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Jonathan Lewis

Jonathan Lewis

Posted: February 21, 2011 01:24 PM

Students: Big Hearts, Big Brains


Last Saturday on an especially dreary, stormy day in the San Francisco Bay Area, 300 Stanford University students dragged themselves out of their cozy dorm rooms to learn about -- get ready for it -- economic development. This admittedly wonky day was organized by the Stanford Association for International Development (SAID), a voluntary student organization educating the next generation of leaders in global citizenship about international development.

Re-read that. Voluntary. 300 students. No academic grades. Just passion and the exhilarating sense that the world needs them. It does.

Their future careers are the most hopeful trend imaginable. And, they are not alone. At the best colleges and universities, students are planning for careers that marry social mission and money-making.

This coming April on the University of California Berkeley campus, the student government will host its Second Global Outreach Week. Campus-wide seminars and symposia will open doors for Berkeley's best and brightest.

A single UC Berkeley graduate course, Microfinance Simulcast, taught by a venture capitalist, reaches students on 75 campuses across the country with practical information on how to finance small business loans for the impoverished. Each year, the UC Blum Center for Developing Economies class on the causes and challenges of global poverty is over-subscribed.

As I said last Saturday in my SAID keynote remarks, students already know that "fighting the good fight is personally rewarding because tackling big challenges is heady stuff. Social change work completes us as individuals."

Students enrolled at the University of Pacific's Global Center for Social Entrepreneurship prove the point with their activism. So do the students in the University of Michigan's ERB Institute which teaches "global sustainable enterprise."

It reverberates across the country in programs like the Global Social Venture Competition for business school students, the University of Texas' Center for Philanthropy and Community Service (backed by the Dell Corporation) and the Opportunity Collaboration's Cordes Fellowship program for emerging social entrepreneurs.

It reveals itself in the faces of the 3,000 students enrolled in World Learning's global leadership programs. Ashoka University, a network of ten "changemaker campuses" (from Babson and Cornell to Johns Hopkins and Tulane), is erecting the infrastructure to support this tsunami of student social activism.

These future social entrepreneurs reject a world in which half of our neighbors survive on $2.00/day or less -- roughly, $700/year. They reject a world in which 1 out of 7 people is hungry -- without basic daily calories needed to survive, slowly starving to death in a virtual concentration camp of hunger.

The smartest students know that it is not enough to be well-intentioned. They are acquiring the executive skills required to pit their talents against the scourge of global poverty. Big hearts, bigger brains.

Life careers committed to a more decent world. They want to make a real difference. And, they will. I can hardly wait.