Every spring, residents of the StartUp Learning Community—a 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 right on the second floor of Sellery Hall–where the students live–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 hands-on experience working with the greater Madison-area non-profit community, learning how such organizations are structured and funded. StartUp is thrilled to have Jay Weisman, principal of Legacy Philanthropy Group, a national expert in mission-driven approaches to giving, return for the third time this year to join the WSB’s John Surdyk in co-facilitating the class after an extremely successful pilot in 2018.
Weisman, who is New Jersey based, joins the students in person three times during the semester to guide them in best practices to identify and assess non-profit organizations that deliver on personal philanthropic goals. Always available by email or phone, he coaches students through structured and interactive workshops that are fun, thought-provoking and educational.
Last year, seminar participants chose to focus their philanthropic efforts on two Madison-area non-profits: Journey Mental Health and youth programming at the Overture Center for the Arts. The seminar culminated with representatives of the organizations visiting campus to allow the students to explain how they had evaluated their chosen organizations successes and impact. The StartUp Learning Community is humbled and excited that 2020’s spring seminar will leave our students with a better understanding of how creative and innovative thinking can help to address some of society’s, and Madison’s, most pressing issues.