Molly Cartmill '09

Director of Corporate Social Responsibility

Thursday, December 12, 2019TOPICS: Alumni

Molly Cartmill Headshot
begin quoteHelping build Sempra’s CSR program from the ground up, Cartmill says “servant leadership is what my job is really about--amplifying our purpose as an organization, engaging employees, giving back, and driving socially responsible business practices."

Sempra Energy

Molly Cartmill has had a long and prosperous career in a range of external affairs disciplines, but her passion for community leadership started long before she held the title of corporate social responsibility executive.

Her first job after undergrad, for instance, was at the Muscular Dystrophy Association, where she produced fundraising events, coordinated volunteers and secured media opportunities to spread the organization’s mission. Beyond that, she’s always been a self-proclaimed “volunteer”—cleaning up parks, participating in charity events, serving on nonprofit boards and, as a mom, supporting programs like the PTA and Girl Scouts. 

Given her talent and passion for serving the community, Cartmill’s career evolution from nonprofit program coordinator to director of corporate social responsibility at a Fortune 500 company was natural. After a brief stint in media sales, she went on to establish San Diego County Crime Stoppers, a nonprofit organization that brings in tips from the public to help solve felony crimes. Through that role, she met her future employer, San Diego Gas & Electric, today a utility of Sempra Energy. 

When Sempra was formed in the late nineties, Cartmill was promoted to director of corporate community relations for the energy infrastructure company. It was around the early 2000s, she says, that she first began hearing about a new degree program for established and emerging leaders being offered by the University of San Diego School of Business. 

“I was chairing the board of LEAD San Diego at the time and had a lot of interest in the Master’s in Executive Leadership (MSEL) program,” she said. “But because of the role I was in, I was spending nights and weekends attending every community event imaginable. My kids were young, and I thought, ‘I just don’t know how I can do this.’”

As Cartmill rose through the ranks at Sempra, she continued to deliver on both her personal and professional mission of serving the community by advancing the company’s corporate giving and philanthropic endeavors. In 2007, she started the Sempra Energy Foundation, a nonprofit private foundation dedicated to a range of charitable causes. But as she looked to further hone her skills as a high-impact socially responsible leader, USD’s MSEL remained high on her radar. 

“The MSEL program is about servant leadership—being of service to people,” she said. “And that’s what my job is really about. It’s about amplifying our purpose as an organization, engaging employees, giving back to the community and driving socially responsible business practices.”

Like with all of USD’s graduate business programs, the MSEL curriculum heavily emphasizes principles of sustainability and CSR, with the goal of developing socially responsible and globally-minded business leaders. For Cartmill, that was a value proposition that aligned with both her personal values and leadership objectives. She took the leap and was accepted into the MSEL program in 2007.

“Through the program, I learned about myself, how to lead people and how to build high-performing teams,” she said. “There was a lot of practice built into the program, so I was often able to immediately apply what I had learned in real business situations.”

The MSEL differs from a typical executive MBA program in its emphasis on servant leadership and high-level business acumen. But at USD, it also provides many of the technical skills leaders need to be able to manage the various teams and functions for which they have oversight.  

“I appreciated that a lot of the topics covered in a typical executive MBA program were also covered in the MSEL program, such as accounting, finance and marketing,” Cartmill said. 

Cartmill graduated from USD with her MSEL degree in 2009; in 2010, she was promoted to director of corporate social responsibility and got to work building Sempra’s CSR program from the ground up through the implementation of environmental, social and governance-related policies, practices and sustainability reporting and disclosure. Today she is working to ensure that Sempra delivers on its commitment to be purpose-driven and that its new vision, mission and values drive the company’s interactions with all of its stakeholders – from employees and customers, to investors and communities – while also overseeing employee communications, political and charitable giving. “I have always loved serving the community,” she said. “But when I began serving in leadership roles, I wanted to become more than an effective manager – I wanted to be a strong servant leader, and that’s what drew me to USD. The MSEL program epitomizes leadership, social responsibility and community service—all of which align with my values both as an individual and a leader.”


Renata Ramirez
(619) 260-4658