Fellow Profile

Carla Vernon

  • Position: 
    Business Unit Director, Yoplait Yogurt
  • Organization: 
    General Mills
  • Initiative: 
    Henry Crown Fellowship Program (HCFP)


Carla Vernón is Business Unit Director for Yoplait Yogurt at General Mills, where she is responsible for volume, profit, manufacturing, marketing, and innovation for new yogurt segments and brands including Yoplait Greek, Liberté, and Mountain High Yogurt brands. Prior to her current role, Carla was a Business Unit Director in the largest operating division at General Mills and managed a $1.5 billion portfolio of iconic breakfast cereals that includes Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Chex, Lucky Charms, Cocoa Puffs, and Kix. Her management responsibilities also included leadership of the overall health and wellness strategy for all of the General Mills Big G Cereals. Previously, she was in the Corporate Development group of General Mills supporting the CEO and his executive team in developing long-term company strategy and evaluating targets for mergers or acquisitions. Carla's career has also included leading business turnarounds and establishing category leadership on declining businesses such as: Lucky Charms, Chex Cereal, Honey Nut Cheerios, Bisquick, Fruit Roll-ups, and Small Planet Foods. Prior to joining General Mills, Carla worked for The Nature Conservancy, City Year, and for U.S. Senator Carol Moseley-Braun. She serves on the national board of directors for the Make-a-Wish Foundation, is an alumni class officer for Princeton University, volunteers at her church as a Sunday school teacher, and plays an active role as a volunteer at school for her children. Carla received her AB in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Princeton University and an MBA from the University of Texas, Austin (as a Consortium Fellow). She is a 2009 Henry Crown Fellow of The Aspen Institute and a member of the Aspen Global Leadership Network.

Leadership Project: Project Mustard Seed

In challenging economic times, American schools often have to reduce funding for critical items such as teachers, meal programs, elective courses, school equipment, and transportation. To address this problem, many major corporations like General Mills, Campbell's Soup, Target, Tyson, Coca-Cola, and Staples have established "cause marketing" programs designed to donate money directly to schools in exchange for some form of "proof of purchase", with the hope that these programs will also increase loyalty to the companies/brands. Carla Vernón has used her position at General Mills to increase awareness of top education-related cause marketing programs, provide a simple and enduring guide to explain participation requirements of top programs and to develop and implement strategy to increase participation among under-resourced schools. She's named this Project Mustard Seed and has developed a plan to advance parental involvement (particularly Spanish-speaking parents) in under-resourced schools through cause-marketing. Project Mustard Seed is helping build significant infrastructure and campaign to introduce the largest cause-marketing program (Box Tops for Education) to Spanish speaking participants. Her efforts have generated $1.8 Million for TV support on Univision; provided 17 Million bilingual packaging impressions on cereal boxes to drive awareness of boxtops4education.com/Español; gained first 7,500 Facebook Fans of Box Tops for Education - Español; and launched Promotora's program ("Avon Lady" model) to activate grassroots program volunteers. The initial launch is focused on three Spanish-dominant metro markets (LA, Chicago, Houston). Once fine-tuned, the program will be shared with other education based loyalty programs, such as Target, Office Depot, and Tyson.

View Project