Social Entrepreneurship Course Culminates in Presentation of Student Projects
College of Southern Maryland (CSM) students are learning that business is not just about the bottom line. A business is more likely to succeed, in fact, if the business is designed to assist the wider community as well as make money, according to Thomas Luginbill, director of CSM’s Entrepreneur and Innovation Institute.
“I think there’s a lot of college business classes that focus on earning profit. But there aren’t that many that teach students about the value of the business providing social value to the community,” Luginbill said. “If you start off with a business only thinking about the bottom line, things will collapse quite quickly. They’re starting to find that businesses that incorporate some social mission are actually finding a correlation with higher returns. It’s good business.”
That is the idea behind CSM’s Social Entrepreneurship course, which Luginbill taught this spring semester. Students taking Luginbill’s class had the chance to exercise their altruistic muscles as they applied business principles to challenges facing half a dozen area organizations that have a central mission of helping society — five nonprofits and one for-profit with a social mission. At the beginning of the course, organizations applied to partner with the college on the project and the students selected which organization they would study for the semester and then designed a project that could assist that organization.
Working in groups, the students publicly presented their projects during CSM’s Social Entrepreneurship Challenge held May 11 at the La Plata Campus. At stake was more than a grade for the course; the students were also competing for $2,000 — $1,500 for first place and $500 for second — in funding that would go to the two projects judged by a panel as best assisting the most people. The funding was generously provided through the support of Neilom Foundation.
The winning project was presented by CSM students Kaelyn Ching of Charlotte Hall and Jordan Johnson of Waldorf, who made the case that funding should be provided for Farming4Hunger and the nonprofit’s second annual athlete student summit, Living Beyond the Game. The summit is a two-day event for Southern Maryland Athletic Conference athletes designed to promote team-building and to encourage discussion about consequences to choices. “It’s about making smart choices,” said Bernie Fowler Jr., founder of Farming4Hunger, who attended the presentations. In addition to youth programs, Farming4Hunger partners with the Maryland Food Bank “Mobile Pantry” program and works with prisoners on work-release to grow vegetables, package and distribute fresh produce for residents in Southern Maryland.
Ching and Johnson said they became invested in their organization during the course of the semester and expressed relief that their organization was awarded the funding. They said they spent a lot of time working with the nonprofit and volunteered by tutoring prisoners on work release.
“I learned a lot about how much politics and business goes hand-in-hand and the struggles of a nonprofit,” Johnson said.
“It was a lot of work. But it was well worth it,” Ching said.
The project that came in second was presented by SMCR, formerly known as Southern Maryland Community Resources, which provides inclusive programs for people with developmental differences at minimal cost. CSM students Caryn Fossile of Huntingtown, Jermey Forris of La Plata and Jordon Gandee of La Plata worked with CSM digital media production (DMP) students to produce a public service announcement video for the organization. In addition, the team of students campaigned for funding that will help SMCR expand into Calvert County.
“It’s a bridge. It helps both those with developmental differences and those without,” said Bonnie Elward, executive director of SMCR.
“It’s just been so amazing,” Fossile said of the class. “I never realized the value of networking. This has been an amazing experience.”
Other organizations that worked with CSM students in the class were Circle of Angels, DigiTouch, Kids Into Discovering Science and VConnections, Inc.
Financial awards for the event were provided by the Neilom Foundation. Grant funding for the Social Entrepreneur class, which covered full scholarship for students’ tuition, fees and textbooks, came from the Center for Engineering Concepts Development (CECD) in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Maryland (UMD).
“I’m very happy to see this collaborative arrangement with the College of Southern Maryland not only succeed, but thrive,” said Anand, director of the CECD and Professor Emeritus of Mechanical Engineering at UMD. Anand created a program at UMD where engineering students apply their problem-solving and technological skills to challenges facing nonprofits. The Social Entrepreneurship course at CSM was based on Anand’s ideas and design.
For information on the Entrepreneur and Innovation Institute at CSM, visit http://www.csmd.edu/community/institutes/eii/.
To view a gallery of photos from the event, visit http://csmphoto.zenfolio.com/17socentre.
At the end of her group’s presentation about Farming4Hunger, Kaelyn Ching, far right, along with the other member of her group, Jordan Johnson, not pictured, pass out gifts to the judges of the CSM Social Entrepreneurship Challenge, from left, CSM Professor Bernice Brezina, CSM Community Relations Coordinator Larisa Pfeiffer, UMD CECD Assistant Director Dylan Hazelwood, CSM Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Eileen Abel and, not pictured, Emily Ferren, retired director of the Charles County Public Library.