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Social Entrepreneurship at Wheaton College: A Note From Imran G. Chowdhury, Ph.D., Diana Davis Spencer Chair of Social Entrepreneurship

Student Success 

There have been numerous student successes over the past year.  I want to highlight a few here.  Aidan Travis ’22 and Gabriel Childs Michael ’22 were recently selected as the winners of the #impakt WISE Ideation Awards, an international social business model competition sponsored by Copenhagen Business School, one of the leading business schools in Europe.  The competition featured 45 teams from around the world, and this year’s winners included teams from schools in Ecuador, Malaysia, Nigeria, the Philippines, the United Kingdom, and the United States.  Aidan and Gabe went through the 2021 Social Entrepreneurship Launch Program at Wheaton, and their social venture, Conifer Solar Solutions, aims to increase access to renewable energy through the sale of solar-powered thermoelectric coding systems.

Ervin (Erv) Williams ’24, is the Founder and CEO of his own Social Venture, PSI7, a social venture focused on teaching world history and promoting cross-cultural understanding through board games.  Erv developed PSI7 during his first year at Wheaton as part of the 2021 SE Launch Program and via his extensive time in the College’s makerspaces.  He recently presented on his social venture at an international conference, moved to virtual from in-person due to the global pandemic, at Tokushima University in February 2022. The presentation provided Erv an opportunity to explore Japan as a potential market for his line of board games.

Brooke Musial ’21 began her social enterprise, Just Conversations, after experiencing the transformative power of conversations across differences through the Marshall Center’s intergroup dialogue program and completing the 2021 SE Launch Program.  Just Conversations seeks to empower people to promote social justice in their communities by providing accessible tools to facilitate impactful conversations across differences. Upon graduating from Wheaton, Brooke was accepted into the incubator program at Social Enterprise Greenhouse in Providence, where she was able to work on developing her idea through the end of 2021.  As of March 2022, Just Conversations is registered as a formal business in the state of Massachusetts, and Brooke was featured as part of a Social Impact and Innovation Club (SIIC) event in the Lyon’s Den which drew over 50 participants.  

Finally, Katrin Anwar ’24 and I wrote a case study of Praava Health, a Bangladesh-based healthcare startup with a focus on providing high-quality primary care; Sylvana Sinha, Praava’s US-born founder, has raised over $10 million to fund the organization’s growth.  We developed the case study during the summer with a faculty research grant, completed a full draft in the Fall with the help of a student research grant, and will present the case in mid-May at the 2022 Eastern Academy of Management meetings in Portland, ME. 


We are very pleased to announce that the social entrepreneurship and innovation program received a gift to support the new the John and Kendra Malloy Social Venture Scholars (SVS) program.  This pilot initiative will place rising sophomore, junior, and senior students in summer internships with entrepreneurial ventures with a social impact.  The program will be delivered in partnership with Social Enterprise Greenhouse in Providence, Rhode Island, and provides students an opportunity to gain work experience in a startup / social enterprise environment.  Students will also be involved in a concurrent professional development program at Social Enterprise Greenhouse.  The inaugural cohort of Social Venture Scholars will be announced after the Spring Break.  

The SVS program complements Wheaton’s very successful term-time internship program in Boston, Semester in the City (SITC).  Professor Dolita Cathcart serves as the faculty lead for this partnership with the College for Social Innovation on the Wheaton campus.  In Fall 2021 the number of students from Wheaton participating in SITC increased to 16 students, with 24 students enrolled in Spring 2022.

Wheaton Social Impact Conference

In May 2021, we hosted the inaugural Wheaton Social Impact Conference (SIC), a student-run, two-day virtual event that brought together the Wheaton community, professionals and local community members to examine the role of organizations in creating social good.  Marcelle Cabal ’21 lead the organizing committee for the event, which also included Ariel Ferreira ’24, Ervin Williams ’24, Abigail Forrence ’24 and Katrin Anwar ’24.  Speakers at the conference included Mike Brady, President of Sheltersuit Foundation USA and former CEO of Greyston Bakery, and Dr. Indira Henard ’03, Executive Director of the DC Rape Crisis Center.  Dr. Henard, a member of Wheaton’s Board of Trustees, received the first Alumni Social Impact Award in recognition of her achievements and leadership.

The conference, which is part of Wheaton’s larger efforts to infuse social entrepreneurship education and innovation within the liberal arts, brought together many of the elements that help Wheaton students to develop the expertise that they can use to strengthen their commitment to social change and to make the world a better place.  In 2022, the SIC will be held on Thursday, April 28th, and Friday, April 29th. Wellness entrepreneur Ross Franklin ’02, Founder & CEO of Pure Green, will be the conference keynote speaker.

Social Entrepreneurs-in-Residence

During the 2021-22 academic year, the College has appointed two part-time Social Entrepreneurs-in-Residence (SEIRs) to support co-curricular programming, Pabel Delgado and Archana Shah.  Pabel and Archana work directly with students and serve multiple roles as mentors, collaborators, and educators for the Wheaton community and our stakeholders.  They each bring a unique set of entrepreneurial skills in sectors ranging from biotechnology to finance to social venture ecosystem development.

Pabel is both a U.S. citizen and a 20-year permanent resident of Japan. His professional background includes research in stem cell and gene vector therapy development in California’s biotechnology industry.  In Japan, Pabel worked as a researcher at RIKEN’s Center for Developmental Biology and the Osaka Biosciences Institute before initiating a business career and serving as founder and CEO of Asterism Healthcare.  Pabel founded the Sector Six (S6IX) International Accelerator Program in Kamiyama, Japan within Tokushima Prefecture on Shikoku Island in 2019. S6IX is a year-long program focused on health, nutrition, agriculture, and technology.  Startups currently housed at S6IX are combining agriculture with cutting edge technologies like IoT sensors, control software, cybersecurity, professional engineering, robotics, drone technologies toward developing indoor and outdoor farming systems for the cultivation of high-value crops.

Archana spent almost two decades in financial services after her undergraduate degree, first at J.P. Morgan and then at Morgan Stanley in various client facing and product development roles. About 12 years ago, she pivoted, taking skills and training from the private sector, to pursue her passion for social innovation full-time. Until 2020, she was running the day to day of a center for social entrepreneurship at a local NYC university, and also chaired the New York chapter of Women Advancing Microfinance for 4 years, raising $40,000 through grass root support, to invest in increasing gender equity within the sector.  In January 2020 she co-founded Impact Hub New York Metropolitan Area, the latest addition to a global network of over 100 Hubs around the world creating connected impact ecosystems to solve the world’s biggest challenges.  Archana has an undergraduate degree in Finance from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, as well as French. Her Masters is in Economic Development from NYU.

SE Launch Program

  In January 2021 the SE Launch Program kicked off with 21 students taking the GCSEN boot camp to get their social ventures, businesses, and project ideas started.  Students continued the program with multi-session workshops offered online during the Spring semester, covering topics such Conscientious Consulting, Podcasting for Entrepreneurship, and using Google Sheets to Manage Your Social Venture.

In May, during the 2021 Social Impact Conference, SE Launch participants pitched their social venture ideas to friends, family, and the wider Wheaton community.  Several of the SE Launch students continued on to present at the first MVP (minimal viable product) Demo Day held at GCSEN Foundation’s headquarters in Kingston, NY in July.

The 2022 SE Launch Program (SE Launch) kicked off in January 2022 with the GCSEN-run boot camp, and includes 15 participants, 12 students and 3 post-baccalaureate participants.  Participants represent a range of majors, including biochemistry, public health, sociology, international relations, environmental studies, anthropology, economics, and business and management.  Among the post-baccalaureate participants, we count 2 alumni, including Antonia Dimitrova ’06 and Heather Rotman ’18.

Guest Speakers

We hosted a range of speakers this past year, mostly virtually, but also in-person during the Fall 2021 semester. 

During the Spring semester, Ambassador John Campbell, the Ralph Bunche Senior Fellow for Africa Policy Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, visited Wheaton virtually in April for a discussion of his new book, Nigeria and the Nation-State: Rethinking Diplomacy with the Postcolonial World.  Topics of discussion included political change in Nigeria and West Africa, and the role of entrepreneurship in increasing economic dynamism in sub-Saharan Africa.  The event was the result of a collaboration between the Wheaton African Students Association, the Political Science Department, and the Diana Davis Spencer Chair of Social Entrepreneurship.

During the Fall semester, as part of the FYE on the UN SDGs, we hosted speakers in-person and virtually, including: Dr. Noshua Watson, economist and Managing Director of Interwoven social impact consulting; Maryum Saifee, women’s rights activist and State Department official; Stephanie Hanson, Senior Vice President of Policy and Partnerships at the One Acre Fund; Lindi von Mutius, Director of Board Strategy & Operations at the Trust for Public Land; Dr. Wangchuk Rinzin, Visiting Fulbright Scholar from Bhutan during AY 21-22 at Wheaton College; Archana Shah, co-founder and COO of Impact Hub NYC Metro Area; and Pabel Delgado, CEO of Asterism Healthcare.    

In March 2022, the program hosted its first short-term Visiting Entrepreneur, Kana Hattori, a business owner and cultural entrepreneur from Kobe, Japan.


The Social Entrepreneurship Launch Program, which begins with a bootcamp during the winter break, and continues with workshops and presentations during the Spring semester, was designated as an on-campus Sophomore Experience in March.  The Sophomore Experience connects student learning to the real world by engaging in hands-on, experiential learning and allows students to explore career possibilities, connect with practitioners, and develop projects they are passionate about.  We are currently working on obtaining the Sophomore Experience designation for the new Malloy SVS internship program.    

In the summer, I virtually taught my course on Business & Society in Europe at the Free University of Berlin’s Summer and Winter University program.  In 2022, a group of Wheaton students will be with me in-person in Berlin from mid-July to mid-August for the course.  During the Fall 2021 semester, Professor Jon Chow and I taught for the second time a first-year experience (FYE) course entitled “A Better and More Sustainable Future for All: Policy, Social Innovation, and the Politics of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)”.  The course was targeted to incoming students in the class of 2025, and built around a team project wherein students designed an initiative that addressed one of the 17 SDGs.  Two students from the course taking are part in the 2022 SE Launch Program and will, in addition to developing their social ventures, have completed their Sophomore Experience requirement before event finishing their first year at Wheaton!

Social Impact & Innovation Club

The Social Impact & Innovation Club (SIIC), formerly the Social Entrepreneurship Club, added seven new members to its executive board in the Fall.  SIIC held an in-person holiday party in December in the Lyon’s Den, and recently hosted Brooke Musial ’21 and her social venture Just Conversations in the same venue at an event which drew over 50 participants.  Club members were among the lead organizers for the 2021 Wheaton Social Impact Conference, are taking a similar lead role for the 2022 SIC, and have a number of other events and activities planned for the Spring 2022 semester.

Outreach and Engagement

Last summer, Wheaton joined the Global Business School Network (GBSN), a consortium of schools working to improve access to quality, locally relevant management and entrepreneurship education for the developing world, along with such as the NYU Stern School of Business, Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Business, and Jönköping International Business School in Sweden.  We hope to deepen our engagement with GBSN in 2022 and beyond in order to provide a wider range of opportunities for Wheaton students, faculty, and staff.  

In July 2021, I hosted a virtual panel of academics and practitioners to discuss “the commodification of time, labor, and well-being in the modern economy; our session included experts from the fields of medicine / public health, time management, and historical sociology, and was part of the Social Sciences for the Real World (SS4RW) initiative that I co-organize at the Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics annual conference.

Finally, a delegation from Wheaton, including Professor Robert Morris, Archana Shah, Philip D. Manos ’08, and myself, was part of the visit of Congressman Jake Auchincloss (MA-4) to the Mansfield Bio-Incubator in February 2022. We are excited to be working with the Mansfield Bio-Incubator and other local stakeholders to develop opportunities for our students and to help to develop the life sciences and biotechnology entrepreneurship ecosystem in our region.