Another successful year conducting research for community impact!

July 18th, 2022

The Social Entrepreneurship (SE) program at The College of Wooster once again designed community-based projects that connected talented students seeking experiential learning opportunities with community leaders with real business needs.

Professor Melanie Long, Giselle Rivera ’24, Elizabeth Jha ’24, Amanda Iskin ’24, Sarah Brunot ’22, Ritwik Jha ’24, Iván Akiri ’22, Jaylin Hudson ’24, Sukriti Chiripal ’24, Professor Matt Mariola, and Professor Amyaz Moledina.

For more than 15 years, the program has paired mentored student teams with community organizations to work on social change projects. The 2022 participants served The Wilderness Center (TWC) of Wilmot, Ohio and Pathways to Prosperity, a multi-disciplinary project funded by a USDA grant.

Two interdisciplinary teams worked on projects for TWC, a long-time collaborator with the SE program. TWC Executive Director, Jeanne Gural, said the center was looking at its programs from a cost/benefit structure and addressing increasing costs. It asked Wooster students to benchmark how nature-based education programs are structured and how they are financed.

“In the past TWC was able to offer most of our programming for free or low cost and that simply is no longer the reality,” said Gural. “To create a more financially sustainable future, we needed to reassess and were looking for more information on how other centers have tackled these same issues.”

Iván Akiri ’22, Amanda Iskin ’24, and Giselle Rivera ’24 interviewed eight nature centers from around the country. A second student team comprised of Sarah Brunot ’22, Elizabeth Jha ’24, and Jaylin Hudson ’24 interviewed four nature-based educators and teachers in Northeast Ohio. The students synthesized their extensive interview data, identified key takeaways, and used them to inform their framework for impactful and sustainable nature center educational programming. They presented collective insights in a final report to TWC.

“We are very pleased with the outcome and report,” said Gural. “Our education team and committee are already in discussions on how best to incorporate the ideas on fundings as we move forward with plans for the fall semester.”

Melanie Long, assistant professor of economics and business economics, said one of the highlights of advising the TWC teams was seeing the students develop an understanding of problems that they were previously unfamiliar with—and often learning along with them. “In most cases, our students did not have expertise directly related to the areas of this year’s projects, such as STEM-based nature education or value-added agriculture,” said Long. “Yet by asking great questions and applying frameworks from social entrepreneurship, they gained deep knowledge in these areas.”

Sukriti Chiripal ’24 and Ritwik Jha ’24 partnered on the Pathways to Prosperity project in collaboration with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC). Pathways connects rigorous research with extension outreach to strengthen the value-added food and agricultural sector in rural communities.

Amyaz Moledina, associate professor of economics/global and international studies at Wooster, co-founded the SE program. He explained that the main goal of this second project was to reach out to key policymakers and gauge their awareness of the value of agriculture in Wayne and Holmes County.

“This team interviewed nine policymakers including the County Commissioners and the Mayors of Rittman and Orrville,” said Moledina. “The interviews helped to frame the recommendation of a food atlas specifically for value-added agriculture.”

Matt Mariola, assistant professor of environmental studies, has mentored six local SE student teams, including this one for Pathways to Prosperity. “The way in which the students pull together a real-world, deeply-researched, and fairly comprehensive action plan for a real-world local organization just never ceases to impress,” said Mariola. “There seems to be something about the real-world application, the fact that they are working for a community-based client, that spurs them to produce work that they may not achieve in a more traditional class.”

SE has worked with more than 40 clients since 2006 and provides more than $500,000 in value every year. Many clients proposed new business enterprises that have launched and grown to become important features of the local business ecosystem. Community organizations interested in discussing the possibility of student projects for Spring 2023 can contact Moledina to arrange a consultation meeting.

To see more pictures of the teams, check out our Flickr feed. This post first appeared on the College of Wooster News feed.

We are recruiting for Spring 2022!

October 31st, 2021

 Do you want a transformative learning experience like Samantha and Usman?

Why: You want a change from the traditional classroom. You are interested in social justice and want to address social challenges in our local community. You want to learn how social enterprises solve real-world problems and learn collaboratively with change makers. If any of this is true for you, please read more and take action.images

What: This Spring, the College’s Social Entrepreneurship Program is offering IDPT 40507 Local Social Entrepreneurship Seminar. The problems-based experiential-learning seminar will meet one time a week for two hours. Students earn 0.5 academic credits and EL credits.

How: Teams of three will be paired with a local nonprofit organization. You will work closely with the organizations all semester to help them solve a defined problem they are currently facing. Weekly seminar sessions will be led by Dr. Amyaz Moledina (Economics), Dr Matt Mariola (Env. Studies), and Dr Melanie Long (Economics). An expected outcome from the seminar is a business & marketing plan and a final presentation to the Board of the organization. No prior experience is necessary. We do require your enthusiasm, passion for the problem, and a strong work-ethic. Space in the seminar is limited. A short application is required. The deadline to submit your application is Wednesday November 10th at 11pm. The application requires you to write a cover letter, work on a resume, and an unofficial transcript. Please click on this link to start the application.

More info: Come to our information session on Friday November 5th at 12:00pm (noon). Please contact Professor Moledina if you have questions about the next SE opportunity.

Catalyzing Food Entrepreneurship

August 4th, 2021

Despite the pandemic, the SE program continued its commitment to working with social change organizations. Three students, Claira Schiffrik, Eraj Sikandar, and Keegan King advised by Professor Moledina worked with FoodSphere: the Entrepreneurial Center at Local Roots for the 2021 local SE seminar. FoodSphere is a new start-up organization. FoodSphere aims to cultivate economic growth and sustainability by supporting local farmers and entrepreneurs of value-added agricultural products in Wayne County. The student team researched the structure and operation of U.S. food incubators to understand “How successful food incubators organize and fund themselves”. Over the course of the Spring semester 2021, students conducted interviews on Zoom. They compiled their findings in a report that they presented to the Board of Directors of Food Sphere and other community members who are part of the local food movement in Wooster.

Keegan, Moledina, Eraj, and Claira

The findings stressed the importance of grants in the early stages of food incubators. As our students wrote in the final report: “Incubators operate with a combination of grants, philanthropic contributions, and fees for services. Incubators always rely heavily on grants in their early developmental stages. Many of them move away from grant reliance as their producers become more profitable and the Incubator earns more from fees. Revenue from fee-for-service can be maximized by providing a diverse range of services above and beyond training programs, such as using the kitchen space for co-manufacturing.”

The student research was part of $70,000 grant from the Ohio State University. To read more about the grant, see this news story. Stay tuned to this website to find out when the SE program will be recruiting students next.


Global SE pivots to Online

June 25th, 2020

The award-winning program, founded by students, alumni, faculty, and staff had great plans for 2020. However, with the reality of the COVID pandemic, we had to pivot.

As we planned for 2020 with our alums and partners, we came to a consensus that we wanted to celebrate ten years of our relationships with change agents in India. We agreed the best way to do so was to maintain a “community of practice” oriented towards social change. We coalesced around the goal of returning to Bangalore to work with our long-time partners as we have done in the past.

Working with the GEO office and GSE alums, we advertised the opportunity to students. Nine students were selected from competitive pool. The students: Maggie, Mahi, Mekdes, Nasua, Natsumi, Srushti, Teresa, Tristan, and  Zach, working with Moledina, began the spring semester in a seminar studying poverty, livelihoods, and inclusive educational practices in India. As the reality of the pandemic set-in, we realized that we would not be able to travel to Bangalore.

GSE 2020 Team

Front: Maggie, Nasua, Srushti, Natsumi and Mahi Back: Mekdes, Zach, Teresa, Tristan, and Moledina

As we spoke to our partners in India, we realized that COVID had made our work more urgent. The Indian lock-down had made more apparent the social divisions that we have been trying to address with our work. Educational opportunity was being denied to vulnerable groups such as migrant children, people that live in urban slums, as well as rural areas. Small scale farmer’s and villages that practice community-based entrepreneurship could not find a market for their goods. Caste-and-gender based discrimination were just as rampant and India was still struggling to be inclusive towards disabled people. We had to act!

Working with the GEO and Provost’s office, GSE was able to pivot to online. This is because the core of GSE’s praxis is students research teams that embed with our partners and work on change projects. This work could be done remotely. Sure, we were going to miss the immersion opportunity – the opportunity to be in fellowship with our partners around lunches, cultural events – the stuff of life that bonds us, and helps us collectively participate in our common humanity. With the knowledge that we would miss this dimension, this courageous band of students agreed to work on the project remotely. We could “stay in place” and still work in solidarity.

What have our projects been? We returned to work with EnAble India on two projects. The first EnAble project designs a process that would allow it to be part of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Global Compact. The second project is to create a Network for Inclusive Technologies and Solutions in India. We began this commemorative year working with Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI), an international coalition of rights-based organizations. RRI’s goal is to secure land and resource rights for 2.5 billion Indigenous Peoples and local communities. This opportunity with RRI came about because of our co-Founder, Laura Valencia, has been a consistent champion for exposure to subaltern social movements. The RRI project uses a case study method to determine the factors that have contributed to livelihood success for community-based forestry following the passing of the Forest Rights Act in India.

The last five weeks have seen a flurry of activity as we work on our projects. To read student reflections, check out the Global SE blog.


Local SE 2019

December 25th, 2019

Professor’s Nurse and Moledina led two local SE teams this year working with two community organizations: The Boys and Girls Club of Wooster and a new start-up called the Downtown Arts Theatre.

Local SE Team for 2019

Front row: Mahi Lal, Bijeta Lamichhane, and Tessa Ireton. Back Row: Blake Southerland, Zach Myers, Brooke Brown

For the Boys and Girls Club the students were asked to conduct a client survey and use it with other research to come up with a fee structure for their summer program. For Downtown Arts, the SE program was asked to research Art House Membership Programs from around the states. In addition to ethnographic research of Art House Cinema’s on the operational aspect of membership plans, the students came up with a tool that could help decide on the price of memberships. We are excited that both projects have been taken to the next phase. Downtown Arts recently incorporated as a 501c3 Organization and is working collaboratively with other arts organizations to create an Arts District in Wooster.

Global SE is Recruiting

October 15th, 2019

We are recruiting for the Award Winning Global Social Entrepreneurship experience for 2020.

Social change can wear Tartan. We work in solidarity and learn with recognized change agents on social problems like poverty, environmental degradation, minority access to education. To find out more come to the informational meeting in the Morgan Hall Entrepreneurship Collaboration Space, first floor on Friday October 18, at 4pm.

Social Entrepreneurship is the process of creative thinking, innovation, risk-taking, and analysis that creates opportunities with sustainable social and economic value. Our award winning program offers you the unique opportunity to learn about social entrepreneurship by doing. You will work and learn in intergenerational groups both in the US and in India.

What is Global SE, really? A transformative spring seminar and summer field experience, where you learn, explore and teach each other about the issue of poverty from a multidisciplinary perspective. But its so much more. Find out from alumni perspectives by coming to the information session. Deadline to apply is Monday October 28th, 2019. You must submit an online application here. Enter your College of Wooster username and password to do so.

Local SE continues to explore ways to have ecological and wellness impact

January 16th, 2019

Lately, the local SE program has been working and thinking holistically about the ways in which our food system marginalizes low income families and individuals. We are also concerned that our beloved College, its curriculum, and its strategic orientation is not effectively connected to the natural world in a manner that is ecologically sustainable and fosters wellness. Last Fall, twelve students and their faculty advisers worked on concrete projects to address ecological and food system issues. Here are the projects:

Maggie Dougherty, Alex Kania and McKenzie Goltz with Karen Potter and the Executive Board of AWC


Students researched and wrote a financial sustainability plan for A Whole Community, an organization that collects produce from local farmers and distributes it to local food pantries, meal serve sites, and schools. The sustainability plan also addressed issues related to inventory management to help figure out how to safely and efficiently distribute close to 91,000 lbs of food of annually to the food insecure. This project continues the work that our student undertook in 2017 to come up with the idea of Harvest Share.

Cambrie Baker, Ousmane Sy, and Remi Katayama

A group of students, faculty, and staff, building on the College’s Strategic Planning documents came up with a rubric to evaluate how existing green spaces could be used to enhance our curriculum, wellness,  and community engagement.

Finally, three students worked to design the initial stages of scaling our College Garden to enhance our curriculum and community that could provide locally grown food to dining services and our community using student labor and a series of Food Systems classes. The advisers for this semester were Greg Shaya, Matt Mariola, and Amyaz Moledina.

Efua Hayford, Gabe Melmed and Gillian Desonier-Lewis

Harvest Share

June 20th, 2017

What is if we could solve food insecurity and stagnating farm income with one solution? Twelve College of Wooster students working with four community advisers devised a plan to do just that.

Thirteen percent of Wayne County’s population is under the poverty line (U.S Census Bureau). This population is food insecure (Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank, 2017). While the individual poverty rate may appear low, over a quarter of children in Wooster, Ohio are below the poverty line ( Just about that percentage of children have been identified as food insecure (Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank). At Cornerstone Elementary School, three quarters of all students are on free and reduced lunch. Poverty and food insecurity are closely linked to malnutrition. Malnutrition is especially damaging to children as they develop and learn in school.

Back Row: Ajay Bedesha, Jaxen Werne, Brandon Epton, Aziza Moore, Chris Perrin, Vedica Jha, Unnati Singhania, Monica Bongue. Front Row: Jessica Eikleberry, Komal Mesvani, Lisette Torres, Madelaine Braver, Jena Styka, and Sara Curtis.

People to People Ministries and other organizations address food insecurity in Wayne County by providing free food. Typical food that is donated is canned. It is rarely nutritious. Fruits and vegetables help children with the developmental nutrition. Fruits and vegetables are scare commodities at pantries. When it is provided, it is often the least popular item and spoils. The system in place to provide nutritious food to pantries is not as efficient as it could be.

According to the US Department of Agriculture, small and medium farm income has been stagnating. This trend has persisted for the past four years. As we interviewed farmers, we found many expressed a strong desire to not only do good for themselves, but also the community they live in.

The project we took on this spring is a little different than past ones. Instead of pairing student groups with several different organizations (one group per organization), we had four groups of students all working on different components of the same larger project. The basic idea was:

(1) Donors purchase a weekly or monthly “share” of produce from a set of local farms,

(2) Rather than going to that person (as in a traditional Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program), the produce is delivered to the food pantry at People to People, where it is distributed as part of their regular weekly program.

We called this, “Harvest Share”  – local farmers are paid for their product, and local families and their children in need have healthy nutritious food to eat.

Our team of external advisors to the project includes Sara Curtis from People to People, Jessica Eikleberry from Local Roots, Kyle Putinski from United Way, and Monica Bongue, a local farmer and currently executive director of Crown Point Ecology Center, who originated the idea several years ago. What happened to the plan we wrote? It is being implemented by a local organization, A Whole Community.

Poverty in Wayne County and India

April 13th, 2016

Poverty is a global phenomena. There isn’t a single community that is not affected by the deprivation of capabilities. Income poverty affects 10% of the world population. It is mostly concentrated in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Individuals in these parts of the world live on $1.25 a day. Closer to Wooster, in Wayne county, 2014 data shows that poverty went up after 2008, especially in women-headed households. One in three families with children are in income poverty. When you couple this information with an awareness that 62 of the worlds richest people have the same amount of wealth as half the world, one does have to pause. What is the Social Entrepreneurship program doing to address this global problem?

In the Fall of 2015, Todd Jasin, the new Executive Director of United Way (UW) of Wayne and Holmes County asked the Social Entrepreneurship program to help its stakeholders define poverty locally. Four students, Maria Atala, Amadou Bah, Macy Conrad and Gillian Spangler working with UW trustee, Cameron Maneese, suggested a multidimensional measure of poverty.

Amadou, Maria, Gillian, and Macy

Amadou, Maria, Gillian, and Macy

Students helped research measures of poverty. They completed a business plan that included implementation ideas and a risk assessment. The goal of the project was to use a multidimensional understanding of poverty to guide policy decisions and strategic philanthropy.

Another team, was asked to develop a plan for an entrepreneurship and leadership school for foster children. The majority of foster children end up in a cycle of dependance and poverty as two students Allie Haines and Gabe Lopez found with the interdisciplinary summer research project funded by a Mellon Foundation grant written by Professor’s Anne Nurse and Moledina. After these findings, Kat Bochtler, Emily Foley, and Gabe Lopez worked with Professor Thelamour and the Village Network to write a financial plan for an entrepreneurship/leadership academy.

Professor Thelamour, Emily, Gabe, and Kat

Professor Thelamour, Emily, Gabe, and Kat

Dave Paxton of the Village Network hopes that the project will begin its implementation phase next year. Similarly, Todd has already started using the student-designed framework to move ahead with their bold goal of 10,000 out of poverty. We are grateful to our partner organizations that keep returning to us with projects that strengthen our communities. But what about globally?

This spring, 10 student have been selected into the Global Social Entrepreneurship program, a seven month program that includes a seminar and field experience in India. In the seminar, students are learning about the unique nature of poverty in India. There are no textbooks in this seminar – just live case studies of social enterprises trying to alleviate poverty, student/organization guided research, and learning. Our ten Global Social Entreprenerus will travel to India to work on innovation projects that have been designed by their host organizations, Dream a Dream and Sattva Media and Consulting in May. In preparation, the Global SE students also screened a new documentary film for the community called “Driving with Selvi” in the hopes of raising community awareness about the intersection of gender roles and livelihoods. Read about their experiences here . If you are inclined to support them financially so that they may offset their travel expenses, please do so by bidding in their silent auction. For more pictures, visit our Flickr site.

SE takes on a sustainability project for farmland preservation

August 5th, 2015

by Maryanna Biggio

This winter we had the pleasure and privilege of working with three College of Wooster students recruited by the Social Entrepreneurship program. They were mentored by Matt Mariola. Matt is associate professor of environmental science and a board member of Killbuck Watershed Land Trust.

Erin Andrews-Sharer (senior Spanish major), Ruben Aguero (sophomore economics major) and Annette Hilton (sophomore geology major) use social enterprise principals to study the history and management of KWLT. They wrote a business plan which, when adopted, will make our organization much more effective and viable in the area of non-profit conservation groups.

COLLEGE OF WOOSTER students (from left)Erin Andrews-Sharer, Annette Hilton and Ruben Aguero. (Not pictured - Matt Mariola and KWLT President Maryanna Biggio)

COLLEGE OF WOOSTER students (from left)Erin Andrews-Sharer, Annette Hilton and Ruben Aguero. (Not pictured – Matt Mariola and KWLT President Maryanna Biggio)

We are impressed with the time the students spent com- paring KWLT with six other Ohio land trusts of similar size and scope of operations, and grateful to Owl Creek Conservancy, Appalachian Ohio Alliance, Licking Land Trust, Land Conservancy of Hamilton County, West Creek Conservancy, and Hillside Trust for sharing information.

We are surprised, and in many instances humbled, by the data the students collected. For instance, KWLT holds more conservation easements and protects more acres than the other land trusts in the study, yet we spend fewer hours per week with our easements than any of the others.

Four of the land trusts are fortunate to have at least one paid employee whose job description includes office management, public outreach, fundraising, increasing membership and event planning. KWLT is entirely a volunteer-based, 12-member board of directors. Each has diverse professional skills and/or a desire to enhance their community.

We also have an office in a wonderful setting and centrally located within the county areas we serve. At this time, the office is more or less a storage area for the bundles and boxes of paper documents that accumulate with conservation easements. Our “membership” is loosely defined as many of you who have supported us financially or simply expressed appreciation for what we do.

It now behooves us as a land trust with great responsibility to begin to implement this well-considered and candid assessment of our organization. We feel a good starting point would be to convert our paper-based system to an online database. This could and should be done within the next three to six months. Next comes a full-fledged fundraising campaign and for that we rely on a commitment from our board of trustees and citizens of the communities where we are an important, in many cases unrecognized, presence. And next comes the exciting possibility of a salaried part-time administrator. As with so many good things, it does take money.

Early on in our sessions with Annette, Erin and Ruben we were asked to define KWLT, but what we thought we heard was the word “quilt.” Puzzled, we began to explain that a quilt is made with love, usually patched with beautiful fabrics and patterns, and provides warmth, comfort and beauty. We have made quite a few quilts and have more in the planning stages.

Then it dawned on us, after all these years. Say it out loud: KWLT is “quilt.” We feel like we have a new theme song. Some quilts are a family heirloom and last forever – just like a conservation easement. KWLT is now an acronym, and like so many others, hidden and yet obvious. It took the young and brilliant minds of Annette and Erin and Ruben, along with Matt Mariola, to bring it to our attention. Thank you!

Editors note: Reprinted from Ripples. Sprint 2015. Vol 4. Issue 4. Killbuck Valley Land Trust Newsletter . To see an update of the way in which the organization continues to uses our insights, see this article. To see pictures of the other organizations we worked with see our Flickr photo stream.