Expanding Social Entrepreneurship One Classroom at a Time


The study of social entrepreneurship is becoming increasingly popular as more students are using their education and skills to prepare them for purpose-driven careers. According to Ashoka U, a global network of social entrepreneurship educators, in 2020, over 3,000 universities offered at least one course on social entrepreneurship or related fields such as impact investing or corporate social responsibility. The report also found that social entrepreneurship education is growing rapidly, with a 70% increase in the number of universities offering such courses since 2013. We believe this trend will continue, as student demand grows for more programs that teach social entrepreneurship and business principles focused on creating a positive global social impact.

Here at Miller Center, we welcome the opportunity to introduce faculty and students to the field of social entrepreneurship. We encourage professors to bring their research and teachings around social change into the classroom and share their knowledge with students across all disciplines. Laura Robinson and I co-teach SOCI 184 Social Entrepreneurship, a required course for student fellows. Laura has found that one of the long lasting impacts of the Miller Center Lewis Family Fellowship is that student fellows are returning from travels and sharing their social entrepreneurship experience with classmates. This transfer of knowledge to a secondary group is creating a domino effect. More students are realizing they can be part of something that initiates change — they don’t have to wait to be invited. It’s all part of our hope to introduce social entrepreneurship to students, one classroom at a time.

Each fall, Miller Center’s call for research proposals invites faculty to apply for fellowships and grant funding. The resulting research provides an exceptionally valuable contribution to social enterprise education at Santa Clara University, and beyond. Funding for these projects falls into two categories: Faculty Grants and Faculty Fellowships.

Grant recipients work to develop and execute projects that reflect Miller Center’s mission to eradicate global poverty and protect the planet. It’s an honor to announce Miller Center’s 2022-2023 Faculty Grant Recipients:

Faculty Grant Recipients

Naran Agrawal, Information Systems and Analytics

An Exploration of Supply Chain and Operational Challenges and Opportunities in the Social Entrepreneurship Sector. This project will identify the salient practical challenges, solutions to the most pressing problems, and leading-edge best practices.

Iris Stewart-Frey, Environmental Studies and Sciences, and Ed Maurer, Civil and Environmental Engineering

Assessing the Social Impact of Short-Term Climate Forecasts for Smallholder Communities in Northern Nicaragua. The research will assess the impact of climate forecasting information on users’ health, risk reduction, and preparedness.

Jesica Siham Fernández, Ethnic Studies

The Youth for Justice Project (YJP) Afterschool Program: Engaging and Fostering Social Entrepreneurship Perspectives for Social Change. This project will use social entrepreneurship as a framework, process, and practice to engage preadolescent youth in critical thinking and understanding of social issues and change, and how these intersect with economic justice for community wellbeing.

Wilson Lin, Information Systems & Analytics

Effectiveness of Rainwater Harvesting Solutions. The research will be conducted in partnership with social enterprise, Gravity Water, to identify innovative solutions for providing clean drinking water and support positive health, education, and social outcomes for children worldwide.

Faculty Fellows

Fellowships are co-designed with Miller Center to simultaneously support the scholarship of faculty while also contributing practical knowledge, such as a white paper, to our partners, stakeholders, and the greater social entrepreneurship ecosystem. Fellowship proposals must align with our strategic plans, advance the knowledge of social entrepreneurship and create social value. Most fellowships are 18 months in duration. The following scholars are current Miller Center Faculty Fellows:

Laura Robinson, Sociology

Miller Center Fellows: Where Are They Now? This project provides the first comprehensive quantitative and qualitative data set on the long-term impact of the Miller Center Fellowship on the trajectories of its student-researcher alumni and their post-graduate success. 

Long Le, Management and Entrepreneurship

On the Road to 500: Defining, Measuring, and Teaching Social Entrepreneurship Mindset at Santa Clara University. This research will develop an index to measure social entrepreneurial mindset (SEM) and an evidence-based module for teaching SEM.

Chan Thai, Communication

Evidence of Impact: Program Evaluation of 3 Miller Center Social Enterprises. This project will develop evidence-based best practices and lessons learned for social enterprises’ theory of change.

Student Fellowship Teaching Team

The cross-disciplinary teaching team comprised of faculty and Miller Center staff supports the curriculum, integrates peer educators from former student fellowship cohorts, and travels with the students in the summer to conduct research with social enterprise partners, domestically and globally. Many faculty integrate their own Miller Center research into their work with the Miller Center Lewis Family Fellowship. The fellowship curriculum includes business and social entrepreneurship content, social science research methods, critical social justice theory, discussions on practicing cultural humility and honoring human dignity, and exercises in vocational discernment. As part of the summer travel, I will be traveling with three students to Good Nature Agro, a social enterprise in Zambia that scales rural smallholder farmers to reach the middle class by growing high-value legumes for premium markets. Other team members traveling include:

Marco Bravo, Graduate School of Education and Counseling Psychology, will travel with three students to SuitUp, a social enterprise in New York equipping students beyond the classroom by partnering with schools, youth organizations, and businesses to ensure that all students have the access and awareness to pursue the college and career of their choosing.

Shoba Krishnan, Electrical and Computer Engineering, will accompany two students to Kinsangas, a social enterprise in India empowering farmers to develop sustainable agricultural practices by converting manure and waste into biogas for energy and fertilizer.

Leslie Gray, Environmental Studies, will travel with two students to All Across Africa, a social enterprise in Rwanda that invests in rural artisans to generate a permanent gain in family income.

Linda Gentry, who manages campus engagement for Miller Center, will travel with two students to Likha, a social enterprise in the Philippines empowering rural artisans to overcome poverty by introducing their products into the global marketplace.

Iris Stewart-Frey, Environmental Studies, will accompany two students to Jibu, a social enterprise in Rwanda that capitalizes, equips, and trains emerging entrepreneurs to create affordable access to drinking water.

Marqus Korantang, who manages marketing for the LEAD Scholar program, will travel with two students to the social enterprise Ignite Capital, a subsidiary of Innovation Works in Baltimore, addressing the critical gap in access to capital for historically underserved entrepreneurs in Baltimore communities.

Stephen Carroll, English, is teaching the peer educator course that connects former fellows with new fellows to support their research design.

Miller Center Fellowship Teaching Team
(Missing from photo: Laura Robinson and Stephen Carroll)

Note to Santa Clara University Faculty: Miller Center is holding its next Social Impact & Social Entrepreneurship Syllabus Workshop in June. The two-day workshop (June 23-24) kicks off with a welcome dinner on June 22. Faculty who take part in the workshop will receive a stipend and invitation to join our Miller Center Faculty Scholars group. Please reach out to Jennifer Merritt with questions.