There will always be a need for people who make the world a better place. We probably need them now more than ever.
This week Stanford Graduate School of Business announced 16 MBA and MS students who have been awarded prestigious prizes for their efforts to do just that: improve the world, shake it up a bit, and leave it a little better than they found it. The main prizes are a pair of $110,000 fellowships, the Social Innovation Fellowship (SIF) and the Social Entrepreneurship Fellowship (SEF), through which Stanford GSB supports students committed to founding a social venture.
The first award, the SIF, offers funding, advising, and support to students who want to start a nonprofit focused on solving a critical social or environmental problem; since 2009, the SIF “has supported student entrepreneurs around the world who are designing creative solutions to overcome barriers to human flourishing,” the school says in its announcement. SEF, new this year, is awarded to students starting “high-impact, for-profit social ventures that address pressing social or environmental needs.”
“Our social innovation awards underscore the power of insightful and purposeful leadership to improve lives and communities throughout the world,” said Jonathan Levin, the Philip H. Knight Professor and Dean of Stanford GSB. “We are deeply proud of these students who are pursuing careers that will deliver enduring value to society.”
A GROWING TREND
Last year, Poets&Quants reported that the number of Stanford Graduate School of Business students who are focusing on social impact and innovation courses as part of their educational experience hadn’t just grown, it had exploded: Of 488 Stanford GSB MBA and specialty business master’s students, 90% took a course related to social innovation or social impact, including 95% of the MBA Class of 2019 and 81% of the MSx Class of 2019.
This year, the numbers are even more striking: More than 95% of the 502 Stanford GSB MBA and MSx students took a social innovation or social impact course, including 98% of the MBA Class of 2020 and 87% of the MSx Class of 2020. The average number of MBA and MSx students earning the Certificate in Public Management and Social Innovation from 1990 to 1999 was 35; from 2010 to 2020, that number exploded to 114, a 225% increase.
“What we are seeing is a generation of students who expect meaning and purpose from their work, are questioning the system, and don’t shy away from big problems,” Bernadette Clavier, executive director of Stanford’s Center for Social Innovation, told P&Q on the center’s 20th anniversary last year.
AN IMPRESSIVE PAIR OF FELLOWSHIP WINNERS
The stipends for both the SIF and the SEF are awarded upon graduation and disbursed throughout the following year. Both include support throughout the fellowship year, including introductions to advisors and communications coaching, and the opportunity to join the residency program at the Stanford Venture Studio, an entrepreneurship hub for graduate students exploring new venture ideas.
The recipients of Stanford’s fellowships are an impressive pair. Dare Ladejobi, a 2020 MS graduate and this year’s SIF recipient, was trained as a medical doctor and volunteers in various medical outreach groups. His passion: developing healthcare products for emerging markets. Ladejobi’s venture is a collaboration with federal and state health agencies in Nigeria to develop a robust response to COVID-19 and enable a safe return to work — an effort that “feeds into his broader vision to develop a mobile app for people in developing countries, starting with Nigeria, that could diagnose the top causes of death and disability, provide prescriptions, and connect patients through telemedicine to neighborhood-based clinical testing,” according to Stanford’s announcement. Ladejobi’s service “will identify and support early intervention in the case of disease outbreaks, and through cost-effective diagnoses and testing, track and ultimately improve health outcomes.”
Kimberly Schreiber, a member of the MBA Class of 2020, is the recipient of the first SEF. She is “building a disability service company committed to improving the lives of people with developmental disabilities and their families. Her idea is to connect locally based supportive services with quality of life measurements to ensure adults with developmental disabilities can choose and access services that help them grow, learn, and thrive.
“Through in-house service navigators and collaboration software, Schreiber’s venture draws upon clients’ strengths to build custom service plans and navigate a maze of government support systems. The company uses data to help families tailor their plans to their evolving goals. Inspired by her amazing younger brother, Schreiber is committed to a neurodiverse future with inclusive opportunities for all.”
14 WINNERS OF 2 MILLER PRIZES
In addition to the fellowships, Stanford GSB also announced recognition for students committed to social impact through the Miller Social Change Leadership Award and the Frances and Arjay Miller Prize in Social Innovation. Recipients of the Miller Social Change Leadership Award “are selected for their focus on social innovation through academic coursework and practical applications, as well as their service to and leadership of Stanford GSB’s community of social and environmental innovators.” This year’s winners are Rebecca Colby, Izzy Ernst, Khalil Fuller, Isabelle James, Kelly Lacob, Samuel Leiter, Judy Park, Phillipe Rodriguez, Nathan Segal, Kavya Shankar, Elise Smith, and Ilana Walder-Biesanz, all members of the GSB’s MBA Class of 2020, as well as Ayla Schlosser, MS ’20.
The Frances and Arjay Miller Prize in Social Innovation, a $20,000 prize, was awarded to Rebecca Hinkle, MBA ’20. This award is granted to students among those pursuing the Certificate in Public Management and Social Innovation “who demonstrate the highest level of excellence and dedication to tackling social or environmental challenges.”
Dean Levin said last year that he sees two trends in the activities at Stanford’s Center for Social Innovation, and more generally at the GSB, that hearten him. “The first, and one that deserves great celebration, is the remarkable number of our students and young alums who are dedicated to social impact, and to seeking purpose and mission along with professional success,” Levin said. “The second theme I want to celebrate is students’ collective dedication to addressing big issues. Their willingness to ask challenging questions about the world, and even about the GSB, is fundamental to bringing about change in organizations. And I think this willingness — in a leading business school! — is also to be celebrated.”