George Mason University Changemaker Campus

The Mason Center for Social Entrepreneurship (MCSE) prepares students and the Mason community to build organizations that solve pressing social and environmental problems. We recognize that those who want to improve conditions often lack the skills they will need to make the changes they seek, and those who learn these skills don’t always realize the amount of good these skills will allow them to accomplish. At MCSE, we aim to change that dynamic. We expect our students to have a unique set of skills that will lead to transformative social and environmental changes.

We direct the Concentration in Social Entrepreneurship for the Masters in Interdisciplinary Studies at George Mason, and we work closely with those who are developing an undergraduate concentration in this area. We also offer two graduate hybrid distance learning courses and a summer interactive institute, the Social Innovation Program, which offers upper level undergraduates, recent graduates and graduate students theoretical background, social enterprise consulting experience, and the opportunity to launch a virtual social enterprise. StartUp Mason also helps social entrepreneurs get going, and our Venture Camps and Hackathons provide other ways to explore, experiment, and launch social enterprises.

At MCSE, we are able to leverage the energy of the National Capital Region, a hub of social innovation, information technology, and policy-making. The commitment to innovation at George Mason University, Virginia’s largest institution of higher education and the only one in the DC area, allows us to create an environment where emerging social entrepreneurs will turn innovative ideas into reality.

The Social Innovation Program

The Social Innovation Program brings leading undergraduate and graduate students from a global applicant pool to George Mason University for four weeks of intensive academic and experiential training. Graduates emerge armed to successfully apply entrepreneurial approaches to social causes in the nonprofit, public, and private sectors.

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Masters in Individualized Studies (MAIS): Social Entrepreneurship

This concentration promotes advanced scholarship that transcends traditional boundaries. Students combine required coursework in social entrepreneurship, management, public policy, public and international affairs, and leadership with courses aimed at individual student’s areas of specialization and hands-on learning activities. Through this powerful blend of academic courses and experiential learning opportunities (i.e., the practical and the theoretical), students will graduate with the knowledge of leading edge concepts and research-based approaches, as well as the field experience necessary to succeed as social innovators.

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Hybrid Distance Learning Courses on Social Entrepreneurship

We offer two hybrid distance learning courses that help equip students to understand and build effective social enterprises: Life Cycle of a Nonprofit and Social and Environmental Enterprises. Students from multiple disciplines (law, business, public policy, public administration, and interdisciplinary studies) and from several universities join together to take these courses. This approach exposes the students to the language and norms of other disciplines, which should help break down the barriers that often prevent well-intentioned people who work in different disciplines form effectively solving pressing social need.

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Elizabeth “Betsy” Schmidt Director, Mason Center for Social Entrepreneurship (MCSE)

Elizabeth “Betsy” Schmidt is the Director of the Center and a Visiting Professor at George Mason University. As Director, she oversees the design, development, and strategic implementation of the Center’s activities. As Visiting Professor, she teaches The Life Cycle of a Nonprofit Organization: Management and Legal Issues Facing Public Charities and Social and Environmental Enterprises. Both are hybrid distance learning courses, offered to students from law, business, public policy, and interdisciplinary studies programs at several universities. Professor Schmidt came to George Mason from Vermont Law School, where she specialized in Nonprofit Law and the law of Social and Environmental Enterprises. She also founded and directed the school’s Board Fellows program, which placed students as non-voting members of nonprofit boards of directors. Other teaching positions have been at the College of William and Mary Law School and Marlboro College’s Managing for Sustainability MBA Program. In addition to teaching law, Professor Schmidt has held legal and management positions at nonprofit organizations, and she has been a nonprofit management consultant. She writes about nonprofit governance, accountability, policies, and ethics, as well as the emerging area of social and environmental enterprises. She is the author of the legal textbook, Nonprofit Law: The Life Cycle of a Charitable Organization. Professor Schmidt graduated from Princeton University with magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa honors, and from Stanford University Law School, where she was Note Editor for the Stanford Law Review.

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Lisa M Gring-Pemble Associate Professor

Lisa M. Gring-Pemble is an Associate Professor at George Mason University. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of St. Olaf College, she received her M.A. and Ph.D. in rhetoric from the University of Maryland. Gring-Pemble delights in teaching undergraduates and is a George Mason University Teaching Excellence Award recipient. She especially enjoys teaching courses on public speaking, argumentation and advocacy, and social movements and community activism, and seeks ways to integrate experiential learning into those courses. At Mason she is working with teams of faculty and staff and students to create a degree-granting, challenge-driven/problem-based multidisciplinary School of Impact and Innovation. She is also an active member of the DREAMERS advisory board and organization, which seeks to create a more inclusive environment for undocumented students through education and advocacy. In 2013, she helped to launch the George Mason University Honey Bee Initiative, an innovative, educational and entrepreneurial multidisciplinary program. Her research focuses on political communication and social policy (welfare reform and immigration). She is author of Grim Fairy Tales: The Rhetorical Construction of American Welfare Policy and a co-editor of Readings on Political Communication. Her work has appeared in The Quarterly Journal of Speech, Political Communication, Rhetoric & Public Affairs, and Communication Quarterly.

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Paul Rogers Senior Scholar for the Center for the Advancement of Well-Being, George Mason University

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Elizabeth Muniot Assistant Director, Mason Center for Social Entrepreneurship (MCSE)

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David Miller Director of Entrepreneurship

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Scott Bauer Strategy Lead

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Cyndy Gardner Executive Administrator

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Changemaker Campus

Launched in 2008, Ashoka offers the Changemaker Campus designation to leading institutions in social innovation education. These institutions share the vision for higher education to become the next global driver of social change by transforming the educational experience into a world-changing experience.