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Microsoft Philanthropies VP Justin Spelhaug to speak at PLU on March 10

Microsoft Philanthropies VP Justin Spelhaug to speak at PLU on March 10

Posted by:
February 24, 2022
By Debbie Cafazzo
PLU Marketing and Communications Guest Writer

Big Tech sometimes gets a bad rap, with critics pointing to its potential for spying on us, tricking us or leading us to rack and ruin.

But technology can be a greater force for good.

Justin Spelhaug, vice president of the Tech for Social Impact group at Microsoft Philanthropies, will bring a message of technology’s role in positive social and economic change when he delivers PLU’s 16th Dale E. Benson Lecture in Business and Economic History. The virtual event — which is the conclusion of the two-day Wang Center Symposium — takes place at 7 p.m. March 10.

 “PLU is working to promote vibrant, healthy communities in Parkland, Pierce County and locations throughout the Northwest,” said Michael Halvorson, Ph.D., the university’s Benson Family Chair in Business and Economic History. “Mr. Spelhaug runs a group at Microsoft that tackles this work on a global scale.”

Spelhaug will explore the role that technology companies are taking in global efforts to fight inequality, eliminate poverty, protect our planet and transform local communities. Tech for Social Impact has the power to expand the capacity of organizations and communities to meet social challenges.

 Spelhaug brings 22 years of professional experience spanning a range of commercial and social businesses. Prior to assuming his role leading the Tech for Social Impact group, he served as chief marketing and operations officer for Microsoft Asia Pacific. He helped launch the Unlimited Potential organization within Microsoft, focused on developing new and more affordable computing solutions to help close the digital divide for lower-income societies globally.

Halvorson said a number of PLU alumni have gone to work at Microsoft and other tech companies, and they have had their hand in major technological innovations. But few realize that high-tech companies are now major partners in non-profit work, community training and global partnerships that promote social good.

“Justin Spelhaug’s message is that every person can work for positive social change in the setting that they live in,” Halvorson said. “As students prepare for future careers, they should build skills and attitudes that allow them to care for the most vulnerable and promote innovation and change in organizations.”