Calling all innovators! The School of Integrative Studies (SIS) invites all undergraduates who have the spark, imagination and energy to join the fall 2016 cohort of Social Innovation Fellows. Based on the Arlington Campus, the Social Innovation Fellows will use their courses, labs, and interaction with social innovation experts to develop, present and pitch their projects designed to help solve a social or environmental problem.
The new program is a joint endeavor between SIS and Mason’s School of Business. SIS Professor Gregory Unruh is co-coordinating this new opportunity and highlighted the skills students will gain through the 15 credit, semester-long program. Students will gain experience understanding community needs, leading teams, developing innovative solutions, understanding and securing project finance, designing and testing ideas in the field.
Students will take courses in Social Enterprise, Leadership and Entrepreneurship along with two laboratory classes, during which they will work in teams to design and test their own social innovations. Fellows will develop a new product, service or organization designed to meet a community need.
Unruh said, “We’re recruiting now and are looking for students who are concerned about an issue or idea and looking to build the skills needed to address the issue in an effective, scalable way.”
All of the courses are integrative, and combine traditional classroom discussions and presentations with hands-on experiences. Unruh and program co-leader, David Miller of the School of Business, have planned an energizing start-up weekend immersing students to the world of social innovation.
“We basically run them through the entire semester in one weekend - so they get an overview of what they will be doing and what they need to learn and master before their projects can take flight. They will develop and pitch projects in that one weekend. It’s exciting, exhilarating and intimidating all at the same time.”
Following the start-up weekend, students will participate in a unique course designed specifically for them by the EDGE at George Mason’s Science and Technology campus in Manassas, Virginia. The day will focus on leadership, communication and teambuilding.
Students will also learn and practice team leading skills in online gaming environments. “I told my grade school kids that my college students get to play World of Warcraft for class and they almost fell out of their chairs!,” says Greg Unruh, “But practicing team building and leadership in online environments is a powerful learning tool to accelerate student skill acquisition.”
The coursework emphasizes both theory and practice, interweaving ideas with real world applications as presented by a variety of guest speakers and area experts. Students enrolling in the semester will learn how to identify and understand community needs; engage and lead in teams; negotiate with multiple stakeholders; develop, design and field test solutions with a focus on impact and scalability.
Unruh and Miller will offer several information sessions in the coming weeks and have begun meeting with interested students, in advance of registration for the fall 2016 cohort.
Students who want to learn more, or are interested in registering, can visit the Social Innovation Fellows website and join the program mailing list for important notifications.
April 14, 2016