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osu's social entrepreneurship program mints motivated grads bent on improving society

Ohio State University is growing the next generation of social entrepreneurs -- inspired, motivated students intent on addressing society's problems in innovative ways -- with a new program aimed at nurturing young talent.

“It was the proudest moment of my undergraduate career and shaped me into the industrial designer I am today,” says Krista Alley, a recent graduate of Ohio State University, of its Social Innovation and Commercialization (SIAC) Initiative.
Located within the College of Engineering, SIAC espouses three goals, according to Peter Rogers, Ph.D., a professor in OSU’s Engineering Education Innovation Center and a leader of the program.  “We’re looking to educate students as up-and-coming social entrepreneurs, develop products for people with disabilities to help them become more independent and provide an alternative revenue stream for the non-profit organizations with which we work,” he says.

Engineering, business, industrial design and MBA students are teamed with professionals, such as occupational and physical therapists, on projects.

Alley’s project involved designing an interactive, hand-held device to help children with Down's Syndrome become better organized. “These children can’t grasp the concept of time and time management, “ Dr. Rogers explains. “Getting them up and ready for school is a constant battle for their families because the children can’t remember which tasks come first.” Through the Down Syndrome Association of Central Ohio, 20 families are now testing a prototype of the device.
So far, SIAC has developed two other potential products to serve the disabled – a compression vest for children with autism and programmable exercise equipment for adults with physical disabilities.

While teaching social entrepreneurism in college isn’t new, OSU’s program is unique in its emphasis on commercialization techniques to achieve sustainable growth, Dr. Rogers notes.

“Once the program’s products are manufactured and ready for sale, SIAC’s goal is to have its non-profit organization’s partners help market the products to its local and national constituents,” he explains. Profits will be divided, with a portion going to the non-profits and a portion re-invested back into SIAC to help create OSU’s first completely self-sustaining academic program.  
Source:  Peter Rogers, Krista Alley
Writer: Lynne Meyer
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