Each cohort of the Commons is facilitated by a Coach with in-depth knowledge of social innovation and an understanding of the field that is aligned with Ashoka U’s philosophy. Coaches will draw on their extensive experience working in university settings and within in the field of social innovation education.

Participants will work closely with their Coach over the course of their Commons experience. Specifically, Coaches will conduct an introductory call with the entire cohort, host individual calls to advise each institution on establishing objectives for their project, host office hours for their cohort, and conduct a live review of final presentations at the conclusion of the Commons.

Spring 2017 Coaches

Making the Case for Changemaking Education

Rebecca Riccio Director, Social Impact Lab, Northeastern University

Rebecca Riccio is the founding Director of The Social Impact Lab (SIL) at Northeastern University, an innovation hub that bridges sectors, disciplines, and generations to facilitate knowledge building in the social impact arena. SIL develops experiential learning methods that challenge students to grapple with the complexity and ethical implications of engaging in social change.

Rebecca is a leader in the growing use of experiential philanthropy education to illuminate the study of the nonprofit sector, civil society, civic engagement, and social change. The experiential philanthropy model she developed at Northeastern, Northeastern Students4Giving, is now being adapted in countries around the world through SIL’s Global Philanthropy Initiative. She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on philanthropy and nonprofit management at Northeastern University and has lectured on philanthropy, social justice, and policy at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University.

Creating a Social Innovation Course

Rebecca Otten Assistant Director of Student Programming – Phyllis M. Taylor Center for Social Innovation and Design Thinking, Tulane University

Rebecca Otten helps students identify their changemaker paths – where their academic interests and career aspirations intersect with a commitment to make positive social impact throughout life. She oversees Tulane’s co-curricular programming in social innovation and social entrepreneurship (SISE) and teaches “SISE 2010: Introduction to Social Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship” and the TIDES “Cultivate your Inner Changemaker” course. Rebecca is a Change Leader with the Ashoka U Changemaker Campus Partnership and contributes to Taylor’s academic and community engagement strategies at Taylor. Additionally, Rebecca has volunteered with international partners such as Echoing Green, Dell Social Innovation Challenge, Ashoka Changemakers, and Clinton Global Initiative University.

Rebecca has a Master’s in Public Health from Tulane University and received a BSM in Management and a BS in Anthropology from Tulane University in 2009.

Building a Social Innovation Course Sequence


Tonia Warnecke Associate Professor, Social Entrepreneurship & Business; Co-Director, Center for India & South Asia at Rollins College

Dr. Tonia Warnecke is a 2016-17 Sullivan Foundation Social Innovation & Entrepreneurship Faculty Fellow. She was the 2013 Fulbright Visiting Research Chair in International Development Studies at McGill University, Montreal, Canada. Tonia is an economist specializing in international development processes and policy. At Rollins, Tonia co-designed the Social Entrepreneurship major and minor, is faculty advisor to the Rollins Microfinance Fund, and actively participates in strategic planning for social entrepreneurship and innovation initiatives. Her recent publications focus on social enterprise and solar power; microfinance and ‘greening’ gender equity; and the application of design thinking to the development of female entrepreneurship programs. She also co-edited the Handbook of Research on Gender and Economic Life (Edward Elgar). In addition to publishing widely in international journals, she has been awarded many research honors and grants; presented several papers at the International Labour Organization; and collaborated with the United Nations Research Institute on Social Development.

Launching Co-Curricular Venture Programs

Michael Gordon Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Entrepreneurship and Business Administration, University of Michigan Ross School of Business

Michael Gordon is the Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Entrepreneurship and Business Administration and former associate dean at the Ross School of Business, University of Michigan, where he teaches students how innovative nonprofits and social businesses can change the world. He is the faculty director of the Center for Social Impact and served on the University of Michigan “Poverty Visioning” committee, which directly advises the President and Provost.

He has had broad experience helping organizations around the world use their talents to address societal problems, and do so sustainably, and has also helped students and others launch nonprofits and social enterprises. He has partnered with many prominent scholars, nonprofits, and social businesses to address societal problems.

He is author of the books Social Enterprise and Sustainable Business: Design Your Life, Change the World and Inclusivity: Will America Find its Soul Again? He is working on a new book, What I Wish I Knew Then: Becoming a Social Entrepreneur. He is actively exploring how nonprofits and social businesses can create more inclusive environments in the United States, especially Detroit.

He lives online at profmichaelgordon.com.

Mapping Student Learning Journeys

Makaela Kingsley Director of the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship at Wesleyan University

Makaela directs Wesleyan’s Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship (PCSE), a co-curricular program that teaches practical skills for impact to undergraduate entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, and changemakers. Along with our civic engagement partners — the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life (ACSPL) and the Jewett Center for Community Partnerships (JCCP) — the Patricelli Center offers a project-based learning experience with emphasis on interdisciplinary context, cultural competency, and relationship-building. As PCSE Director, Makaela also teaches a course through ACSPL entitled “Introduction to Social Entrepreneurship.”

Previously, Makaela held positions in Wesleyan’s advancement division focused on alumni relations, volunteer management, and event planning. She began her career at the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts where she worked in development and public relations. Outside of the Patricelli Center, Makaela volunteers on the Advisory Board of a civil rights nonprofit called Open Communities Alliance, on Wesleyan’s Equity Task Force, as a mentor for the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute, and as a judge for Echoing Green. She lives in Hamden, CT, with her husband and two children.

Building Allies and Raising Awareness

Melissa Carrier Social Entrepreneur in Residence, North Carolina State University; Founder of the Center for Social Value Creation, University of Maryland

Melissa Carrier is the founder and former Executive Director of the Center for Social Value Creation at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. Melissa joined the Smith School in the 2006 after a decade of leading organizational growth for technology companies. Before launching the Center for Social Value Creation in 2009, Melissa led venture investment programs at the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship. During this time, she noticed increasing student interest in creating companies to address issues in society and the environment. She created the Social Venture Consulting program, a platform for students to apply their skills in designing scalable solutions for nonprofit and social enterprise organizations. At the Center for Social Value Creation, Melissa led the center’s strategic direction across co-curricular programs, curricula, research and career. In collaboration with the Provost’s office, Melissa led cross-campus initiatives to embed social entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland. Melissa taught undergraduate and graduate courses in social entrepreneurship and sustainability, receiving the Top 10% teaching award each year. Melissa currently lives with her husband and three boys in Raleigh, NC. She serves as a strategic consultant to universities including North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Melissa holds a BS in Chemical Engineering from the Ohio State University and an MBA with Honors from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.