The College of LSA, in partnership with student organization optiMize, has proposed a new model to boost student-driven creative innovation called the LSA Social Innovation Alliance. The program proposes to support one-credit developmental mini-courses, an annual Social Innovation Challenge, Summer Innovation Grants and the creation of a 15-month SIA fellowship. Currently, LSA is seeking financial support of $4 million to endow the SIA program and about $200,000 annually. Given the positive response and demand from both the administration and the student population, the University should make this program a priority and reach out to donors.
The main opportunity SIA presents is the creation of new one-credit mini-courses that will focus on critical, real-world issues, like education. A one-credit mini-course launched this academic year by LSA. With a low-barrier to entry, the courses are an appealing option for students with all types of course loads. This new section filled up extremely fast with a waitlist of seven people and attracted a diverse group of students. The demographics of the optiMize Social Innovation Challenge last year included 50 percent LSA students, 28 percent Business School students and 22 percent of students distributed between other colleges.
The courses push students to devise practical, real-world solutions. The “Critical Issues in Education” mini-course description states that it aims to expose students to several of the most pressing facets of a particular social issue through presentations by guest speakers. The speakers end their presentations with a challenge for the students to design creative solutions to these problems. Students will also have to work with others within different majors and skill sets, as well as apply their own experiences to create innovative interdisciplinary solutions.
Aside from allowing students to network with other similar-minded, passionate students of different majors, the course also provides students with business networking opportunities with the speakers, who come from various walks of life. However, the program will need to draw on more outside resources — like local non-profits — to further expand and develop.
As social innovation increases by the hour, this is a program that requires further development and expansion. In a campus where words like “pitches,” “entrepreneurship” and “startups” are thrown around in the air frequently, it’s necessary to also focus on the passion, drive, and motivation behind entrepreneurship.