Belmont University opened today the Center for Social Entrepreneurship and Service-Learning as the home base for its new undergraduate major in social entrepreneurship, the first of its kind nationwide.
Led by Dr. Bernard Turner, an educator with extensive experience with nonprofit organizations, Belmont’s new major centers on the emerging business field that tackles social problems and unmet community needs via entrepreneurial principles. “We will prepare students to be change makers and to go out and transform the world by addressing or helping to alleviate social problems through sound business efforts,” Turner said. “Students will also gain experiential learning through a 225-hour internship during their junior year with a nonprofit or social entrepreneur, further preparing them to pursue their passions regarding a social venture.”
Kris Prendergast, president & CEO of Social Enterprise Alliance, provided the keynote talk at a Town Hall Meeting held on campus to celebrate the launch of the Center for Social Entrepreneurship and Service-Learning. She was joined by CEOs from Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee, Goodwill Industries and Nashville Area Habitat for Humanity to discuss social enterprise and the future of the nonprofit sector. The Social Enterprise Alliance is the chief national advocate for the field of social entrepreneurship, serving as a hub of information and education and builder of a vibrant and growing community of social enterprises.
Belmont’s interdisciplinary major in social entrepreneurship incorporates business courses and thematic tracks in the liberal arts and requires students to complete nine hours in social entrepreneurship, 18 hours in entrepreneurship and 18 hours in a select track (Economic Development/ Global Social Entrepreneurship/ Contemporary Social Issues/ Faith, Culture and Ethics/ Environmental Studies) for the 45-hour major.
Paul Malone, a senior Honors Student and Social Entrepreneurship major, said, “I feel that social entrepreneurship is a meeting of practical business concepts and high moral aims to benefit humanity. This being the case, I feel that social entrepreneurship is exactly what I want to study in order to lead a fulfilling life while benefitting and working for my fellow human beings.”
While an entrepreneur starts a business with a financial return in mind, a social entrepreneur recognizes a social problem and uses entrepreneurial principles to create and manage a venture to produce social change. A social entrepreneur assesses success in terms of societal impact. Examples of nationally and locally recognized social entrepreneurship ventures include the following:
• CoolPeopleCare.org exists to motivate and educate people in order to mobilize them to change their worlds. Founded by Sam Davidson and Stephen Moseley (Belmont class of 1998), the key concept behind the site is a daily, 99-word article titled, “5 Minutes of Caring.” These motivational and informative articles provide concrete steps and suggestions on how to make an impact in a small amount of time. Supplementing the content is CoolPeopleCare’s very own “Act Locally” events calendar that lists any event that makes the world a better place.
• Docs For Tots is a network of doctors prepared to respond to the requests of child advocacy organizations and others who seek doctor involvement in promoting policies and practices that will improve the health and development of infants, toddlers and preschoolers.
• Pura Vida Coffee exists to support programs for families and children in coffee-growing communities throughout the world.
Currently, social entrepreneurship centers and classes exist at several major universities across the country, but the Belmont program represents the only focused undergraduate major. The mission statement for the new program states, “Belmont University’s Social Entrepreneurship Program prepares students to engage and transform the world through the formation or expansion of ventures that create social change. Our Social Entrepreneurs will be grounded in faith and values, shaped through experiential education and practical experience, and informed through the knowledge and skills drawn from diverse academic areas of study.”
The Center for Social Entrepreneurship and Service-Learning, housed at 1513 Compton Avenue, will be the “arm” that links the university in multiple ways to the community. It will offer workshops for faculty and students, regional and national conferences along with a speaker series. The Center will be staffed by Dr. Turner as the director, Tim Stewart as director of service-learning programs, an office manager, student workers and interns.