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Turning Students into Social Entrepreneurs

ALBANY, N.Y. (June 30, 2016) – Four cohorts of University at Albany Weekend MBA students successfully developed new social ventures in their final course before graduation this summer.

The project was assigned as part of a required four-week Entrepreneurship and Creativity class taught by School of Business' Standish Associate Professor Bill Wales. It challenged students to sustain their venture from May 7 – June 4. Proceeds benefitted a charity of choice.

Wales along with an outside industry expert evaluated each startup on profitability, web presence quality, and innovativeness. All four teams raised $1,000 or more.

The initiatives included:

  • Trinity Summer Prints (Matthew Marsett, Omayra Padilla, Richard Truby, Erik Johanson, Vinod Pillai and Kat Brown): Students worked to support the CARE Summer Program of the local organization Trinity Alliance. The program serves kids from ages 5-12 in some the most impoverished areas in downtown Albany. The team sold Capital Region prints to help surpass their goal of raising $1,000.

  • Out of the Pits (Andy Ehrlich, Francine Fredette, Jeff Krenn and Crystal Robinson-Loffler): Students assisted Out of the Pits, a local pit bull rescue and community service organization. They successfully raised more than $1,100 by selling tote bags.

  • The Humane Trio (Greg Hodlin, Karen Hernandez and Molly McFadden): Students helped Mohawk Hudson Humane Society, an organization committed to providing shelter and finding homes for lost, abused and unwanted animals. They raised over $1,500 through crowdfunding, selling golf accessories, and holding a golf fundraising event. 

  • Patches4Vets (Ami Kokoneci, Joe Rossi, Casey Weig and Jason Leszczynski): Students teamed up with Leatherstocking Honor Flight, a local hub of the national Honor Flight network. The organization is dedicated to taking World War II vets to see the memorial site honoring them at no cost. By selling “supporter patches” they raised enough money ($1,800+) to cover the cost of five veterans. Read about their project here.

Bringing Venture Skills to Business Students:

Since arriving at UAlbany in fall 2015, Wales has implemented this project at both the undergraduate and graduate level. Outside of his most recent class, additional student teams have benefited more than a half dozen non-profits. They include the Boys & Girls Club of Albany, Dreaming Zebra Foundation, and NYS Children’s Foundation.

Wales said he came up with the idea while teaching entrepreneurship at Skidmore College in 2009. Prior, he was using traditional teaching methods, and felt his students were not actively engaging with the material. That changed once the assignment became real and benefitted a social cause.

“Before creating this project, my classes lacked the experiential component necessary to foster entrepreneurial passion,” Wales said. “Moving to this model, I’ve had nothing but encouraging results. Students are taking something meaningful away from the experience. It is providing them with a vehicle to apply everything they’ve learned, and make a difference for a cause.”

The Weekend MBA class was the third to complete Wales’ project at UAlbany. He hopes to continue expanding this approach in upcoming semesters.

“I think all the success we’ve seen so far speaks to the passion that students have for the organizations they are working with,” Wales said. “By raising these funds, students are not only enhancing their own entrepreneurial skills, but are also helping advance UAlbany’s mission of developing innovative, and socially responsible business leaders.”

Learn more about the hiring of Bill Wales in this School of Business magazine profile.

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