Student Government launches social entrepreneurship learning lab

Katie Balevic

Student Government accepted its first group of fellows this year for the Social Entrepreneurship Learning Lab, or SELL, Fellowship Program, an initiative that aims to give undergraduate students skills to solve social problems.

The semester-long program, the first of its kind at UT, focuses on bringing together a diverse group of students and cultivating their ideas to positively impact communities that are not typical markets of entrepreneurship, according to the SELL website.

“We plaster it everywhere ­— ‘What starts here changes the world’ — but I always think, where is this actually happening?” SELL Director Sam Lin said. “If you walked up to the University … and knocked on the Tower’s front door and (asked) ‘What are you doing to change the world?’ there’s no hard and fast answer. I want this program to be that hard and fast answer.”

Student Government vice president Micky Wolf said the program is an outgrowth of students’ desires to use their interests to drive social impact in broad areas such as poverty, education and environmental sustainability.

“We’re going to be a prestigious program that gives you both the outside resources and the education on being a social entrepreneur,” said Plan II and business honors senior Wolf.

Wolf said the program is a melding of a business and a non-profit because the concept of social entrepreneurship uses business principles to solve social problems.   

“It hasn’t been done before because social entrepreneurship is gaining traction as a concept,” Wolf said. “It combines so many peoples’ interests, and that’s why we wanted to do it through Student Government. It’s so interdisciplinary in the way it functions.”

The program consists of six three-hour workshops in which fellows will learn about social entrepreneurship, think about solutions to social problems and pitch their ideas to peers and experts in the field, according to the SELL website.

SELL fellow Monique Amado said she wants to use what she learns in the fellowship to lower teen pregnancy rates in Panama through sex education.

“I have an extreme passion for positively impacting the world somehow,” undeclared sophomore Amado said.

Lin said he hopes to see SELL break boundaries and bring in people who are passionate about finding creative solutions to social issues.

“My whole goal is to make sure the fellows are pushing the envelope of ideation,” said Lin. “If their (ideas) are good, we won’t even need marketing. SELL’s reputation will live on itself.”