Archive for the ‘Featured’ Category

Catalyzing Food Entrepreneurship

Wednesday, 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

Thursday, 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.


Harvest Share

Tuesday, 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

Wednesday, 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

Wednesday, 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.

Local SE 2012

Friday, January 18th, 2013

The Local SE Team from 2012 worked with three organizations this last fall: The Wilderness Center of Wilmot Ohio, Lifes Little Adventure Farm and Green Township Historical Society.  Each of these organizations presented a unique business challenge to the student teams.

Teamwork is awesome! For 2012, Wilderness Center, Green Township and Life Little Adventures SE groups.

Teamwork is awesome! For 2012, Wilderness Center, Green Township and Life Little Adventures SE groups.

One of the challenges in our local community is diagnosing sensory disorder. Even more challenging is trying to finance mental health treatment, especially for low-income children. Life’s Little Adventure Farm had the idea of a cooperative clinic that would serve children from low-income families who suffer from Sensory Disorder. The Green Township Historical Society came to us with another idea. They wanted to turn the historic Smithville High School into a community center. Finally, our long-time client, the Wilderness Center wanted to create a Wilderness festival showcasing green films to increase environmental awareness. Over the course of the semester, the three student groups worked closely with their clients, meeting weekly. The final product was a financial feasibility plan.

Local SE 2011 a success…a former SE client featured in the Washington Post

Saturday, January 7th, 2012

Although we have not posted much, we worked with two clients and started three ventures in 2011. The SE program has now worked with over 25 clients since 2006 when we officially launched. This years projects included repeat clients such as the Wilderness Center, and new clients like Wayne County Family and Children First Council. Student teams developed a spreadsheet business model for sustainable forestry and also a developmental education program to help teens transition into adulthood. Three additional projects were start-up ventures. This is SE first! Students wrote a plan for a Social business – Woosh! that would combine after-school activities for children, experiential learning opportunities for college students and a high-end running shoe store. Another start-up, Backpacks for Kids, a “non-profit pop-up” would provide healthy meals for kids over the weekends and finally GLocal SE, a new experiential learning program for SE graduates. Woosh was a finalist in the Center for Entrepreneurship’s Idea Competition.P4086763

In other news, last year, local Social Entrepreneurship worked with Local Roots, a producer-consumer local foods co-operative. This organization is the first of its kind in the US. The students worked with Jessica, the Local Roots Manager, on a revenue generation model. The team was advised by Dr. Garcia. Today, Local Roots was featured in the Washington Post. Wooster’s SE program is proud to support innovative organizations in our community.

The award-winning program continues in India

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

The award winning program founded collaboratively by-and-for wooster students, faculty, staff and alums returns to India for the second year. Global Social Entrepreneurship (Global SE)  will return and work for EnAble India and Dream a Dream in Bangalore. Four students, Sarah Abboud (Communications), Kipaya Kapiga (International Relations and French), Sam Susanin (Economics) and Erika Takeo (Global Sustainability) will join Professor Moledina and Cathy McConell, Director of the Lilly Project as they work on two projects in Bangalore. A group of alums has promised to come and be part of the experience.

In order to finance their trip, students organized the first ever Wooster Food Crawl, a food tasting event featuring the areas local restaurants and caterers.

Fong Wong - Owner of the Black Squirrel Inn, Prachi Saorogi - Global SE 2010, and Sarah Abboud - Global SE 2011 at the inaugural Wooster Food Crawl

Over 200 community members supported the students and a wide variety of restuarants were featured, including Bake Haus, Zen, Chipotle and the Black Squirrel Inn. Students raised close to $1,000. These funds were matched by the program. Here students are pictured with the Black Squirrel Inn owner, Fong Wong.

Follow the social change learning experience on the Global SE blog.

Social Entreprenuership is recruiting for its local program!

Saturday, April 2nd, 2011


The Social Entrepreneurship Program at the College of Wooster believes that you can solve social problems like poverty, environmental degradation, minority access to education and others by being the agents of change.

Social Entrepreneurship is the process of creative thinking, innovation, risk-taking, and analysis that creates opportunities with sustainable social and economic value.

Our program offers you the unique opportunity to learn about social entrepreneurship by doing. You will develop and use tools for social change by consulting for nonprofits.

Information Meetings on April 5 12-1pm, and 6th 7-8pm in Lowry 118.

The program is divided into three sets of experiences:

  1. An entry-level Local SE seminar IDPT 407 that also offers local internships. This program will be offered Fall 2011. Apply now.
  2. A second-stage Award Winning Global SE seminar IDPT 406 that offers an international field experience. This program is typically offered in the spring. Application details for this experience will be forthcoming.
  3. Students that participate in any of these two experiences can also be recruited to stand-alone internships offered during the summer in North-East Ohio. Please contact the director of SE for more information about internships.

To apply for local SE complete the Application form online. In addition, send an unofficial transcript and resume to Lisa Verdon by 8 pm, Friday, April 15th, 2011. Both paper copies and electronic applications (sent in one email to lverdon (at) wooster (dot) edu) will be accepted. Your application is incomplete until you have filled out the online application and also submitted the supporting documents to Dr. Verdon.

Global SE wins prestigious award

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

The College of Wooster’s Global Social Entrepreneurship (Global SE) program was cited for excellence by the Institute of International Education (IIE). IIE, which also administers the Fulbright program, honored Global SE with the Andrew Heiskell Award for Innovation in International Education — specifically internationalizing the campus through business education — at the Sixth Annual Best Practices in Internationalization Conference on March 18 in New York City.

Co-Founders: Marianne Sierocinski and Moledina recieve award from Dr. Goodman, President of IIE.

Designed by-and-for students, alumni, staff, and faculty, Wooster’s Global SE program promotes global citizenship and social entrepreneurship. “It provides a life-changing international experience for students who are actively involved in the planning and implementation of the course development and entrepreneurial experience,” said Amyaz Moledina, co-architect of the program as well as assistant professor of economics and co-director of Wooster’s Center for Diversity and Global Engagement. “Student participants gain a rich appreciation of the global issues that are facing social enterprises in both the U.S. and India. Those who have completed the program have taken what they have learned and innovated. Examples include a student that began documenting the conditions of migrant farmers in North Carolina, a student that decided to work in a rural eye hospital in India, and a student who used what learned in her own nonprofit in Ghana. Other participants have designed majors around global international development and social enterprise solutions.”


Global SE Students, CSIM Staff and Board, SEOP Course Graduates outside SIET

Erika Takeo, a sophomore from Portland, Ore., said she wanted to be a part of the program because of its hands-on approach to learning. “It is not simply a class where you show up, take notes, and study for exams,” she said. “As in any case where you are working for social change, you must engage completely with the issues and people you are trying to help.”

Marianne Sierocinski, a senior urban studies major from Davie, Fla., said that one of GSE’s major strengths is its structure as a student-driven initiative. “The experience empowers us to embrace ambiguity, take risks, and think creatively in the face of complex challenges,” she said. “It was an incredible learning opportunity for me to contribute so tangibly to the program’s development, transforming a business plan I helped write in 2009 into a program I participated in this past summer.”

The program has two primary components: an on-campus seminar in the spring and a six-week experiential-learning association with social enterprises in Bangalore, India, in the summer. This past year, the group collaborated with Dream a Dream, an internationally recognized Indian organization that works with underprivileged children to inculcate life skills. Another team of three students also worked with EnAble India, an organization that provides innovative training and placement services to Fortune 500 companies for people with disabilities.

The objective, according to Moledina, is not only to provide experiential learning opportunities to train the next generation of global social entrepreneurs, but also to be of value to client organizations. “Most programs of this kind are engaged with organizations for short periods,” he said. “We try to work with these organizations over a longer period of time. Each year, a new group of students takes over where the previous group left off. Were it not for our partners like the Center for Social Initiatives and Management, Experiential Travels, Sattva Consulting, and other social enterprises and individuals like Lilly Paul and Sampath of Arpitha who we worked closely with in Bangalore, we would not have been a success. Even more strongly, our alumni such as Jairaj Daniel, showed early support and were instrumental in ensuring we succeeded and continue to thrive. Our business model is based on collaboration, and awards like this indicate that Wooster’s program is distinctive.

“Business education is unusual at liberal arts schools,” added Moledina. “Even more so, a multidisciplinary approach to problem solving that welcomes students from a range of majors, such as international relations, communications, math, economics, and sociology is equally unique.”

IIE President and CEO Allan E. Goodman indicated that this year’s Heiskell Award winners represent some of the world’s best initiatives in internationalizing higher education. “As institutions continue to innovate, taking their internationalization efforts to new heights and depths, we look forward to continuing our tradition of recognizing their commitment to excellence and meeting the global mandate of our time,” he said.

The Institute of International Education awards are designed to promote and honor the most outstanding initiatives in international higher education by IIE Network member universities and colleges. In recognizing excellence and innovation, the Institute hopes to support them in their endeavors and to signal a new and important role for international education on campus.

“Global SE is an innovative program that embraces our core values and enables our students to realize their full potential as engaged scholars and global citizens,” said College of Wooster President Grant Cornwell. “It also prepares them to make significant contributions to our complex and interdependent world.”

Alumni Trustee Sandeep Bhatia added, “It is an honor for Wooster to be recognized for what it has done best since its founding: putting students and faculty together to understand complex issues. Global SE is a new model that seeks to integrate staff and alumni minds together with Wooster’s core competency of student-faculty collaboration in the direction of entrepreneurship for the global good.”