In many ways, spring semester 2022 showed a return to normalcy on the StartUp Learning Community floor in Sellery Hall. Despite ongoing renovations (the building is going to look spectacular come fall of 2023), the students seemed genuinely excited to finally lower their masks and keep dreaming big—especially when it comes to social entrepreneurship.
Every second semester, residents of the StartUp Learning Community—the residence hall-based group of 64 self-selected first year students with a professed interest in entrepreneurship—can register to take our spring seminar available only to members of the community. Taught by the Wisconsin School of Business’ John Surdyk in Grainger Hall, the class, MHR 321: Social Entrepreneurship, is primarily focused on the world of startup activity and philanthropy as forces for societal good.
The seminar is a low-risk, 1-credit opportunity for StartUp students to explore in a casual and conversational format how innovative thinking and entrepreneurial action can help improve communities. Enrollments are growing and students appreciate the opportunity to nurture their desires to serve. By using both a case study and applied approach, students get both traditional classroom and hands-on experience. The course culminates with the opportunity for students to interview a social entrepreneur and produce their own podcast.
But the learning doesn’t stop in the classroom. Co-curricular programming is key, and this semester StartUp brought in inspiring social entrepreneurs to speak with students at our signature monthly Community Dinners. The hope was to get them to see the range of possibility in social ventures.
Our first guest was Keegan Moldenhauer, the founder of Internship on Demand. He provided double duty by sharing his founder’s story as well as offering students tips on landing great summer professional opportunities. Guest two, Marissa Harkness, a recent UW-Madison engineering grad, returned to campus to share the story of Pill Skills, the startup she founded with her sister to help the 40% of US adults who have trouble swallowing medication gain confidence. Finally, we were joined by Jeff Jones, founder of Basil Data, a Madison-based consultancy which helps nonprofits communicate and improve their social impact metrics to maximize positive outcomes.