Fight the power! Constructively, of course.

As part of the Victors for Michigan fundraising campaign, LSA hopes to raise $400 million, a fraction of the campaign’s $4 billion goal. Pending donor support, the college has already announced its intention to begin a Social Innovation Alliance Center to find solutions to expansive social issues.

Although the center’s planning is still in its early stages, SIA aspires to have a $4 million endowment and contribute funds to annual fellowships, one-credit mini-courses, summer innovation grants and an annual social innovation challenge as a result of the campaign. Specific programs will be developed as donor support increases.

The new center will partner with optiMize, a student-run organization with an analogous mission.

Philip Deloria, LSA’s associate dean for undergraduate education, wrote in a statement that the center reflects larger goals within the college such as using a diverse education to challenge and solve real-world problems.

“The Social Innovation Alliance unites the energy and ideas of committed students with a support structure that will enable them to bring those ideas to fruition,” Deloria wrote.

After serving as optiMize’s organizational sponsor, LSA has expanded its commitment to the center’s creation. Since students founded the organization, Deloria said the Social Innovation Alliance Center will function as a “hybrid” — helping provide resources, support and infrastructure while maintaining student leadership in innovation.

Rackham student Jeff Sorensen, co-founder of optiMize, said his time as an LSA undergraduate made him realize that students have the capacity to solve global issues, but often have no clear path to do it.

He created optiMize with several other students to provide a platform where students could take action. While the organization’s membership has swelled from three to 30 participants, Sorensen said the new center will allow the organization’s reach to continue to grow.

“I hope that every student that comes to Michigan won’t find barriers to entering a program that helps them utilize the passions that they have for solving important problems in the world and start taking these steps towards making that a reality for them the rest of their lives,” Sorensen said.

Since the program will be student-led, Deloria said he hopes it can establish a transitional leadership position — a Social Innovation fellowship — to lead the program. The fellow may be a recent graduate who is willing to further the center’s goals.

Considering that the Victors for Michigan campaign just launched, SIA is still a concept that can be changed or revised to reflect the course of the fundraising initiative. In the meantime, Deloria wrote that he hopes to work with the students involved in the organization.

While courses at the University are often only one semester long, Sorensen said that he hopes the organization and the center will allow students to expand their knowledge outside of the classroom, making their courses a lifelong experience.

“I don’t see it as a semester program or college experience,” Sorensen said. “I think it’s a movement that once you join, your life afterwards would be different.”

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