The most valuable lessons I learned at Wooster, the ones I draw upon in my daily work and in job interviews, are rooted in a challenge made to a class of social entrepreneurship students one Saturday morning in January 2009. As I listened to the presentation that day, little did I know of the journey ahead of me.
It would take me to the other side of the world, twice. It has brought together teams of students to tackle real world problem-solving in the social sector, armed with unbridled idealism and strong research and writing skills. In the beginning, it involved late Friday nights in Andrews Library, Saturday sessions in Morgan Hall, and weekly 8am meetings in Old Main. It then resulted in a successfully-funded business plan which led to the creation an award-winning study abroad program in Bangalore, India. It furthered my exploration and understanding of a different culture, pushing me to grapple with social justice and inequality along new dimensions. It has inspired a solid conviction that, yes, I really can do anything — especially if it seems impossible.
My experiences in Social Entrepreneurship (SE) and Global Social Entrepreneurship (GSE) were somewhat unusual, for my SE team consulted the program itself on how to create GSE. I am a firm believer in the transformative impact of such experiential education experiences, for engaging in this interdisciplinary and cross-cultural collaboration allowed to build stronger capacities in research, critical thinking, and problem-solving in a real world context. The task of writing a compelling business plan involved working effectively with a team accomplish the following: clearly articulating the vision and goals for the program or product, connecting opportunity recognition to the organization’s strengths and strategic goals, conducting market research and risk analysis, detailing necessary resources and financial information, and synthesizing these complex elements into a cohesive document. This in-depth exposure to the process of translating a goal or vision into an actionable plan has proved invaluable to me in my career and crucial to my professional success.
In my GSE placement, I worked with EnAble India, a nonprofit which connects persons with disabilities with meaningful job opportunities by making a compelling business case for hiring a diverse workforce. My team developed a proposal for EnAble India to scale their operations nationally through a mixed model of nonprofit partnerships and social entreprises. Since then, EnAble India has formed a company that consults the private sector on workplace solutions, providing an important revenue source for the organization.
The return on investment for the GSE program is two-fold — benefitting the nonprofit partners and communities while also empowering the students themselves. When I plan where I’d like to be in ten years, the scale upon which I am able to envision my success is directly informed by the impact of GSE’s pedagogy. It taught me to believe in something impossible — and then, go do it!
Marianne majored in Urban Studies while at Wooster and researched education policy in Miami-Dade County, Florida for her senior IS. She subsequently joined AmeriCorps and taught 9th grade math for two years through City Year Miami. Marianne then served as the 2014 Eli Segal Fellow at the Corporation for National and Community Service where she provided the implementation leadership for Employers of National Service, an initiative announced by President Obama on the 20th anniversary of AmeriCorps. She now works for Volunteer Tennessee as their AmeriCorps Program Manager, supporting 17 organizations across the state which receive federal funding for national service programs.
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