Student org helps women's support group through client project

Social entrepreneurs make pitch for Women Helping Women

Even though it has “social” in the name, the Council for Social Entrepreneurship isn’t just a place for like-minded students to meet. “We're basically a club that provides opportunities to do things that are social-entrepreneurship related. We meet every other week and then we have speaker series, workshops, social events, and client projects,” co-president of COSE and senior strategic communication & entrepreneurship major Chi Pham explained. “We want students who not just come and hang out, we want them to be interactive. This is the opportunity to build a portfolio and to help others.”

Finding a client for the group’s first project wasn’t hard, thanks to COSE advisor Michael Conger. “He has actually been working with the director of Women Helping Women and said, ‘If you are looking for a client, they would love to do it,’ Pham said. “The client’s challenge was ‘How do we get students to be more aware of, and utilize Women Helping Women’s resources?’ They have a lot of services ranging from talking with survivors of sexual assault, helping with court hearings, or helping understand hospital procedures.”

“We have a problem and the problem is that we're not seen on campus and we're not very visible,” WHW campus advocate Morgan-Allison Moore said. “I really appreciated the experience because it allows students to use the skills they're learning in a classroom on a real-life issue.”

This sort of project was part of what made junior theater/entrepreneurship major Alexandra Leurk interested in COSE to begin with. “I think it is really important to come at these social justice issues with an entrepreneurship mindset and a business mindset, just to balance out the different areas of knowledge that are coming in to solve those problems. I wanted to learn more about how we can approach these types of issues through that entrepreneurial mindset,” she said.

Divided into teams, 18 members of COSE got to work looking for solutions. ”Our pitch was to have student volunteers – not the organizers of Women Helping Women, but people who actually go to Miami -- create a schedule and go to different departments each month, set up a spreadsheet of classes to go to and ask professors if they can go and give a two-minute quick pitch about WHW, what they offer, how students can get involved,” junior strategic communications/entrepreneurship major Caroline McManus said. “We gave them an example of how to do that by recording ourselves doing a pitch in a classroom.”

“A lot of the ideas that we were coming up with, we were gaining this understanding that social justice problems always involve a sense of personal accountability,” Leurk noted. “We all have to have a personal accountability for the problems so that it can be more of a personal situation that we can solve.”

“They surveyed their peers and asked questions about Women Helping Women and created a plan. I was taking a lot of notes when they were doing their presentations because they had amazing ideas,” Moore said. “Hearing how they feel like it should work as students, it gave me a lot of direction. I talked to my supervisor, prioritized the ideas, and started making the connections.”

COSE members said that taking part in the client project and helping WHW grow helped them learn as well. “It was a great experience. I've never done something like that before, and it was a great way to gain experience into what I'll be doing in entrepreneurship classes later,” first-year economics major Mark Rick said.

“I think a major takeaway was understanding that things may look okay in everyday life, but there's a lot of issues that our community is facing in different social justice factors and aspects,” Leurk said. “The whole world faces problems every single day, but unless we're looking around in our local area first, I don't think we can really always step into those other areas without seeing what's happening in the area around us first.”