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More Business Majors Turning to Social Entrepreneurship

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A growing number of college students pursuing business school degrees are hoping for careers with non-profit organizations. Others want to launch their own socially-responsible businesses.

Colleges and universities have noticed the trend and they’re racing to meet students’ demands with social entrepreneurship programs, often called “Social E.”

What is Social Entrepreneurship?

According to PBS, a social entrepreneur identifies and solves social problems. Unlike traditional business entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs seek “social value” as opposed to profits.

One such social entrepreneur is Amarynth Sichel, a Columbia University student profiled in a CNN Living article on social entrepreneurship. As president of one of the twenty-four FeelGood World chapters on U.S. college campuses, Sichel donates her time and her cooking skills to raise money for charity.

FeelGood World is a movement to end hunger as well as an accredited program for a new generation of social entrepreneurs. Student volunteers like Sichel run FeelGood Delis on their college campuses, making grilled cheese sandwiches for a donation—whatever amount “feels good” to donate. The student volunteers then invest 100% of their profits in a FeelGood Certified organization: The Hunger Project or CHOICE Humanitarian. To date, FeelGood has raised and invested over $1,120,000 in the end of hunger.

Social entrepreneurship has surged on American campuses in the past few years, according to Melanie Edwards, who lectures on the subject at Stanford University. “I believe the rise in ‘Social E’ publicity, coupled with the heightened social problems in our U.S. economy and the world, speaks to the millenials,” she told CNN Living.

Social Entrepreneurship “More Meaningful” to Some Students

Myles Lutheran is another prime example of a social entrepreneur. Planning a career in financial services, he changed his mind when he became heavily involved in the Social Enterprise Institute at Northeastern University’s College of Business Administration in Boston.

Lutheran served as a team leader on three international field study programs where he used his business skills to help farmers and workers in South Africa, the Dominican Republic and Belize. He took a job as a marketing manager for Moms and Jobs, a social venture in Boston that works to help poor single mothers find employment.

“Every class in business school is about making money, but in social entrepreneurship the end result is more meaningful,” Lutheran told Roland Jones of MSNBC.. “You use the same skills as you would on Wall Street, but there’s a different end result.”

Business schools are racing to meet the demand for social entrepreneurship programs like those at Columbia and Northeastern. A growing number of schools are offering stand-alone social enterprise programs or programs that are part of a business school degree program.

Learning to Run Socially Responsible Businesses

“There’s a lot of interest in social enterprise at the business school, and I think it’s partly generational,” Thomas Moore, dean of the College of Business Administration at Northeastern, told MSNBC. “These days students don’t want to wait; they want to make a difference now.”

In addition to working in the non-profit sector, students are interested in launching more socially responsible businesses.

Emily Cieri, managing director of the entrepreneurial program at University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, mentions two such businesses started by Wharton grads. Warby Parker, an eyewear brand which donates a pair of glasses to someone in need for each pair of glasses sold, and Hydros Bottle, which seeks to help alleviate the global clean water crisis and reduce the use of disposable water bottles by selling 24-ounce reusable water bottles with built-in filters.

“These days, students are more aware globally,” Cieri told MSNBC. “They have a different look on the world than students did just a few years ago; they understand the challenges, and on a higher level they understand the opportunity to make an impact. The interest is growing, and it’s moving the needle. Students have the ideas, and now they’re ready to move ahead and get engaged in our program.”

Best Colleges for Social Entrepreneurship

Interested in studying social entrepreneurship? Good for you! The number of colleges offering Social Entrepreneurship programs is growing at steady rate. According to the September 2007 issue of Fortune Small Business magazine, the following 11 colleges and universities are the best schools for social entrepreneurs.

1. Babson College in Babson Park, MA.

2. Columbia University in New York, NY. The Social Enterprise Program.

3. Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. The Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise.

4. Duke University in Durham, NC. The Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship(CASE).

5. Harvard University in Boston, MA. The Social Enterprise Initiative.

6. New York University in New York, NY. The Stewart Satter Program in Social Entrepreneurship.

7. Stanford University in Stanford, CA. The Center for Social Innovation.

8. University of Arizona in Tucson, AZ.

9. University of California, Berkeley in Berkeley, CA. The Center for Responsible Business.

10. University of Colorado at Boulder in Boulder, CO. The Deming Center for Entrepreneurship Sustainable Venturing Initiative.

11. Yale University in New Haven, CT. The Program on Social Enterprise.


Melissa Rhone+

Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.

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