UMD: A Globally Connected University

Maryland Students Making a Global Impact through Social Entrepreneurship

On October 15th, the second cohort of the Maryland Social Entrepreneur Corps (MSEC) culminated with an evening where students shared their international internship experiences with more than 90 members of the UMD community. During the past summer, this group of 15 intrepid Maryland students spent eight weeks in the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, or Nicaragua supporting sustainable economic development projects while working with indigent local entrepreneurs to start and expand small businesses. Using a unique form of micro-finance called “MicroConsignment,” student trained entrepreneurs to sell products and services, such as energy efficient stoves, water filtration systems, solar lamps, vegetable seeds, reading glasses, and eye exams, which improve the lives of their customers. Program participants deeply impacted communities in all three countries as they learned to apply social entrepreneurship principles to a variety of complex development challenges.  

At the symposium, students reflected on the transformative experience of living and working in a unique economic and cultural environment. Being exposed first-hand to the day-to-day realities of life in a developing country, willingly relinquishing basic creature comforts and having to learn to communicate effectively in a foreign language were just some of the challenges our young Terps encountered while spending their summer abroad.  A power-point presentation gave an overview of the different projects students worked on while in country as well as their deliverables. Students also shared the profound impact the program had on them, both personally and professionally. Key lessons learned included having patience and appreciation for a different business culture and environment, developing a greater tolerance for ambiguity, and fostering empathy for the people they were serving.  Click here for a spotlight on MSEC student Surendra Fernando. 

Particularly notable about the 2014 MSEC team was how they embodied the extraordinary diversity of this campus.  Not only was almost every college represented among majors ranging from international business to kinesiology to aerospace engineering, but even the ethnic profile of the group truly spanned the globe. Out of the 15 students, four were Asian American, one South Asian, two African American, one Caribbean American, one Native/African American, one Hispanic, and five Caucasian American.  No single other study abroad program at the University of Maryland reflects such diversity.

Creating this type of international experiential learning experience for our students has been a campus-wide collaborative effort between Education Abroad, the Office of International Affairs, the Center for Social Value Creation, the Smith School Office of Global Initiatives, and the Academy for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.  Through financial contributions made by these internal partners, as well as the generosity of new donors including the Ahns Foundation and the Citrin Fund, every student who participated in the 2014 Maryland Social Entrepreneur Corps received a scholarship between $2,000 and $3,500 to lower the total cost of this $5,700 program. Not a single student was, as a result, denied access to this opportunity.

The University of Maryland is becoming known as a center for Global Social Entrepreneurship and the MSEC program is contributing to that effort by preparing students with the knowledge, skills and attitudes to become leaders who embrace challenges with optimism, passion, and innovative thinking. 

Learn more about the Maryland Social Entrepreneur Corps Program.