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New MMC Business Course Turns Students into Social Entrepreneurs

What if you could spend an entire semester innovating and problem-solving like a social entrepreneur?

For the past two semesters, MMC Executive Director of Academic Operations Tseday Alehegn, Ed.D. has been teaching a popular new Business course in Social Entrepreneurship.

Having come from an interdisciplinary background and worked at a biotech startup out of college, Alehegn wants the course to inspire students to think more broadly about their careers. “You have many avenues in life outside of just graduating from school and getting a job in a corporation,” she says.

Alehegn designed the course to provide an overview of ways in which innovation is being used by social entrepreneurs to address diversity and equity issues. At the same time, her syllabus includes a unique pathway for students to channel their own big ideas.

Throughout the semester, students draft mini business plans proposing tangible solutions to real-life issues. Case studies across various sectors provide a framework for discussion and offer students inspiration for determining what is missing in social entrepreneurship and which digital tools, such as web apps, QR codes, and virtual reality, can be used to support their missions. Some students even prototype their own digital tools for implementation.

From food insecurity and racial inequity to access disparity, healthcare inequality, and environmental sustainability, students across all majors have the opportunity to mastermind the social change they wish to see.

One of Alehegn’s previous students, Dance major Ansley Escalona, presented a pitch during the spring semester to make dance therapy accessible to people outside of the dance community. Escalona unveiled her plan to use a digital app to reach out to a diverse audience including individuals recovering from injuries, patients with neurodegenerative diseases, and young children in homeschool environments.

“For a dancer to take a business course and be able to apply it to her passions of extending the benefits of dance and embodied learning to the greater community —that is something that you don’t really see at other bigger institutions,” Alehegn states.

Earlier this year, Finance major Maximas Gomez had conceptualized a mission-based coffee shop geared to addressing race and discrimination for at-risk youth in Brazil. When COVID affected his opportunity to study abroad, Gomez recalled a passage from class that hit home. “It talked about how foreign social entrepreneurs often come into foreign countries with some kind of savior complex,” says Gomez. “They overlook the problems in their own country.” Now, Gomez is enrolled in the Social Entrepreneurship course a second time around with a new and refined business plan for social change.

Gomez shifted his focus to a public health issue in New York City that he feels can be addressed using modern-day technology. “The lack of public bathrooms and lack of maintenance in public bathrooms really amplified during the pandemic. It is a huge issue of public health, hygiene, dignity, and livability,” he says.

Alehegn’s hands-on course offering prompted Gomez to come up with a solution that could drastically improve the public restroom situation in the City. “I want to see retrofitted bathrooms with QR codes and a geolocation feature to make them more available than they might usually be,” Gomez says. His goal is for NYC public restrooms to be as easy to find and use as a Citi Bike.

Alehegn believes Gomez and his peers are fully capable of seeing these types of goals come to fruition.

“I look forward to the innovative social entrepreneurship programs and services that MMC students will conceptualize as they bring both their interdisciplinary experiences and passion for social justice into the classroom, and I’m equally excited about how they plan to take their social venture blueprints out into the world and make their mark as change leaders,” Alehegn shares.

Students interested in learning about how they can make a big impact in their future can look out for this unique special topics course in Spring 2022 titled Implementing Entrepreneurship - Utilizing Digital Technologies for Civic Engagement and Social Good.