At George Williams College, social entrepreneurship is infused throughout the general education curriculum. Guided by the belief that education should teach skills, develop values and contribute to the well-being of others, the curriculum incorporates interdisciplinary learning with service to society at the forefront. When undergraduates complete their general education requirements along with their main courses of study, they will graduate with a minor in social entrepreneurship.
As a new professor at the college, Dr. Stephani Richards-Wilson is applying her passion for leadership and social transformation to her courses. “Social entrepreneurship is a way to impact society and to understand what it means to become a change-maker to improve the human condition,” she said. “It prepares students for today’s globalized interconnected world and allows them to learn skills that they can apply in any context.”
With doctorates in German and education with an emphasis in leadership studies, Richards-Wilson brings her experience as an educator, administrator and researcher to courses that benefit students in any major of study. For the professor, the road to social entrepreneurship was a natural progression. “I always had a life-long interest in global studies,” she said. “I studied German and worked for seven years as an international marketing specialist where I was able to use my languages.”
“In leadership studies we teach theory, but through social entrepreneurship we implement those visionary ideas and apply what has been learned,” she said. “I enjoy teaching students the principles and basics, but what I am partial to is the application of these concepts. The students are putting the wheels in motion.”
GWC undergrads are currently creating social venture plans on subjects such as homelessness, recycling, teen pregnancy, animal welfare, domestic violence, human trafficking and eating disorders. Later in the spring semester, undergrads will raise awareness of their projects across campus, and in April, they present their plans to colleagues and the community through a college-wide research fair.
“What I love most about GWC is the interdisciplinary collaboration,” said Richards-Wilson. “My colleagues are always thinking of student inclusion in other collegiate projects. This, coupled with the one-on-one interaction between students and faculty, is an exceptional asset to the college.”
She adds that teaching inspires her every day. “My students’ enthusiasm and openness to learning about social problems is a motivator for me because they are curious as they embrace the materials,” she said. “Our first-year students are accomplishing things that other colleges can only offer at the graduate level.”