Posts Tagged ‘Student Voices’

SE’s value proposition

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

By Samantha McNelly
As a first year college student, I only had a general idea of what I wanted my major to be and what I wanted to do after college. I just knew that eventually, I wanted to work in an environment that allowed me to help make the lives of others better.

Samantha McNelly

Samantha McNelly

I certainly had no idea how to reach that goal, or really what that even meant to me. When I enrolled in the local social entrepreneurship program, I was quickly thrown into a world of budgets, business plans, and risk analyses, which were quite far removed from the abstract political discussions in which I often found myself involved. Instead of using academic tools to understand a problem, I was being forced to use business and analytical tools to act on a problem. In the global social entrepreneurship program, I was able to use many of the skills I learned in local social entrepreneurship and apply them in a dramatically different cultural, political, social, and economic environment.

The local and global social entrepreneurship programs cannot be oversold. These two programs helped me cultivate new skills and interests that dramatically improved my personal agency. While there is a certain academic element to these programs, they reach much deeper than any other classroom experience and force the students to challenge any preconceived notions they have about a particular issue and then find a way to address the root of the problem in an innovative, creative, and practical way. This is not easy for a group of 18-22 year olds, but I saw remarkable growth in my teammates and myself as a result of tackling these daunting challenges.

It has now been three years since I participated in the local social entrepreneurship program, and two years since I went to India with the global team. I am not exaggerating in the slightest when I say that these two programs not only helped me determine my major, but were more formative than any of my other experiences in college because they reach beyond traditional academics and demand creativity, dedication, a positive attitude, humility paired with persistence, and the willingness to grow personally. Because of my participation in the social entrepreneurship programs, I am much more comfortable tackling problems and projects that others find overwhelming or “impossible.” I have a greater belief in my own abilities and potential to affect positive change in the world. I have had experiences I would have never had without these programs and met many wonderful people that I am a better person for having spent time with. I have acquired an intense, positive, persistent, and sometimes single-minded determination to defy expectations and push the limits of what is traditionally accepted as “good enough,” because I now believe that it is within my abilities to do something real, powerful, and groundbreaking. I have transformed from a concerned and confused student to an active and empowered soon-to-be college graduate. Most importantly, I have learned about myself and gained confidence in my abilities and passions, which I know will continue to push me to explore new opportunities, accept and overcome more challenges, and to continue to make myself better so I am better able to pursue my goals.

Editors note: Sam is currently in the Peace Corps program in Cameroon.

What the SE Experience meant for me

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

By Usman Gul

Sometime during my sophomore year at Wooster, I began to weigh my options about the many different paths in life that I could adopt after graduation.  Public policy, urban planning, behavioral economics and econometrics all seemed to be fine options, but first I had to decide whether I wanted to create jobs or seek jobs – was I to be an employee or an employer?

I wanted to be an employer. As a budding entrepreneur, the Social Entrepreneurship (SE) program was the only program at Wooster that provided students an opportunity to explore their entrepreneurial talents in a real-world setting. I worked with a non-profit organization that operated on grants from generous donors to promote the use of solar energy in and around Wayne County. As consultants, my teammates and I were required to propose a revenue generation model that would help the organization move closer to financial sustainability.

Usman Gul, Sam McNelly, Shitong Zhan and Moledina at the SE Seminar

For me, the SE program was a very effective reality check. I realized through first-hand experience that I needed to be more flexible in working with my teammates. Maybe I was a better candidate for a particular task, but what if my teammates really wanted to do that task as well? It seemed like I had to choose between group performance and team chemistry. However, faculty members who were supervising our project helped me find extremely simple solutions through which I did not have to compromise on either end. I ended up putting in my best effort for team performance, while also staying on excellent terms with my teammates.

Working with an external organization that had nothing to do with the College was an experience of its own. I learned all the little things that pile up to make a big difference in professional relationships. Working under pressure, constructing flow diagrams to visualize our project in group meetings, preparing an agenda before each meeting (and sticking to the agenda!), and being (or at least sounding) enthusiastic about the discussions in early morning meetings were only some of things I was able to master at an early stage.

Perhaps the most important lesson, for me at least, was to think outside of the box. One downside of taking so many objective and quantitative courses is that we begin to assume that there is one right answer to every question. Through the SE program, I realized that there were so many different ways of going about a particular project that possibilities were literally endless. However, the trick was to eliminate the uncertainty by acquiring the necessary information and then objectively and collectively decide the merits of every potential solution.

I feel that my time at Wooster would certainly have been incomplete without the SE experience.

Editors note: Upon graduation Usman was an Invest2Innovate Fellow. Thereafter he moved to New York where he worked for MasterCard. He is now in the Bay area working for Marqeta, a payment processing firm.