By Deanna I. Howes, Director of Communications, AJCU

This month’s issue of Connections highlights social innovation on six Jesuit campuses, as well as the new Midwest Jesuit Collaborative on Social Innovation (J-COSI). We are proud to feature examples of ways that students, faculty and administrators are creating positive social changes in their communities through novel and creative endeavors. Although social innovation is not limited to Jesuit institutions, it’s easy to see how well this fits in with our shared mission of promoting justice for all, and we’re excited to see how these programs will continue to grow in years to come.

This spring will be quite busy for our campuses as many will be hosting AJCU conferences and events. You will find a full schedule through June inside this issue of Connections.

Certainly, the first few months of this year will also be busy here in Washington, D.C. as the new presidential administration transitions into office. In this month’s federal relations report, our vice president, Cyndy Littlefield, reflects on the outgoing president’s contributions toward higher education. Not only did President Obama support campus-based aid programs, he also supported undocumented students and led legislation that would help them to stay in the United States and obtain a college education. The higher education community is grateful for President Obama’s advocacy efforts and thanks him for his service to our country.

By Cynthia Littlefield, Vice President for Federal Relations, AJCU

The Obama Legacy
President Barack Obama has served America with grace and professionalism during his eight-year tenure. Because of his involvement in education reform, he may be considered one of the most influential higher education presidents in history. Who better understood the nuances of our complicated system or believed strongly that higher education must play a significant part in the United States economy and global market? President Obama did.

With that understanding of higher education came a stronger commitment to Federal student aid programs. President Obama increased Pell grants by $1,000 over his tenure and his budgets reflected consistent support for campus-based aid programs. When the Perkins loan program came under threat during budget negotiations, AJCU organized a campus-based aid outreach effort to work with the Administration to save Perkins loans. Negotiations on the Hill were successful in the short term, thanks to the efforts by Senate and House Democrats. Higher Education Act (HEA) reauthorization will be the place to debate on these important issues in the years to come.

Under the Obama Administration, the College Scorecard was introduced; this tool helps college-bound students and their families compare potential schools based on costs, graduation rates, debt and post-college earnings. The Financial Aid Shopping Sheet was also introduced during Obama’s tenure; this is an instrument by which institutions notify students about their financial aid packages.

In spite of these accomplishments, there have been challenges for higher education over the past eight years. Higher education regulations became a major issue for institutions, but they may be recalled by the Trump Administration. Private, non-profit institutions were unfortunately thrown into the Gainful Employment Provision that was chiefly aimed at for-profit institutions; state authorization for distance education remains a huge costly complication for colleges and universities (including Jesuit institutions); and attempts to alter credit hours and accreditation have been cumbersome for administrators to implement.

Yet President Obama brought the economy back from the great recession, and millions of jobs were created (although there is still a need for more jobs). The Affordable Care Act, which is currently under scrutiny in Congress, created insurance for 20 million Americans. These are huge accomplishments. President Obama advocated for global awareness on climate change. He also created the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program for undocumented students to stay in this country. Unfortunately, some of these important initiatives may not survive in the new Administration; for example, the recall process for the Affordable Care Act has already begun.

Through both challenges and successes, President Obama served the United States with integrity and thoughtful decision-making. He and his family were refreshing additions to the White House and Washington, D.C. His professorial ways were of comfort to a nation in pain from many years of economic distress. We will miss President Obama, and his staff who were always available and accessible. We wish President Obama well and look forward to seeing his family stay in Washington, D.C. and participating as citizens in this unique city.

By Tanisia Morris, Staff Writer, Fordham University

Andrew Kingsley, Gabelli '13 (Photo by Patrick Verel for Fordham University)
Andrew Kingsley, Gabelli ’13 (Photo by Patrick Verel for Fordham University)


By providing entrepreneurial Fordham University students with a “beyond-the-classroom” support structure for their business ventures and hands-on experience working with local businesses in Bronx, NY, the Fordham Foundry is redefining how university-based incubators can be used to foster innovation in underrepresented communities.

“Lots of schools have these types of programs and facilities, but I think what makes us different is that we have a strong emphasis on spurring economic growth for social good,” said Chris Meyer, Ph.D., interim executive director of the Fordham Foundry and clinical assistant professor at the Gabelli School of Business. “We teach students about values-based businesses, and how values drive what they do. We see that undercurrent consistently with their ideas, but at the same time it happens organically.”

The Foundry, established in 2012, is a collaboration program between New York City’s Department of Small Business Services and the Gabelli School. Through its collaborative workspace, mentoring program, consultations, workshops, and business curriculum, it supports the Fordham community in developing and launching businesses that transcend profit-making.

Among the successful business ventures that have come out of the Foundry is the Concourse Group by alumnus Andrew Kingsley, GABELLI ’13. Originally established to help credit unions provide banking services in disadvantaged neighborhoods in the Bronx, the company has since expanded to provide consulting services for small businesses in the local community.

Most recently, the Foundry hosted an in-house hackathon at Fordham’s Rose Hill campus. Students came together to create a program or “hack” that could help area businesses grow, including the more than 300 shops along Fordham Road, the largest shopping district in the Bronx. Nicholas DiBari, FCRH’17, the winner of the hackathon, created a program that developed playlists based on song lyric sentiments. He hoped the program would facilitate a positive customer experience.

“The hackathon really appeals to the mission of the Fordham Foundry,” said Anthony Parente, GABELLI ’19, who uses the Foundry regularly and helped to organize the event. “We had all of these kids come in and they were given a challenge. They had to understand the problems that small businesses face and [then] create a solution.”

Meyer said the Foundry organizes events like the hackathon to also encourage collaboration and teamwork, which are important to achieve success as an entrepreneur.

“One of the things that the startup world has recognized—and that academia is also recognizing—is that our original concept of an entrepreneur working in a windowless room is wrong,” he said. “Successful people who work and implement changes often collaborate [in] teams. They share their ideas. They learn to work with people and seek out others who have skills that complement them. Those are things that are best learned in experiential exercises. It’s hard to learn that in a classroom.”

In addition to developing technical skills from coding to accounting, students and alumni who use the Foundry learn how to clarify and sharpen their ideas with help from experienced entrepreneurs, business professionals, and coaches. These interactions also help students build self-confidence, particularly in the early stages of the process.

“There are so many other entrepreneurs here who are pushing forward to make their ideas a reality and a success,” said Parente, who has been using the Foundry to develop an application for wearable technology. “Having access to mentors and directors every day who allow me to share my progress encourages me to keep moving forward.”

Radiate Market founders Alyssa Rose, FCRH '17 & Kiera Maloney, FCRH '17 (Photo by Dana Maxson for Fordham University)
Radiate Market founders Alyssa Rose, FCRH ’17 & Kiera Maloney, FCRH ’17 (Photo by Dana Maxson for Fordham University)


Other Foundry startups have been driven by their founders’ own personal challenges. Corinne Logan (GABELLI’ 17), who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes as a child, created PumpStash, athletic spandex shorts designed to hold insulin pumps for women and girls with Type 1 diabetes.

But the Foundry isn’t just for students who are studying business or computer science. The incubator aims to nurture an entrepreneurial spirit in all students and alumni, irrespective of their majors.

In fact, Fordham students Alyssa Rose, FCRH ’17, and Kiera Maloney, FCRH ’17, co-founders of Radiate Market, an online marketplace that empowers women artisans in developing countries, are anthropology and economics majors.

“Across all sorts of fields, there is a real demand for people to be entrepreneurial,” said Meyer. “Regardless of what industry or field you work in, people are interested in innovations, and they’re interested in people who can both create and implement change.”

The Foundry will soon expand to Fordham’s Lincoln Center campus as part of a $ 1 million grant from the Nasdaq Educational Foundation to the Gabelli School and Fordham’s School of Law. Among other things, the grant will promote more opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration. As more students become familiar with the Foundry’s services, Meyer hopes to identify new ways it can support these emerging entrepreneurs in their quest to create positive social change. He said, “My primary focus is to build up student involvement so that we can have much more to offer the community.”

Tanisia Morris, staff writer in Fordham’s Office of Communications, covers the Gabelli School of Business.

By Tim Linn, Public Relations Specialist, Rockhurst University

Volunteers with Variety KC GoBabyGo! Powered by Rockhurst University pose with children receiving their new mobility vehicles at an April 2016 event on the University campus (Photo by Rockhurst University)
Volunteers with Variety KC GoBabyGo! Powered by Rockhurst University pose with children receiving their new mobility vehicles at an April 2016 event on the University campus (Photo by Rockhurst University)


In January 2015, faculty from Rockhurst University’s physical therapy department invited students to a meeting to discuss a new volunteer project. Kendra Gagnon, Ph.D., PT, associate professor of physical therapy, wanted to launch a University-based chapter of an organization called GoBabyGo!

About six months prior to that meeting, Gagnon attended a presentation and workshop by the organization’s founder, Cole Galloway, Ph.D., PT, an associate professor and chair of the department of physical therapy at the University of Delaware. She came away with plenty of ideas and infused with energy.

GoBabyGo! chapters have sprung up across the globe based on an idea that came to Galloway on a trip to the toy store: to turn readily available motorized toy cars into mobility vehicles designed to fit a child’s individual needs, whether that’s a visual impairment, cognitive disabilities, or a condition, like spina bifida, that would limit a child’s mobility.

“I come from a pediatric physical therapy background, where mobility aides are often big and more often expensive,” Gagnon said. “GoBabyGo! cars help kids explore the world, and they do it in cars with cartoon or superhero characters on them, so there’s not the same stigma that some traditional mobility aides have.”

Gagnon said existing research suggests a link between physical mobility and cognitive development — that children who are able get around on their own can explore new things, make decisions, and sometimes get in a little trouble, all of which is good for growing independence.

It’s also much cheaper — modifying a toy car can cost around $200, compared to thousands of dollars for some more traditional mobility aides. That’s by design — after developing the initial plans for the GoBabyGo! cars, Galloway said he immediately made the documents available for free online, to inspire grassroots, volunteer-based groups like the one at Rockhurst to get started and spread the technology in their communities.

“Typically, the universities do the research, hand it over to companies who take years to develop it and we go back into our caves and start over,” Galloway said. “I didn’t want to go back in the cave — I wanted to get this to the people who are going to use it faster, and let people improve it.”

Trace Bales test drives his GoBabyGo! car with help from Rockhurst University physical therapy student Mallory White in March 2015 at the Children's Center for the Visually Impaired in Kansas City, MO. (Photo by Rockhurst University)
Trace Bales test drives his GoBabyGo! car with help from Rockhurst University physical therapy student Mallory White in March 2015 at the Children’s Center for the Visually Impaired in Kansas City, MO. (Photo by Rockhurst University)


The first meeting of Rockhurst’s GoBabyGo! group, in one of the University’s physical therapy labs, attracted close to 100 students from the PT and engineering programs at Rockhurst. Things started happening pretty quickly after that. In March 2015, the volunteers delivered the first vehicles to students at the Children’s Center for the Visually Impaired. The resulting media coverage led to a partnership with the Variety Club of Kansas City, allowing the group to host workshops for hundreds of community volunteers, help kickstart other chapters in the region, and build and distribute more than 60 vehicles of their own. Of note, families have come to Kansas City from as far as Texas to get a vehicle for their child.

More recently, the group served as one of a small number of pilot sites for a new innovation — a harness system specially made from the frame of an outdoor tent that allows those with mobility challenges to move in a given area in any direction under their own power, assisted by a harness.

“Harness systems have been a part of physical therapy for years, but they’re typically suspended over a treadmill,” Gagnon said. “What really makes the difference is what’s underneath the harness. This opens the door to a lot of applications — you could integrate a harness system into a home or a workplace to make this whole environment that a person can move around in.”

A harness system that Variety KC purchased for the Rockhurst University GoBabyGo! program is now the subject of a study by students and faculty, who are looking at the benefits of the new technology. One of the students who coordinated that study was Brennan Lashbrook, who said the study and the harness are both very much in keeping with the spirit of the program.

“The objective is that other kids can play with [a disabled child], so that’s the whole thing — we want all of the kids to be able to socialize together,” he said.

Gagnon said the partnership cemented early on with Variety KC, which has served as a sort of catalyst for growth in the program. “It’s been unbelievable how quickly people learned about it and contacted us,” she said. “And Variety Club KC made it possible for us to make sure that the people who needed a car could get one.”

Even Galloway said among the many chapters of GoBabyGo!, he considers Rockhurst’s among the very best. “Rockhurst is relatively small, university-wise, but in the GoBabyGo! world, they rock,” he said.

Galloway got to see the group in action during a visit in Fall 2016, when he was the guest of the College of Health and Human Services Speaker Series. Despite what its size might suggest, Galloway said Rockhurst is in some crucial ways perfectly positioned to succeed in a project like GoBabyGo!, given its Jesuit values and mission.

“When you unpack this project, you see both sides — the science and the social justice,” he said. “They go hand-in-hand. I think social justice is about listening to communities and getting behind them and fighting with them.”

It’s also been great for learning: Gagnon said that physical therapists need to be able to communicate with specialists from other disciplines, and working together with an engineer provides some great opportunities for both sides to practice those skills of translation.

Brian Olmstead, a physical therapy student who has helped the group since their first meeting, said that that sense of collaboration is what makes the partnership work and makes it exciting. He said, “When you get people who are movement scientists with people who know the tools, the science and the technology, you get GoBabyGo!.”

By Jeffrey Martin, Senior Associate Director of University Communications & Bill Wolff, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Communication Studies, Saint Joseph’s University

B:Social students (from left) Carly Montecalvo, Danielle Godfrey, Bridget Moran, and Foley Fellow Tor Lydon interview foster parents for the Texas Council of Child Welfare Boards Fostering Brighter Futures media campaign. Catherine Earley (front rig…
B:Social students (from left) Carly Montecalvo, Danielle Godfrey, Bridget Moran, and Foley Fellow Tor Lydon interview foster parents for the Texas Council of Child Welfare Boards Fostering Brighter Futures media campaign. Catherine Earley (front right), Regional Director of North Texas Pathways Youth and Family Services & Fostering Brighter Futures lead, watches on. (Photo by Saint Joseph’s University)


One of the benefits of social media is that it gives a voice to everyone. No matter how niche your interest, you can find a community talking about it. But just as easily, bullying, intolerance and meanness can and do find places to thrive on the internet. Many have turned to the log-out button to avoid the negativity. Others are swimming against the tide, doubling down on positivity and using social media as a catalyst for change.

Among the latter group, you’ll find Beautiful Social (a.k.a. B:Social), a research collaborative at Saint Joseph’s University (SJU) that offers local and national nonprofits free consulting and content creation to make their digital presence stronger and more effective. Originally conceived by SJU Associate Professor of Communication Studies Aimée Knight, Ph.D., what was once a single free elective course has grown into an organization and an integral part of SJU’s communications studies department, with an annual budget, its own building, a dedicated faculty director, four paid undergraduate fellows, and more than 40 student consultants per academic year.

Through the program, students enrolled in one of two courses — “Social Media and Community Engagement” or “Nonprofit Communications” — work with nonprofit and community-based organizations in semester-long, team-based new media projects with social justice themes. These student consultants conduct research to help clients build sustainable social media strategies for a variety of platforms (including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and blogs) and create content that clients can use immediately. Students learn open-ended interview techniques, how to set up professionally lit photo and video studios, and how to create digital stories targeted for specific online audiences and platforms.

“At Beautiful Social, we believe students have the ingenuity and vision to create positive social change for nonprofit organizations and their clients in the Philadelphia area and beyond,” says Bill Wolff, Ph.D., assistant professor of communication studies at Saint Joseph’s and director of Beautiful Social. “The consultants see the immediate results of their work when clients add B:Social-produced videos to their social media feeds, as [Philadelphia-based organizations] Alex’s Lemonade Stand’s Lemon Society and Fair Food Philly have done, or when they start using a website we’ve designed specifically for them, [such as] Project 440 [or] Jax’s Labrador Retriever Rescue.”

More than 60 clients have worked with the program, including the American Cancer Society, the Ronald McDonald House of Philadelphia and the United Spinal Association. Smaller nonprofits and community organizations, which have more limited staffs and budgets, get a significant return by collaborating with B:Social. For example, in Fall 2016, student consultants created two stunning artist feature videos for The Soapbox Community Print Shop and Zine Library, an all-volunteer nonprofit in Philadelphia that provides “resources, equipment, and instruction in printing, binding, and related self-publication arts.”

And in Fall 2014, B:Social helped Birchrun Hills Farm in Chester Springs, PA, launch a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to outfit a “cheese cave” to help staff make cheese on the premises. The campaign raised $33,000 — $8,000 more than its original goal.

“In class, I always tell students the work they do for B:Social will change people’s lives for the better,” says Wolff. “That’s our entire reason for being here: to use our skills and our time to build relationships and help make a better society.”

B:Social Students Elena Zecchino, Meg Doherty & Emily Bogansky (Photo by Saint Joseph's University)
B:Social Students Elena Zecchino, Meg Doherty & Emily Bogansky (Photo by Saint Joseph’s University)


In Spring 2016, B:Social partnered with five clients, including their first out-of-state client, The Texas Council of Child Welfare Boards (TCCWB), which tapped B:Social to help promote its new media campaign, “Fostering Brighter Futures.” The goal of the campaign is to spread positive messages about foster care, which often carries a negative stigma that discourages people from becoming foster parents or adopting children from foster programs.

Because TCCWB was starting the project from scratch, the student consultants developed an interactive online style guide for all of their social media needs. The website explained best practices, outlined optimal posting times and defined unique terminology for a variety of different social platforms. The B:Social team also provided TCCWB with video tutorials and examples from successful campaigns. In Fall 2016, a team of B:Social consultants traveled to TCCWB’s headquarters in Wichita Falls, TX, and conducted eight 45-minute interviews over two days with foster care parents, adults who had gone through the foster care system, and community leaders. They produced one three-minute video for Facebook and several shorter videos for Instagram. B:Social will be working with TCCWB again this spring.

Carly Montecalvo, a sophomore communication studies major, says that her experience working with TCCWB opened her eyes to new opportunities to do good in the world. “I now see how much needs to be done in the realm of foster care and challenging the stigma that is associated with it,” she says. “I could not be more grateful for experiencing all that I have this semester. I was privileged to participate in something larger than myself and beyond the world of my hometown and campus.”

Beautiful Social is supported in part by the John Cardinal Foley Program for Digital Media and Civic Engagement. The program, launched through the generosity of an anonymous donor, honors the late Cardinal Foley, an alumnus of Saint Joseph’s (1957) and former Vatican chief communications officer. It provides scholarships for up to four Foley Fellows, exemplary students who have been in the collaborative for at least one semester and are selected after an extensive interview process. Foley Fellows play a significant role in the administration of the organization, with responsibilities ranging from overseeing B:Social’s online and social media presence; facilitating all communications between student teams and clients; and organizing B:Social-funded campus-wide events. In Fall 2016, the fellows organized a visit to campus by nonprofit pioneer, Jena Lee Nardella, co-founder of Blood:Water Mission, who met with students, attended a class and gave a university-wide talk.

“Being a fellow for the Beautiful Social Research Collaborative has challenged me to grow as not just a learner, but a professional,” says Victoria Lydon, a senior communication studies major. “I’ve been able to get hands-on experience working with non-profits while at the same time act as a global citizen in furthering their causes. This isn’t just another communications course — this is helping better our world.”

Read more about Beautiful Social at and check out videos from the Fall 2016 semester on YouTube.

By Maggie Rotermund, Media Relations Specialist for Medical Center Communications, Saint Louis University

MEDLaunch Executive Team (Photo by Saint Louis University)
MEDLaunch Executive Team (Photo by Saint Louis University)


After a successful inaugural year, which saw teams of Saint Louis University (SLU) medical, business, law and engineering students seek provisional patents for their designs, the second class of MEDLaunch teams are well on their way to creating the next class of biomedical innovators.

Founded by SLU School of Medicine students, MEDLaunch is a non-profit, biomedical and entrepreneurship incubator that partners Saint Louis University with other local organizations. The program is the product of collaborative efforts between SLU School of Medicine, John Cook School of Business, Parks College of Engineering, Aviation, and Technology, and SLU School of Law.

As a part of MEDLaunch, participants work in multidisciplinary teams under the guidance of clinical and industry mentors to improve the standard of health care in areas including surgical devices, health information technology and medical diagnostics.

Physicians share ideas for improving daily clinical practice, and teams of students work together to create practical solutions that will improve the practice of medicine.

“We went to doctors and asked [them] what should we fix; what they would work on if they had the time,” said founder Andy Hayden, a third-year medical student at SLU.

“Medicine is ripe for innovation,” said Richard Bucholz, M.D., professor of neurosurgery at SLU and a member of MEDLaunch’s Board of Directors. “These teams can get to the heart of the matter by coming up with solutions and creating a sustainable business model in the process.”

Hayden believes that the University was eager to jump into the booming local start-up market in St. Louis, MO. He said, “We had all the pieces in place here at SLU and in the city.”

During their first year at SLU, Hayden and friends Anthony Grzeda and Rusdeep Mundae, also now in their third year as SLU medical students, went to Joel Eissenberg, Ph.D., professor of biochemistry and molecular biology and associate dean for research, with their idea. Eissenberg put the group in touch with Graeme Thomas and Stephanie Kimzey in the University’s Office of Technology Management.

“We were given support from the beginning,” said Mundae. “Dr. Eissenberg and Dr. Smith [Gregory Smith, Ph.D., assistant dean of the medical school] could see the big picture with us.”

By early May 2015, the MEDLaunch team was pitching to department chairs and doctors at SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital. The physicians offered the first round of problems to be solved.

The 2015-2016 projects were:

This year, students will attempt to improve patient care through a variety of projects. The 2016-17 projects include:

Alexa Melvin, a senior mechanical engineering student, is the team leader for the team seeking to automate a neurologic function evaluation. “We want to create a robotic device with a camera that could deliver voice commands to patients and record responses,” Melvin said. “It would alert nurses to any changes in function.”

How MEDLaunch Works
The current teams formed in the fall semester after the MEDLaunch executive team recruited students through tabling at the SLU School of Medicine and Cook School of Business. The executive team culled through resumes and held interviews to find their team leaders for each project. The leaders then picked their teams.

The arc of a MEDLaunch project follows the school calendar. Teams form at the beginning of the school year and present their projects in late spring.

Each team brings together students from unique academic backgrounds, with at least one medical student, one engineering student and one business student on each team.

Once formed, the teams work together to create a new solution to their problem that could be marketed and produced for everyday use. SLU faculty and members of local industries act as advisers for the teams. The entire MEDLaunch group meets monthly for design reviews with mentors and board members.

“The idea is that any of these projects could be spun off into a business,” Hayden said. “It has been impressive to see the teams stay connected and seek out the advice of the business leaders.”

The program ends with a Demo Day presentation to local investors and angel networks, with the goal of obtaining seed funding to progress to advanced prototyping, clinical trials and manufacturing. MEDLaunch then works with SLU’s Office of Technology Management to devise a plan for any potential start-ups.

“Tech Management helped us clarify the patent process,” Hayden said. “The students on the teams own their intellectual property. If their device is workable, they can patent it and form their own LLC.”

Teams that choose not to form a business still gain valuable experience as part of MEDLaunch.

“Medical start-ups are hard – a lot of them don’t work out,” said Mia Harton, MEDLaunch’s clinical outreach director and a SLU medical student. “This is guaranteeing experience out of a classroom in medical technology where you get the chance to work with people from across the University. Even if you fail, you are making connections and getting in the mindset of solving problems in medicine.”

Mundae agrees. “So many people in pre-med or medical school develop tunnel vision – we are only focused on our end goal,” he said. “To get to develop this extra skill set while we are still learning about medicine is just such a great learning experience.”

The MEDLaunch executive board includes Hayden (president); Grzeda (vice president); Mundae (vice president of administration); Harton (clinical outreach director); Daniel Pike (vice president of internal affairs); and Michael Beckman (vice president of finance).

The MEDLaunch Board of Directors includes Richard Bucholz, M.D.; Gregory Smith, Ph.D.; Mark Higgins, Ph.D. (dean of the John Cook School of Business); Stephen Buckner, Ph.D. (professor of chemistry); and Jerome Katz, Ph.D. (director of the Billiken Angel Network).

By Deborah Lohse, Assistant Director for Media Relations, Santa Clara University

One of the women leaders of the Santa Clara-mentored social enterprise, Empower Generation, shares information about the advantages of solar power at a sales promotion program and a women's microfinance cooperative in Nepal (Photo by Empower Generat…
One of the women leaders of the Santa Clara-mentored social enterprise, Empower Generation, shares information about the advantages of solar power at a sales promotion program and a women’s microfinance cooperative in Nepal (Photo by Empower Generation)


As a Center of Distinction that promotes social entrepreneurship – using business-based techniques to develop innovative solutions that fight poverty and address social and environmental issues – Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship at Santa Clara University has been delighted to see the surge in interest in “impact investing” by the Catholic Church, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), and even Pope Francis. This type of investing considers both profit and social impact – reducing pollution, increasing employment, improving quality of life, and more – as measurements of success.

“[Since] 2014, we’ve seen the first-ever Vatican conferences on impact investing, Catholic Relief Services’ first impact investment, and a growing number of Jesuit and Catholic universities inspired to teach or support social entrepreneurship,” said John Kohler, Miller Center’s director of impact capital. Kohler was among those who has spoken at both Vatican conferences, and has advised CRS and other organizations on how to invest in this innovative way.

”There is an exciting convergence now between Catholic social ministries and the impact investing community toward using capital in new ways to solve entrenched social problems,” he added.

Miller Center, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, has provided free training and mentoring to more than 600 social enterprises around the globe, and continues to evolve. After spending time reflecting on the most pressing problems facing impoverished countries today, the center’s staff have affirmed their primary goal to eradicate poverty through social entrepreneurship, and focused the center’s resources on two main areas: “women rising” and climate resilience. Miller Center is now selecting social enterprises for its Global Social Benefit Institute (R) programs that are led by women (or addressing issues that affect women), or engaged in promoting resilience to the effects of climate change, particularly those addressing energy and water poverty, sustainable rural development, or health.

“These two areas of Miller Center’s focus — empowering women economically and promoting climate resilience — are individually important and synergistic,” said Miller Center Executive Director Thane Kreiner, Ph.D. “Women and girls represent the majority of the world’s poor. They have fewer paths out of poverty, and are more vulnerable to the negative effects of climate change. Women’s economic empowerment, climate resilience, and poverty are tightly interwoven; helping women in a given community rise out of poverty simultaneously helps create climate resilience in that same community, and vice versa.”

Miller Center aims to align its outcomes to the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development goals, which are designed to guide humanitarian efforts “to end all forms of poverty, fight inequalities, and tackle climate change, while ensuring that no one is left behind.” Some of the recent social entrepreneurs who have been trained by Miller Center faculty serve as vivid examples of the urgency for these goals:

•    Pollinate Energy trains local entrepreneurs to establish micro-businesses that sell clean solar lights, water filters, and solar fans in urban slums of India. After participating in the center’s GSBI Accelerator in 2016, Pollinate Energy received a $100,000 grant from a Silicon Valley-based global venture philanthropy firm. In addition to easing women’s household tasks and replacing toxic kerosene in the home, the company provides employment, increased education for students, and greater discretionary income by eliminating fuel costs.
•    Koe Koe Tech, which provides essential health information to parents and pregnant women (in order to reduce maternal and under-5 mortality rates in Myanmar), recently received a $150,000 USAID grant.
•    Livelyhoods, which trains women and youth in Kenyan slum areas to sell environmentally beneficial products like clean cook-stoves and solar goods, recently received $100,000 from investors.

Kreiner said, “Scientific data overwhelmingly indicate that climate change driven by fossil fuel emissions is stressing our planet’s ecosystems, imperiling the lives and livelihoods of billions of people. The social enterprises Miller Center supports – and their innovations – are more important now than ever.”

By Claudine Benmar, Assistant Director of Communications & Public Relations, Seattle University Law School

Attorneys John Varga and Jon Quittner meet with mentor Stan Perkins for guidance on running a successful low bono practice. (Photo by Seattle University)
Attorneys John Varga and Jon Quittner meet with mentor Stan Perkins for guidance on running a successful low bono practice. (Photo by Seattle University)


For wealthy Americans in need of legal help, there’s no shortage of lawyers at their disposal. And for impoverished Americans, pro bono lawyers or public defenders are often able to step in. But what about those who fall somewhere in between?

An emerging trend in legal services is the “low bono” practice, in which lawyers offer reduced fees to low- and moderate-income clients. Seattle University School of Law launched an innovative program in 2013 to help prepare lawyers who can fill this need.

The Low Bono Incubator, now in its fourth year, offers financial assistance, continuing legal education, and mentorship to a select group of graduates who are committed to serving less affluent clients but need a helping hand to launch their businesses. Fifteen alumni have now completed the program, building small and solo law practices that handle everything from bankruptcy to immigration cases.

Amy Wilburn Morseburg, a 2014 graduate of the law school and a low bono lawyer, compared the work of low bono attorneys to her former career in education. “When I was teaching, I had a special place in my heart for those ‘fall through the cracks’ kids — not the ones failing out, not the ones excelling on their own, and not the special needs kids. There were services for all those folks,” she said. “It’s the steady C and D students, the ones just barely making it, who need an extra hand.”

One of Morseburg’s clients, for example, was a veteran who had a good job and a regular paycheck but was still living in his car, effectively homeless, because he couldn’t afford first and last months’ rent on an apartment. Aggressive creditors were garnishing his wages to repay debt he accumulated after being released from service in the United States Army.

“A friend referred him to me and I offered him a 50 percent reduction in my fees. I was able to secure Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection for him,” she said. “Two weeks later, he was in an apartment and he’s there to this day. He’s doing very well.”

Although some large law firms have experimented with offering low bono services, this corner of the legal market is largely filled by lawyers in solo or small practices. That’s where the law school comes in. By offering vital assistance for 12 months, the Low Bono Incubator helps fledgling practices evolve into self-sustaining, thriving businesses.

Incubator grantees receive a $3,000 stipend, office space in downtown Seattle, peer support from others in their cohort, free subscriptions to case management software, and legal education workshops tailored to their specific needs – business management, marketing, using social media, protecting client confidentiality, and software tips.

Perhaps the most important part of the program though, is the mentorship from seasoned attorneys like Stan Perkins, a successful personal injury attorney in Seattle whose financial support sustains the incubator.

As a mentor for the incubator lawyers, Perkins offers guidance on the business side of lawyering and meets with the program participants every two weeks to check on their progress.

John Varga, a 2012 graduate of the law school who specializes in estate planning, said he tried operating his own law practice for a few months before he realized how useless his legal knowledge was without business smarts. Perkins helped him become a business owner in addition to a lawyer.

“When we first started meeting with him, he mentioned that he was working on a redesign for his website,” Varga said. “I realized, ‘Wow, this guy’s been doing this for 30 years but he’s not complacent. He’s still tweaking things and trying to make his practice a little bit better every day.’ You have to wake up every day and figure out where the next client is going to come from.”

That includes updating a website, going to networking events, and taking the time to meet new people and make new business connections.

For Perkins, who graduated from the law school in 1985, it’s an opportunity to shape the next generation of lawyers.

“I have always been so grateful to the experienced lawyers who took time out of their busy schedules to mentor me when I first went out on my own 30 years ago. I really couldn’t have made it without them,” he said. “The opportunity for me to help in this process and to encourage our incubatees’ entrepreneurial spirit has been very rewarding.”

Varga said an important part of being a low bono lawyer is learning how to keep your costs low. That includes using technology like practice management software to replace the tasks usually done by staff at large law firms. His scheduling, for example, is done with a web-based calendar tool rather than by an assistant.

By restructuring their practices to accommodate moderate-income clients, these low bono lawyers may end up reshaping the legal industry.

“There are too many lawyers and they’re all chasing the people who can pay full freight,” Varga said. “But the reality is that most people can’t afford that. I’m happy to be part of this group of lawyers recognizing the reality and trying to do something different. I don’t know what the future of law is going to look like, but I’m sure that if those of us working on it now develop thriving practices, then other people will imitate it.”

A 2015 study of civil legal needs in the state of Washington found that 7 in 10 low-income households face at least one significant legal problem each year. Most of them – 76 percent – face that problem without the help of a lawyer. Low bono lawyers can help address that justice gap.

Seattle University is the only law school in the state to offer a low bono incubator program. “As a Jesuit institution, we are committed to meeting the legal needs of under-served communities,” said Dean Annette Clark. “We’re also committed to helping our graduates find meaningful work. This innovative program is a way for us to do both.”

By Rev. Phillip Cooke, S.J., Dr. Tina Facca-Miess, Kelsey Otero, Rev. Nicholas Santos, S.J.*

L to R: John Sealey, Wisconsin & Chicago-Detroit Provinces; Rob Boyle, Ph.D., Saint Louis University; Philip Hong, Ph.D., Loyola University Chicago; Rev. Nicholas Santos, S.J., Marquette University; Tina Facca-Miess, Ph.D., John Carroll Uni…
L to R: John Sealey, Wisconsin & Chicago-Detroit Provinces; Rob Boyle, Ph.D., Saint Louis University; Philip Hong, Ph.D., Loyola University Chicago; Rev. Nicholas Santos, S.J., Marquette University; Tina Facca-Miess, Ph.D., John Carroll University; Rev. Phillip Cooke, S.J., University of Detroit Mercy; Allison Cutuli, University of Detroit Mercy; Tom Merrill, Ph.D., Xavier University; Kelsey Otero, Marquette University; Rev. Chris Collins, S.J., Saint Louis University; Holly Neel, Marquette University


In June 2016, representatives of seven Jesuit institutions in the Midwest gathered at Marquette University to discuss a general framework for cooperation that is intended to improve their respective local communities through social innovation and entrepreneurship. Such cooperation could include:

Together, the institutions (John Carroll University, Loyola University Chicago, Saint Louis University, Xavier University, Creighton University, University of Detroit Mercy and Marquette University) are part of the Midwest Jesuit Collaborative on Social Innovation (J-COSI). The idea for J-COSI grew out of a partnership between the University of Detroit Mercy (UDM) and Marquette with the Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI) at Santa Clara University’s Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship, and a desire to accelerate the adoption of social innovation and entrepreneurship best practices at Midwestern Jesuit universities.

As of December 2016, the Miller Center (through GSBI programs) has worked with over 570 social entrepreneurs who have collectively impacted the lives of over 160 million people globally. Both UDM and Marquette in partnership with the Miller Center have conducted the GSBI-Boost program for early stage social entrepreneurs in Detroit and Milwaukee respectively. A possibility that emerged from the June 2016 meeting was to create a regional version of the GSBI and to leverage the training, methodology and resources that are being successfully used by Jesuit universities and other organizations across the world. The universities in J-COSI are primarily in the Rust Belt region and face similar challenges in their respective cities, making sharing resources and collaborating essential for greater localized impact.

Some of the members of J-COSI also work closely with the Colleagues in Jesuit Business Education (CJBE). Since its founding in 1998, the organization’s mission has been to enhance the distinctiveness of Jesuit schools of business and related programs through an ongoing exchange of ideas regarding curriculum, teaching, research and service in the Ignatian, Catholic and Humanistic traditions. One such way of achieving this mission is through the Journal of Jesuit Business Education, which is published annually.

Through a partnership with the International Association of Jesuit Business Schools (IAJBS), CJBE also helps business school deans orient new faculty to the mission of Jesuit business education by:

  1. Providing material that can be used at new faculty orientation programs or distributed to new faculty.
  2. Conducting a pre-conference workshop on the Ignatian pedagogical paradigm and hallmarks of Jesuit education for new faculty members.
  3. Providing mentoring for new faculty who wish to incorporate the Ignatian methodology into their teaching.
  4. Providing opportunities for new faculty to collaborate with senior faculty on mission-related publications.

In addition to providing outstanding education in business and economics, Jesuit business schools have a distinct mission to help students develop in ethics, service, social justice and responsibility and, where appropriate, spirituality and Ignatian principles. CJBE and IAJBS build upon efforts made by college and university mission officers to promote the Jesuit mission in two important ways:

  1. CJBE and IAJBS develop mission content specifically for Jesuit business school faculty and students. This content, elucidated on their websites and in their journals (the Journal of Jesuit Business Education and the Journal of Management for Global Sustainability), includes specific topics of business ethics; globalization; sustainability; business-specific service opportunities (nationally and internationally); spirituality and leadership; Catholic Social Teaching in micro and macro-economics; and other business-specific mission areas.
  2. CJBE and IAJBS develop and share best practices in teaching the above Jesuit mission areas to undergraduate and graduate students. This preparation is provided not only in our journals and websites, but also during our annual conferences.

The field of social innovation and entrepreneurship is one that has emerged with concern for the well-being of the marginalized and as such is appropriately aligned with the Jesuit mission of a preferential option for the poor and marginalized. As interest in this field grows, CJBE offers a platform for faculty to engage in joint research and sharing of best pedagogical practices.

This summer, Creighton University will host the 20th annual CJBE conference from July 6-9, 2017. Just ten days later, the University of Namur, Belgium, will host the 23rd annual World Forum of IAJBS. To learn more about these conferences and CJBE, please visit

*Author details and affiliations: Rev. Phillip Cooke, S.J., Director, Center for Social Entrepreneurship, University of Detroit Mercy; Dr. Tina Facca-Miess, Associate Professor of Marketing and Director, MA Nonprofit Administration Program, John Carroll University; Kelsey Otero, Associate Director, Social Innovation Initiative, Marquette University; Rev. Nicholas Santos, S.J., Co-Director, Social Innovation Initiative, Marquette University.

The Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) sponsors over 30 conferences (affinity groups) within the AJCU Network. The conferences provide a forum for the exchange of ideas, information and best practices; support the professional development of their members; and present opportunities for AJCU representatives to discuss collaboration and challenges in Jesuit higher education.

Most of the AJCU conferences host meetings at least once a year, and many of them facilitate regular communication among members through AJCU listservs. The following conferences and AJCU-affiliated programs will meet in winter and spring 2017:

Library Deans
April 23-25, 2017, University of Scranton
Chair: Janet Lee, Regis University
(303) 458-3556,

Facilities, Public Safety & Sustainability
April 23-26, 2017, Boston College
Host: Marty Dugal, Boston College
(617) 552-6022,

Finance Officers
May 10-12, 2017, Marquette University
Chair: Mary Lou (Mel) Austin, Marquette University
(414) 288-5163,

Jesuit Enrollment Managers
June 7-9, 2017, Canisius University
Contact: Kathleen Davis, Canisius University
(716) 888-2500,

Conference on Diversity and Equity
June 13-16, 2017, Fairfield University
Chair: Darryle (DJ) Todd, Marquette University
(414) 288-4252,

Jesuit Leadership Seminar
June 13-16, 2017, Loyola University Chicago
Director: Jeanne Lord, Georgetown University
(202) 687-4056,

Conference on IT Management (CITM)
June 18-21, 2017, Seattle University
President: Michael Bourque, Boston College
(617) 552-6060,

Jesuit Universities Humanitarian Action Network (JUHAN)
June 27-29, 2017, College of the Holy Cross
Contact: Julie Mughal, Fairfield University
(203) 254-4000 ext. 3505,

Pastoral, Theological & Ministerial Education
February 16-17, 2017, Redemptoris Renewal Center in Tuscon, AZ [held in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Association of Graduate Programs in Ministry]
Chair: Dr. Anastasia Wendlinder, Gonzaga University
(509) 313-6786,

Honors Programs
March 10-11, 2017, Loyola University New Orleans
Chair: Dr. Naomi Yavneh Klos, Loyola University New Orleans
(504) 864-7330,

Campus Ministry Directors
March 14-17, 2017, Boston College
Chair: Mary Sue Callan-Farley, Marquette University
(414) 288-0524,

Jesuit Conference of Nursing Programs (JCNP)
March 20, 2017, The Fairmont Hotel, Washington, D.C. [held in conjunction with the annual spring meeting of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing]
President: Terran Mathers, Spring Hill College
(251) 380-4490,

Jesuit Criminal Justice Educators Association
Annual Business Meeting

March 21-25, 2017, Kansas City, MO [Annual Meeting of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences]
Chair: Patricia Griffin, Saint Joseph’s University
(484) 686-0800,

Conference of Registrars in Jesuit Institutions (CORe)
April 1, 2017, Cristo Rey Jesuit H.S. (Minneapolis, MN)
Chair: Robert Bromfield, University of San Francisco
(415) 422-2786,

Chief Academic Officers
April 8, 2017, Loyola University Chicago
Chair: Dr. Stephen Freedman, Fordham University
(718) 817-3043,

Jesuit Graduate Enrollment Management Professionals (JGAP)
April 19, 2017, NAGAP Conference (Association for Graduate Enrollment Management), Salt Lake City, UT
President: Maureen Faux, Loyola University Maryland
(410) 617-5817,

Marketing & Communications Summit
April 19-21, 2017, Creighton University
Host: Jim Berscheidt, Creighton University
(402) 280-1272,