Social entrepreneur-in-residence will be university’s first

A social entrepreneur-in-residence will be on campus next week as part of the university’s exploration of the role social entrepreneurism can play at Marquette.

Social entrepreneurism is the idea that business principles and tactics, like the importance of innovation and the need to address market failures, can be used to solve societal problems.

Jane Leu will be the first social entrepreneur-in-residence Marquette has ever hosted. She is the founder of Upwardly Global, a company that helps immigrants find jobs on par with their levels of education and experience.

Social entrepreneurism, she said, is “really about creating innovative solutions to some of the pressing problems facing the world today.”

Leu will be on campus from Oct. 25 to Nov. 7 and will participate in various events during that time, including classroom visits and workshops.

The point of social entrepreneurism is to utilize business ideologies to attack problems at their roots to end them entirely, said Jeff Snell, special adviser to the president and a member of the University Leadership Council. Snell is helping to coordinate Leu’s visit.

“It seeks to actually solve the problem and not build more industry around managing the problem,” Snell said.

While here, Leu will visit a variety of classrooms across different disciplines, such as political science and public relations.

“It can definitely apply to any major,” she said. “What’s unique about Marquette is that they’re thinking about it that way.”

Tim Keane, the College of Business Administration’s entrepreneur-in-residence, agreed that business skills and a self-starting philosophy are applicable to all students. Keane has been entrepreneur-in-residence since 2001 and directs the college’s Kohler Center for Entrepreneurship, which supports entrepreneurship programs at the university.

“I think that any student in any college in the university ought to be able to acquire some exposure to entrepreneurial skills that will serve them well in their careers,” Keane said. “Having skills to know how to make positive change in the world is a very big deal.”

Right now, social entrepreneurism innovators and university programs are concentrated on the east and west coasts, with little emphasis in the Midwest, Leu said.

“I really think that’s a missed opportunity,” said Leu, who grew up in Ohio.

Marquette would also be one of the only Jesuit universities, if not the only one, looking to utilize social entrepreneurism in its curriculum, Snell said.

“There are no other Jesuit schools looking to make a contribution to the field in this way – at least not that I know of,” he said.

The principles of social entrepreneurism have strong ties to the Jesuit mission, which makes it an appealing concept for Marquette to explore, Snell said.

“We have an environment that is saturated with service components, engaged learning, and a call for our graduates to be men and women for others,” he said. “Social entrepreneurism (fits) nicely with mission and identity.”

Leu said she was interested in coming to Marquette in part because of its Jesuit mission and because students tend to choose the university for its commitment to service.

“It’s appealing to me that students have chosen to be there for that purpose,” she said.

Teaching Marquette students about social entrepreneurism can help them “envision themselves in their careers living out the mission of Marquette,” she said.

Right now, there is not a definite vision for the future of social entrepreneurism at Marquette, Snell said, as the university is waiting to gauge what student interest might be.

But if it is to play a part in the curriculum, Marquette’s emphasis would be on “equipping” students to be practitioners of social entrepreneurism rather than on research of the subject like there is at some other universities, Snell said.

Currently, Snell and Keane are teaching an honors program seminar on social entrepreneurism, and Keane said he would like to see more classes like that in the future.

Leu said she hopes Marquette decides to embrace social entrepreneurship in its curriculum.

“There’s an opportunity there for Marquette,” Leu said. “The field is wide open for someone to take the lead.”