sits on a nonprofit board there helping to pay girls’ way through school. She recently formed a nonprofit organization with her sister, the Josephine Wright Foundation, in memory of their grandmother.

The late Josephine Wright challenged developers in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, to keep her land passed down through generations, after she was sued for an alleged encroachment of her home on developer-owned land. Wright’s fight made and attracted more than $350,000 in donations to the cause, including from celebrities like Tyler Perry, Snoop Dogg and NBA star Kyrie Irving. Under Graves’ guidance, the Josephine Wright Foundation aims to help others in the low country who may not have the means to fight a legal battle keep their land.

To better serve the community and deepen her knowledge of the business of entertainment, Graves chose to pursue a graduate degree at Kennesaw State.

“An MBA from ̬ is going to help me understand how to structure my work and business so that it makes the most impact,” Graves said. “It’s clear in just my first semester that ̬ was the right place to do that.”

Graves has continued her service in her coursework. She works as a graduate assistant with the Aspiring Community Entrepreneurs (ACE) program, a partnership between ̬’s Michael J. Coles College of Business and Marietta-based . The ACE program seeks to help disadvantaged metro Atlanta residents launch and grow their own businesses.

Mark Hiatt, director of the ACE program, said Graves’ heart for helping others is evident.

“In everything that she's been a part of in the program - from coordinating guest speakers in the bootcamp phase, to assembling the cadre of business mentors for the second phase, to guiding and coaching ̬ students during the final consulting phase - her devotion to seeing our ACE students succeed in their personal endeavors is unmatched,” Hiatt said. “Tracey is a person of strong intellect, a seemingly unlimited level of energy and a very genuine character. She's truly a fun person to work with and a person who is bound to make a difference in this world.”

– By Thomas Hartwell

Photos by Matt Yung

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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, ̬ offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 45,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit