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Students explore social concerns through entrepreneurship

| Monday, February 9, 2015

A team of six Notre Dame students advanced to the regional finals of the Hult Prize, a competition that aims to find solutions for social problems using entrepreneurial approaches, according to the Hult Prize Foundation’s website.

According to its website, the Hult Prize Foundation is a non-profit foundation whose goal is to send out the next generation of social entrepreneurs. Seniors Olivia Chen and Veronica Guerrero, junior Evelyn Bauman and sophomores Cate Devey, Sierra Hajdu and Elle Huang make up the team that will compete in this entrepreneurial competition for social good.

“President Clinton comes up with the prompt every year,” Devey said. “This year, it is about early childhood education in urban slums.”

Devey said the team’s job is to learn about urban slums and the surrounding environment and then make an informed decision based on their observations.

“It’s cool to see how business is used for good to solve social problems,” Chen said. “Everyone in our group is really passionate about education in general, so it’s fun to just throw ideas back and forth.”

Bauman is currently studying abroad in France but remains invested in the team through Skype sessions. The Kellogg Institute for International Studies as well as the Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts agreed to fund her costs of flying back for a weekend to be present at the regional competition in San Francisco in March.

“We are trying to design a social enterprise that promotes high-quality early education and is able to be adopted in various countries and for various cultures,” Bauman said.

Bauman said the team observed the “Talk With Your Baby” program at the Robinson Community Learning Center in South Bend and certain aspects of the initiative appeal to them. Bauman said the Robinson Center’s program encourages talking to children as much as possible in order to cultivate stronger vocabulary skills and healthy development.

“We would like to develop a tangible product to encourage talking and playing, as well as a distribution model — almost a micro-franchising model to formalize networks of caretakers that already exist in urban slums,” Bauman said.

Hajdu said she feels honored to be part of a team that was selected out of about 20,000 teams in the first round of competition.

“The competition is going to be very strong, but we’re excited to show that Notre Dame truly is dedicated to impacting the global community for the better,” she said.

Hajdu said she envisions this competition to be one of the best experiences of her undergraduate career, and she is excited to meet other students in San Francisco and learn about their experiences as well.

”The Hult Prize regional final competition in San Francisco is also a huge networking event for international innovative students to meet each other, share their ideas and spur a movement in social entrepreneurship that hopes to change the world,” Hajdu said.

Bauman said that if it wins the regional competition, the team will be given the chance to develop their social enterprise in Boston over the summer.

“Whatever happens at the competition in March, we are super grateful for the opportunity to compete in the Hult Prize Challenge 2015 to promote the idea of using the efficiency and power of the private sector for global public well-being,” Bauman said.

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About Selena Ponio

Selena Ponio is from Dallas, Texas and is currently a senior at the University of Notre Dame. She is the Associate News Editor for The Observer. Selena lives in Breen-Phillips hall and is majoring in International Economics with a concentration in Spanish and is minoring in Journalism, Ethics & Democracy.

Contact Selena