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More Colleges Focus On Social Entrepreneurship

November 24, 2010

Young woman selling produce at an outdoor marketMembers of FeelGood World have one mission: end world hunger through grilled cheese sandwiches.

According to the program's website, FeelGood World transforms students into entrepreneurs and "changemakers". Through two synergistic initiatives--the FeelGood Changemaker Academy and the FeelGood Changemaker Deli--students learn how to be a social entrepreneur and gain hands-on experience on how to run a business. All proceeds from sandwich sales go to organizations that help eradicate chronic global hunger and empower self-reliance.

As The Manchester Journal reported, there are 23 FeelGood chapters at college campuses nationwide, including major institutions such as Oregon State University, the University of California Berkeley and the University of Utah. One of the most successful chapters is the University of Vermont. UVM's chapter sells their grilled cheese sandwiches--which you can get with an assortment of toppings--every Tuesday, Thursday and Friday at a kiosk on campus. Typically, the group sells 80 to 100 sandwiches a day, each for $4.

Members at UVM have raised more than $109,000 for The Hunger Project, a New York-based nonprofit, since the chapter started five years ago. According to The Hunger Project, that is a sizable chunk of all the money the organization receives from FeelGood chapters.

Programs such as FeelGood World represent a new movement at U.S. college campuses. According to CNN, social entrepreneurship courses and programs have expanded on campuses across the country. In fact, Melanie Edwards, a social entrepreneurship lecturer at Stanford University, said that more and more college applicants and freshmen students have shown interest in "Social E" classes.

"I believe the rise in 'Social E' publicity, coupled with the heightened social problems of our U.S. economy and the world, speaks to the millennials," said Edwards.

The Social E subject has become so popular that some schools have started to restructure their curriculum. Harvard University, for example, recently started offering social entrepreneurship classes and holds an annual Innovation Challenge where students are rewarded for their social start-ups.

At Babson College, there are now 17 courses devoted to social entrepreneurship, up from just five in 2005. Furthermore, all freshmen take a Social E course that includes 20 hours of community service and requires them to launch a venture that is funded by the college.

Stanford's Alternative Spring Break program sends students to various social enterprises from education to criminal rehabilitations. Students also have the opportunity to build their own social enterprise through grants.

"Coming to Stanford was an amazing way to get immersed in the world of 'Social E', " said sophomore Nishant Jacob, who ran a small start-up in Bangalore before being admitted to Stanford. He said he decided to go to Stanford because of the school's social entrepreneurship opportunities.

Whether it's selling grilled cheese sandwiches or creating and launching a venture, it's clear that students around the country want to make a difference.

"There is a greater recognition today among young people that regardless of sector or profession, they have an active responsibility to meaningfully address some of the intractable social challenges that we are facing," said Gabriel Brodbar, director of New York University's Reynolds Program in Social Entrepreneurship.


Compiled by Heidi M. Agustin

Sources:

"Colleges offer 'Social E' classes," CNN.com, November 23, 2010, Alexandra Peterson

"FeelGood World: Our Program," feelgoodworld.org

"One grilled cheese sandwich at a time," manchesterjournal.com, October 24, 2010, Andrew McKeever

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