The Columns

W&L Social Entrepreneurship Summit to be held March 27

— by on March 16th, 2015

Washington and Lee University will host its second annual Social Entrepreneurship Summit on March 27 from noon to 3 p.m. in the Hillel House Multipurpose room.

Founded by Drew Hess, associate professor of business administration, the summit is devoted to fostering student-led social entrepreneurship. The Social Entrepreneurship Summit is free and open to the public.

“Across campus, there were these great student-led causes trying to initiate big, bold changes, and we thought it made a lot of sense to give them some of the same tools and support we would give to any student startups,” said Hess.

This year’s summit features talks by two alumni working in social entrepreneurship ventures and presentations by six students on their own social projects.

Ben Ersing ’12 is a management consultant with Palladium Group Impact Investment, an impact investing firm in New York City. While at Washington and Lee, he designed his own major in international political economy and minored in Latin American and Caribbean studies. He initially became interested in social entrepreneurship when he spent a summer conducting research with a non-profit working near the United States-Mexico border.

“Over the course of that summer, I spent a significant amount of time in Mexico speaking with migrants about their reasons for undertaking such a treacherous journey (to the U.S.), and came to realize that the only sustainable solution was to provide them with an alternative means to support their families,” said Ersing. “I became intrigued by the concept of private sector development and the role of business in providing social returns.”

Ersing went on to help found General’s Development Initiative, a co-curricular organization on campus that provides micro-financing to people in developing countries. The group initially worked on two projects in Ecuador.

John Christopher ’09 is the founder and director of the Oda Foundation, based in Kalikot, Nepal. The organization fosters community empowerment through implementing health and education initiatives in some of Nepal’s most remote villages.

Christopher was a business administration major at Washington and Lee. In his free time, he wrestled and was a member of both the Executive Committee and the Williams Investment Society. After he graduated, Christopher worked in financial consulting for three years before taking a fellowship with an NGO in Nepal.

“I recognized the enormous need in Nepal and saw that I already had the skill sets necessary to begin making a difference,” said Christopher. “I also realized that while the broader international aid community works heavily in large urban areas, rural parts of the country had been virtually overlooked.”

In addition to talks by both Ersing and Christopher, six students will make presentations in which they report on how they used small grants to help fund their own social ventures.

For more information and a full schedule of events, see http://www.wlu.edu/williams-school/events/social-entrepreneurship-summit.

Questions? Contact Maggie Ackell ’16 at ackelll16@mail.wlu.edu or Sarah Helms ’15 at helmss15@mail.wlu.edu.