Social entrepreneurship gains momentum on campus

Posted on January 6, 2015

SEI retreat smile

Students, faculty, and staff members attended SEI retreat sessions on campus.

In the spring of 2014 the Erskine College faculty approved a new minor in Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation (SEI), and in the fall of 2014 the Erskine Theological Seminary faculty approved a Graduate Certificate in Social Entrepreneurship. A core team of faculty, staff, students, and alumni are working to develop the SEI program.

The context for Erskine’s social entrepreneurship efforts includes a sharpened focus on vocation and calling, supported by a grant from the Network for Vocation in Undergraduate Education (NetVUE), a program administered by the Council of Independent Colleges. The grant, which dates from January 2014, can be used through January 2016.

Erskine’s growing SEI program has gained the attention of the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Foundation. Erskine was approached by the foundation in the spring of 2014 to partner in the Campus Plan Program with Berry College. The two schools are working with the Sullivan Foundation to expand and enhance their respective programs in social entrepreneurship.

At Erskine, students, professors, and staff members have contributed to SEI. Sophomore Kristen Craft of Anderson, S.C., joined the Erskine SEI Team as a Sullivan Campus Ambassador; Erskine hosted student and faculty-staff retreat sessions on campus in September 2014; and one of Erskine’s Sullivan Faculty Fellows, Assistant Professor of Business Administration Karen Mattison, participated in the Sullivan Foundation’s Fall Retreat in North Carolina.

download-5The Sullivan Foundation expects Faculty Fellows to develop a specific project that integrates the concepts of social innovation and entrepreneurship into their work and teaching, and Mattison said meeting with other Faculty Fellows from various disciplines “offered helpful insights on the projects.”

Her project, Mattison said, is the development of a Winter Term course for 2016, “Planning to Make a Difference.” She describes it as “a logistics course to help students plan how to get from an idea to an end product,” looking at examples of successful social entrepreneurship. As part of the course, students will plan a campus event, “What Is Social Entrepreneurship?”

Mattison notes that Associate Professor of Music Dr. Brad Parker is also a Sullivan Faculty Fellow. He is currently presenting a Winter Term course, “Poverty—An Investigation.”

Erskine teamed with the Global Entrepreneurship Week program in November as a GEW Partner and hosted a coffeehouse conversation on social ventures and vocation for the Erskine community.

Erskine’s SEI team will be hosting on-campus events, continuing to work on the Faculty Fellows Project, and offering students the chance to participate in the Sullivan Foundation’s Social Entrepreneurship Boot Camp.

The SEI program brings Erskine’s perspective to the global conversation on creating social change, in keeping with its 175-year history as a Christian liberal arts college where students are motivated by their calling from God.