Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation Minor provides students with experiential learning opportunities for Spring 2022

Author: Heather Asiala

After Fall Break, the students in Professor Melissa Paulsen’s Human-Centered Design (HCD) for Innovation class are back in the classroom brainstorming prototypes to improve shelter options for marginalized groups in South Bend. The prototyping follows weeks of HCD theory and practice in the classroom, as well as experiential learning through interviews and primary research in the community. Meanwhile, in Professor Michael Morris’s Consulting and Development class, students are meeting with several disadvantaged entrepreneurs at the Notre Dame Center for Civic Innovation, where they are rising to the challenge of consulting for real businesses and people from adverse situations. 

Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation 30552
Students in the SEI 30552 course

Experiential learning — the process of “learning by doing” — is a big trend in higher education. Incorporating project-based and community service learning into a program helps students to develop relevant, practical skills that can improve their post-graduation success in the workforce. 

Experiential learning is also a unique way to learn about social entrepreneurship. In Fall 2020, the McKenna Center for Human Development and Global Business and the Pulte Institute for Global Development — both part of the University of Notre Dame’s Keough School of Global Affairs — launched the Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation Minor (SEI) to provide students with an integrated approach to solving the world’s biggest social problems using entrepreneurial principles, concepts, and tools. 

“We're focused on solving problems that matter, and there is no better way to expose students to sticky, multi-dimensional problems than through experiential learning,” said Paulsen, Director of the Pulte Institute’s Education and Entrepreneurship Division and Co-Director of the SEI Minor. “We want our students to leave emboldened by the fact that they can take action to effect change. By applying theories, frameworks or tools to wicked problems, SEI students have a better understanding of how to approach problem-solving with an empathetic lens, always focusing on the human at the center of the problem.”

Sei Classrooms

Students in the Consulting and Development Course, SEI 40999*. 

"The SEI Minor is rooted in experiential learning and community connection. We take an innovative and practical approach to social entrepreneurship, applying it to current issues like poverty, environmental sustainability, and international development,” said Jennifer Krauser, Senior Program Manager for the Pulte Institute.

“The minor is open to all Notre Dame students with any career interest, but we have found that the students most interested are those who want to go beyond a standard understanding of entrepreneurship and make a difference in the world.”

The SEI Minor offers courses that support entrepreneurial students who wish to create their own enterprises and teach them how to conceptualize, develop, launch, and grow sustainable global development models. Additionally, these courses support intrapreneurial students who wish to work and lead innovatively within existing public or private organizations. Courses include:

  • Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation (SEI 30552, Spring)
  • Marketing for Social Initiatives, Causes, and Ventures (SEI 40834, Spring)
  • Human-Centered Design for Innovation (SEI 30555, Fall)
  • Consulting and Development course (SEI 40999, Fall)
  • Poverty, Business, and Development (SEI 30999, Fall)
  • Entrepreneurship and Empowerment in South Africa Program [EESA] (SEI 34997 & SEI 34998, Summer)

“Students are capable of amazing things when they are totally engaged and are willing to step into their discomfort zone,” explains Dr. Morris, co-director of the SEI minor. “Our courses offer a platform for the kinds of engagement that both educates students and changes lives. It’s not just about making a difference after you graduate, but doing so while you are at Notre Dame.”

Claire Miller, a junior majoring in Political Science, describes the Consulting and Development course as “phenomenal” and a great reference for future career opportunities.

“This course makes me feel I’m having a positive impact on the real lives of people. I feel a great sense of responsibility to produce work that I’m proud of and would want entrepreneurs to implement in their businesses and lives.”

Notre Dame students are invited to check out the SEI courses offered next semester. The courses are open to all majors and have no restrictions or prerequisites. For more information about the SEI Minor, please visit our website or email Jennifer Krauser (

*From left to right above: Faith Hustle Media with students Luca Marini and Ben Theis; Wedding Conceptz by Zodwa with student Rory Finn; Dellstar VR with students Lara Páircéir and Claire Miller; Blyndspot with students Matt Tighe and Jason Lokhorst.