In July 2020, the Pulte Institute Student Fellowship supported eight students in an eight week virtual program with the Social Entrepreneur Corps (SEC) to work remotely with organizations in Guatemala or Ecuador on community-identified needs. Due to Notre Dame’s adjusted academic schedule, several departments and organizations offered Winter Term experiences for interested students. During this time the Fellowship program was able to support five students - four undergraduates and one graduate - in a three-week virtual engagement with SEC and Centro Explorativo, an organization empowering rural Guatemalan communities through education enrichment opportunities.
Among the Student Fellows was Analiese Tisa, a junior studying psychology and global affairs, whose team worked with the community members of La Pista to identify sustainable solutions to encourage mask-wearing during the pandemic.
“Our team had to learn to pivot our ideas to focus on what the community actually needed. In order to do this we needed to co-create our project to be feasible, productive, and dignified,” said Tisa. “As my group discussed how shirts donated by community members could be used to make masks, we had to take a step back and consider what that would look like: How would it feel to wear someone else’s clothes on your face? Moreover, would we be willing to make and wear these ourselves? By focusing on empathy, dignity, and empowerment, we viewed the stakeholders as the solutions and I think it made all the difference.”
SEC, led by Greg Van Kirk, is an experiential learning internship program designed to sustain livelihoods and create opportunities in Guatemala and Ecuador, while enhancing interns’ empathy, adaptive leadership, collaboration and rapid problem solving skills.
Hayden Mascarenhas, a sophomore economics student, is a Fellow who is now considering consulting as a career path based on the skills gained during his experience.
“What I loved about the program was that there wasn’t any prior knowledge required. Greg was very welcoming and respectful of our thoughts even though most of us had little experience with consulting or social entrepreneurship. I have never experienced collaboration and teamwork at such a level before,” said Mascarenhas.
Overall, the 2021 Pulte Institute Student Fellows appreciated the adapted virtual internship that still incorporated cultural exchange with an international community. Natalia Ruiz, a business and global affairs undergraduate from Nicaragua, noted “it was beautiful to see how [students] came from different institutions and countries and yet, we all gathered together to make a difference in Guatemala.” She hopes to use the community development and problem solving skills she learned from SEC in her academic journey and beyond.
The Pulte Institute Student Fellowship is made possible thanks to a generous gift from Rick and Molly Klau that supports students pursuing international, social entrepreneurship internships. Although the future of travel in summer 2021 is still uncertain, the Pulte Institute remains committed to offering experiential learning opportunities for students interested in social entrepreneurship, whether in-person or virtual.
In addition to the SEC program, students have the opportunity to participate in the Entrepreneurship and Empowerment in South Africa (EESA) program and the new Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation Minor. Both opportunities are delivered in partnership with the McKenna Center for Human Development and Global Business.
For more information about the Pulte Institute Student Fellowship and other social entrepreneurship opportunities, please contact Jennifer Krauser.