Feature News

New course project wins EntrepreneurshipU Award

May 02, 2017

A new North Central College course and its class project, the Social Innovation Challenge, were recognized as the Social Entrepreneurship Initiative of the Year.  

“What could be better than the very first time you offer a course and the first time you create and implement the challenge that it ends up winning an award,” said Tom Cavenagh, Schneller Sisters Professor of Leadership, Ethics and Values (LEV), professor of business law and conflict resolution, and director of LEV.

North Central was honored for its high level of student engagement, innovative ideas and individual student projects. The award was an EntrepreneurshipU Award, an initiative of the Future Founders Startup program.

Jeremy Gudauskas ’99, associate dean of students, and Whitney Roberts ’08/M ’13, assistant director for civic engagement, launched the Social Innovation Challenge as part of their courses, LEV 335 Social Impact Entrepreneurship and LEV 301 Social Change and Servant Leadership. Taught during fall term, the combined classes of 50 students collaborated in workshops, heard guest speakers and worked on similar goals for their final projects.

[Photo, below: Whitney Roberts ’08/M ’13 and Jeremy Gudauskas ’99]

The class projects included a proposal for an innovative or social project, an implementation and budget plan, and a pitch to a panel of judges.

“A lot of schools have pitch competitions, but not many fully focus on a social impact component,” said Roberts.

Projects ranged from designing ways to support mothers in Honduras with skill development and job placement to working to relieve education inequality among Latino students through better legislation. Ten finalists were chosen to compete in the Social Innovation Challenge, which was open to all students, and four projects were named winners. Students of the winning projects received mentoring, guidance and financial resources to turn their ideas into reality.

“We saw an opportunity to focus on course content, which led to great context and students thinking about projects related to real social impact outcomes. These are values of the institution,” said Roberts. “And we had a chance to tailor a pitch competition with social innovation and resources from various grants to back it up.”

“This award,” said Cavenagh, “recognizes a class and the challenge, which are part of a much bigger picture that in some ways is becoming the LEV brand: social innovation, social impact, social change. LEV is all about giving students options to enhance and enlarge what they’re doing in their disciplines, making them better at what they do, and better leaders and citizens.”

North Central is known nationwide for its entrepreneurship efforts, said Gudauskas. “It was good for the College to be recognized locally, too, and included in a cohort of Chicago-area schools that are doing some really interesting things. One of our goals in LEV and as a college is to be recognized as a dedicated leader and changemaker in our field.”

[Photo, below: Tom Cavenagh, Schneller Sisters Professor of Leadership, Ethics and Values]