Social Innovation Fellows

Gumball Challenge

The Social Innovation Fellows (SIF) Program immerses students in the process of seeking innovative solutions for social transformation through business principles and hands-on engagements with for-profit and nonprofit organizations. Whereas many people in the past sought to change society through activism, today individuals are creating groundbreaking alternatives – entrepreneurial ventures that address social and environmental issues.

The program features a cornerstone course, an interactive practicum experience, an optional internship, and co-curricular programming aimed at developing skills in the areas of sustainability, social enterprise/entrepreneurship, impact investing, marketing, and new media. Students leave the program with a deep understanding of how to apply their business skills toward addressing issues of social and environmental importance in large and small organizations alike. This is a highly interactive, experiential, and dynamic program.

Melissa Carrier is the Faculty Champion for this program.

What SIF Students Have to Say

“The Social Innovation Fellows program is THE platform for students interested in sustainable, green, and social business solutions. Before I entered the program, I was one of the few people I knew who even understood what social entrepreneurship was, let alone had an interest in it. To my surprise, Social Innovation Fellows immersed me in a room full of students with the same passion for learning how business could make the world a better place.” – Ryan Steinbach, Finance & Marketing, 2012

“The program is incredibly unique and taking it was probably one of the best decisions I’ve made at UMD.  Not only do you learn things you wouldn’t in any other business class, but you use your creativity and analytical skills in a whole new way.” – Dipti Badrinath, Finance, 2012

“That’s what I love most about the Social Innovation Fellows Program – the hands-on experiences that will shape you as a business student AND a significant contributor to society.” – Rebecca Marklin, Marketing, 2012

Curriculum - 1-year program (counts toward Management major)

BMGT468V - Transformative Action – Effective Methods for Social Change (3 credits), Fall 

BMGT468W - Social Innovation Practicum (3 credits), Spring 

BMGT 468V Transformative Action – Effective Methods for Social Change:

This course introduces students to the most effective methods of social change and explores the role of business in addressing social and environmental problems. We examine methods that vacillate from traditional approaches of activism to cutting-edge solutions from social entrepreneurs, innovators, and visionaries for solving society’s problems.

The first few weeks of the course introduce students to many case studies of success in restoring the environment, addressing gaps in education, curing diseases, overcoming poverty, and addressing other problems of market failures through business in an active discussion. Students also compete in the Gumball Challenge - a fabulous fun lesson in entrepreneurship. Guest speakers from organizations such as FINCA, Ashoka, and the SEED School frequent the class, providing “in-the-field” perspective through their experiences.

Their experiences:

The second half of the course teaches the skills, strategies, and ideas of effective changemakers in the 21st century and equips students with the tools and skills of social entrepreneurship – to use within corporate organizations or while starting your own. The culmination of the class is an original business plan for social innovation: a creative proposal for solving a societal problem based on students' interest.

BMGT 468W - Social Innovation Practicum:

Working in teams of 4 or 5, students immerse themselves in a social issue of common concern through either a service practicum with a social enterprise, corporation or nonprofit organization, or by taking their business plan from the Fall semester to the next phase of implementation.

Student projects are developed in partnership with the organizations but the goal of the practicum is two-fold: 1) help an organization (either existing or self-created) develop a new entrepreneurial service or program to address a specific pressing social need in the community, and 2) provide students with a deep understanding of the root causes of a particular social issue and how those can be best addressed through entrepreneurial action using their business knowledge. Past projects have included engagements with the Grameen Foundation, IBM, and Grassroots Business Fund.

Social Innovation Practicuum

Optional Internship:

Students are encouraged to seek part-time or summer internships with innovative nonprofit and/or for-profit organizations addressing social and environmental issues. In collaboration with the Center for Social Value Creation, students will be presented with internship opportunities to be immersed in social entrepreneurship through projects sourced with national and international renowned partners such as Ashoka, USAID, and others.

Co-Curricular Activities:

Fellows are required to attend two co-curricular activities each semester as well as attend the annual Social Enterprise Symposium in March. Students are also highly encouraged to network with organizations in the social enterprise space through exclusive opportunities provided such as conference passes and travel. The program is also evaluating options for a partially subsidized spring break global studies trip in social innovation.

Social Innovation Fellos

Fellows Application Eligibility:

  • Must be a Business Major (You may apply if you are applying to Smith for 2014-2015.)
  • Rising Junior or Senior (Sophomores with advanced standing will be considered.)
  • 3.0 GPA preferred

Application Process:

The priority application deadline for Social Innovation Fellows was February 10. There are a few remaining spots intended for transfer students. Applications are due at 11:59pm on May 4.

Access the application here. Note: You cannot save and go back to your application, so have your resume and cover letter explaining your interest in Social Innovation Fellows ready to upload.

Questions? Contact Emily Doane (edoane@rhsmith.umd.edu).