Students Participate in Social Entrepreneurship Conference


A group of MCLA students and their professor, Petra Hejnova, were among those to attend the largest global assembly for social entrepreneurship education, joining 650 faculty and students from more than 150 institutions and 40 countries.

Held last month in San Diego, Calif., Ashoka U Exchange seeks to answer this question: How can universities spark ideas big enough to change the world? Despite being a new academic area of focus, the students already were familiar with social entrepreneurship.

According to Hejnova (above, third from left), a professor of political science and public policy at MCLA, "All of the things that MCLA is doing in terms of connecting the campus with the community is pretty socially innovative, and fits under social entrepreneurship to a great extent. The conference served to underscore the work being done here."

Those who attended the conference also learned from Hejnova and her students. Together, they wrote "Gender Diversity in Social Entrepreneurship Curricula: Learning from the Syllabi." The paper was presented in a panel discussion by Tyson Luneau '13 (pictured right and above, second from right).

"I thought it was a good opportunity for a student," Hejnova said. "Tyson did a terrific job."

She and her students examined gender differences and representation in syllabi devoted to social entrepreneurship topics. Specifically, they focused on the gender diversity of faculty in the United States who teach social entrepreneurship courses, and the authors of assigned readings.

"Reviewing existing curricula in regards to gender representation is crucial as it may increase our understanding of how educational institutions portray social enterprise innovators to students," Hejnova explained. "It is a particularly timely topic given the existing unequal gender representation among social innovators."

Their findings indicate that most of those teaching and writing about social entrepreneurship are male.

Despite the fact that most of the conference presenters were either professors or entrepreneurs, Luneau said their panel discussion ended up going very well, and included a student-focused discussion on the importance and real meaning of diversity. 

"Working in admissions and being an education major, diversity is a term that gets thrown around quite a bit. It was very exciting to be able to pursue intensive, quantitative research on diversity and to present it to a larger crowd," Luneau said.

"We, as a group, received compliments on our research throughout the day, with many folks being excited to hear about someone researching diversity within the relatively new field of social entrepreneurship," he added.

David Boerman '14 (pictured above, on the far right) said it was important that he attend the conference because, in addition to providing an opportunity for him to test his research skills by co-authoring the paper, the gender diversity project was significant to the field.

What was the best part of the conference? Boerman said it was the passion of the presenters and the attendees to improve the lives of others through their work and teaching of social entrepreneurship.

For Rebecca Ramos '14 (above, on the far left), it was the chance to talk to students from around the world, and to hear their opinions and stories.

Luneau agreed: "The opportunity to meet students and faculty members from all over the world was one of the greatest parts of the conference. We anticipated being the only history students in a conference full of business majors, but we ended up meeting and conversing with individuals from a variety of academic backgrounds."