Open for business

Wheaton College has hired its first social entrepreneur-in-residence, Marcia Coné, formerly the founding CEO of the Women’s Fund of Rhode Island. In her new role, she will help students bring their ideas for change to life by connecting them with mentors, other social entrepreneurs, and opportunities on and off campus.

Coné, an accomplished writer, speaker, change strategist, and advocate for women, has a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Western Illinois University, and a master’s degree in clinical social work as well as a PH.D. in social work from Boston College. She still holds her position as the chief strategist for the California-based Women’s Funding Network, a philanthropic organization that seeks to address gender equity in order to solve social issues ranging from poverty to global security.

She has been an adjunct professor at several institutions of higher education, including Boston College, Rhode Island College, St. Ambrose University and American University in Washington, D.C. At Wheaton, she has been a visiting professor for women and gender studies and business and management courses. She also has been a guest speaker on panels at Wheaton and provided training to students on negotiation and grant writing.

Coné looks forward to the opportunity to guide students in their efforts to bring about social change through their business endeavors. As social entrepreneur-in-residence, she will work with students, faculty, and organizations that are interested in advancing social entrepreneurship.

“It’s important to me that we create solutions to our most pressing social problems. Good ideas transform into impactful outcomes when we have support from thought partners, connectors and resources,” she said. “The vision for social entrepreneurship at Wheaton is combining liberal arts education with student innovation to make a difference. It is an incredible opportunity and a real honor to help advance this with and on behalf of the students.”

Coné, whose social entrepreneurship work overall has focused on advancing gender equity and the intersection of race, class and gender, brings a great deal of success to her position at Wheaton.

Under her leadership at the Women’s Fund of Rhode Island, from 2005 to 2014, the organization successfully advocated for the passage of many significant pieces of state and municipal legislation that improved the lives of women and their families. It also launched the Women’s Policy Institute and trained dozens of women to become advocates.

At Wheaton, Coné’s office is located in the WIN Hub, a center for student-generated social innovation and entrepreneurial activity.

“The hub is the response to an increasing demand by students and young professionals to have careers that are meaningful, allow them to continue to grow, and are less hierarchical and more engaged with others,” she said. “Students realize they don’t have to wait until graduation to launch their initiatives and are looking for support. We want to provide them the opportunity to step into their potential and align their values and professional lives to make a difference in the world.”

Coné already has been busy fielding requests from students seeking to explore opportunities, ideas and business plans, and has hosted several events to help and inspire students. In September, Mike Caslin, the CEO of the Global Center for Social Entrepreneurship Network (GCSEN), held an informational session about Wheaton’s Summer Institute for Social Entrepreneurship. (Wheaton again will partner with GCSEN to present the in June institute on campus.) In October, Ryan Letada, a Class of 2008 Wheaton graduate and CEO and co-founder of NextDayBetter, an organization that connects diaspora communities to create positive social change, spoke on campus at an evening event.

In announcing Coné’s new role, Wheaton College President Dennis M. Hanno noted that the new position is supported by a grant from the Diana Davis Spencer Foundation to promote the steadily growing social innovation and social entrepreneurship initiatives on campus.

“Throughout its history, Wheaton has always been a leader in creating social change,” said Hanno. “I’m thrilled that Marcia is here to lead us in these efforts.”


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