Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College

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Booting up

Intensive seminar helps students put ideas into action

Nathaniel Chretien-Mansur ’20 makes his pitch.

Combatting bullying in schools, promoting diversity in the arts, creating a campus-based transportation network and launching a user-based accreditation system for new technology—these were just a few of the ideas for improving the world that were developed at the second Summer Institute for Social Entrepreneurship boot camp.

The two-week, intensive workshop, offered in partnership with the GCSEN Foundation, brought a diverse group of Wheaton students together to learn the art and science of successfully launching products, services and organizations addressing societal problems in the United States and abroad.

The program, which is led by the network’s president and chief executive Michael Caslin, teaches key methods and frameworks for entrepreneurial activity while considering the impact of their ideas on people, profit, planet and place. The summer workshop also offers students opportunities to consult with expert entrepreneurs and advisors during and after the session.

“This is one of the only classrooms where this is happening, if not the only classroom in the whole world,” said Caslin, who is pioneering this program at the college. “Our mission at GCSEN is to accelerate social entrepreneurship in higher education through innovative programs and learning technologies.

Wheaton offers a range of programs to help students develop their entrepreneurial skills and launch their own ideas for businesses that can improve the world.

"I believe that innovative social entrepreneurs can create the kind of change we need now to address the critical problems we are facing,” President Dennis M. Hanno said. “Wheaton has chosen to work with GCSEN so that our students can develop the confidence and skills needed to become true changemakers."

In addition to the boot camp, Wheaton established the WIN Hub, a center for student entrepreneurs to collaborate, and hired entrepreneur-in-residence Marcia Coné to provide students with support and guidance. In addition to offering advice, the Hub also organizes events, such as a showcase for student businesses and visits by entrepreneurs.  

Students also can experience what it takes to build a successful business through the college’s partnership with MassChallenge, the world’s largest startup incubator. During the summer, a team of students from the college, under the guidance of faculty, provide a range of services—from marketing and social media promotion to data analysis—to emerging startups in residency at Mass Challenge.

These programs, which also include a one-day leadership seminar for high school students held each spring on the Wheaton campus, were launched with support from Trustee Emeritus Diana Davis Spencer ’60.

The students who participated in the Summer Institute for Social Entrepreneurship wrapped up their work on campus with a final presentation of their business plan and responded to follow up questions and comments from President Hanno and Professor Caslin.

Following the two hours of presentations, President Hanno praised the students’ work over the past two weeks.

“The journey has been a long one but the progress that has been made over the past two weeks ... I'm impressed. I hope that what you've learned is that you can take one of these ideas and create something that is real. I hope you will continue in this work,” he said.