Written Articles

Wylie Merrit on computer

Design Student Teams with Entrepreneurs to Illustrate Impact

Miller Center is helping to cultivate the next generation of change makers by engaging more students in meaningful learning and professional development opportunities with social entrepreneurs.

Through the teamwork of Miller Center’s Senior Director of Mentor Network, Lynne Anderson, and SCU Asst. Art Professor Qiuwen Li, Miller Center recently selected six graphic design students to work as paid interns with the 2022 In-Residence cohort in April. The cohort consisted of 16 alumni enterprises representing some of the most promising leaders directly addressing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, with a focus on women’s economic empowerment, climate resilience, or the intersection of both.

Professor Qiuwen Li explained, “This internship opportunity was an exciting way for our students to get valuable experience. It also helped reinforce their knowledge of responsibility and gave our students the confidence for pursuing creative careers in the future. Learning and applying knowledge in the real world is the best way to prepare our students for jobs in the creative fields. The opportunity that Lynne Anderson and the Miller Center offered helped our students develop skills that they can’t get in a classroom — skills such as communicating, getting feedback, and dealing with deadlines. These are different when students are working directly with a real client than in a design course.”

When Wylie Merritt, Class of 2023, learned of the opportunity to engage with social enterprises from around the world while expanding her professional art portfolio, she jumped at the opportunity. Wylie is a double major in Studio Art and Communication, and hopes to begin her career as a graphic designer after college. Wylie spent the week of the In-Res program working closely with two social enterprises, Awaaz.de from India and Taimba from East Africa.

Awaaz.De is a technology startup that develops mobile solutions for financial organizations to connect with last-mile communities. With over 680,000 users, they provide access to finance for India’s underbanked. CEO Neil Patel asked Wylie to finalize their short pitch deck for the program’s mock investor sessions and help strengthen their long pitch deck for future presentations. “It was a trial-and-error experience in the beginning. We had to get to know each other and build trust. Once he was comfortable with my skills, he gave me the freedom to be creative.”

Wylie also partnered with Taimba, an agri-tech company that works with rural smallholder farmers to deliver fresh produce directly to the traders at below-market prices. Their innovative, data-driven supply chain reduces food waste and has increased farmer income by more than 15%. Wylie worked with CEO Dominique Kavuisya to strengthen their social media presence and finalize marketing pieces. “I connected with Dominique and his team. They allowed me to take the lead on the graphics. It has been such a great experience that they extended my project beyond the In-Res week.”

Awaaz.de and Taimba treated Wylie like a professional and gave her more confidence in her skills, both as a graphic designer and as a businesswoman. The experience validated her academic and career choices. “Working with the social enterprises has been, in a word, affirming. I learned so much from my clients, gaining valuable experience and several portfolio pieces. Most of all, it has affirmed my choice to pursue graphic design as a career. I’m passionate about helping my clients translate their mission and vision to graphics and I can’t wait to continue doing this into my future.”


Miller Center Makes Impact on Fulbright Fellows

Congratulations to Miller Center Fellows Maggie Menendez and Cate Ralph for being accepted into the prestigious Fulbright Fellowship program. Fulbright is considered the flagship of the U.S. State Department’s exchange program and sponsors a year of teaching, research, or graduate study abroad with a focus on building mutual understanding through education and cultural exchange. Cate will conduct research on the impact social enterprises have on gender perceptions in India, and Maggie will teach English to university-level students in Columbia.

As a freshman, Cate joined Santa Clara University’s student organization, Into the Wild, and it was there that she learned about Miller Center. The outdoor wilderness program was led by upperclassmen who were also Miller Center Fellows. Cate was intrigued by their work with social enterprises and working on the frontlines to eradicate poverty. “I watched them have real life-changing experiences, and I knew I wanted to be challenged in the same way.”

Cate applied for the Miller Center Fellowship and was selected, along with classmate Emma Sand, to work with Oorja Development Solutions, a social enterprise that finances and installs solar mini-grids in rural communities in Uttar Pradesh. Their fellowship project focused on expanding Oorja’s impact by increasing its number of female customers by 20%, hiring more women, and facilitating gender inclusion throughout the organization. Cate’s time with Oorja taught her new ways to effectively communicate with people from other cultures. She even had sticky notes next to her computer to remind her that American norms are different in other countries. She is taking this knowledge with her as she starts the Fulbright program and expands her research on gender perceptions.

As a freshman, Maggie was accepted to SCU as a Johnson Scholar and University Honors Student. She is fluent in Spanish and French, designed her own independent major, has earned a minor in Art History, and is an avid traveler. One of the first courses Maggie took at SCU was Preparing Fellowships and Graduate School Applications, taught by Professors Stephen Carroll and Naomi Levy. This course encourages students to extend their intellectual development beyond the classroom. Through these teachings, Maggie learned about Miller Center and the student fellows who help scale social enterprises in developing countries. The idea of working with people from other countries piqued her interest. “The social entrepreneurship words were new to me, but I realized it very much made sense and aligned with my interests.”

Maggie applied to the Miller Center Fellowship as a junior and was accepted, along with classmate Camryn Fischer, to work with Development in Gardening (DIG), a social enterprise that teaches the most uniquely vulnerable people how to plant regenerative gardens for better nutrition, health, and wellbeing. Their project focused on researching and creating a visually comprehensive, field-friendly guide to help farmers identify which crops best served the needs of the community. The team learned that local facilitators responded best to visual aids that were easy to understand, quick to use, and independent of technology. Maggie will use this experience to expand upon her work in Columbia. In addition to teaching English, Maggie is conducting research on the use of art as a form of cultural exchange.

Professor Carroll, who teaches Santa Clara University’s Fellowships course, is a Senior Lecturer and Miller Center Fellowship Academic Director. He taught both Maggie and Cate. “Their experiences working with social enterprises and the people those enterprises serve, in combination with the intensive vocational discernment work they did in the second half of the fellowship, have launched Maggie and Cate on a life path quite different from the ones they imagined only a year ago — a path characterized by an expanded vision of our global community and the needs of the diverse people that comprise it, a path that seeks to redress unjust social realities, increase agency, and give voice to those who have been voiceless. In pursuing these new paths, Maggie and Cate beautifully manifest the vision and values of the Miller Center Lewis Family Fellowship and demonstrate the courage that following your calling with a full heart requires and the excitement and joy that doing so brings.”

The fellowship program at Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship, introduced in 2012, is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. To date, the program includes 14 Fulbright Scholars, 3 SCU Valedictorians, 172 fellowship alumni, and 64 total action research projects. If you are a Santa Clara University student interested in applying to the fellowship program, please register your interest here. The Center also runs a student internship program.