Social Impact and Innovation Interest Soars among Students

New data revealed as 2019 Social Innovation Fellow awards announced.

May 29, 2019



Social Innovation Fellowship recipients Christina Guilbeau (left) and Karin Underwood (right) | Stacy Geiken

An increasing number of Stanford Graduate School of Business students are focusing on social impact and innovation courses as part of their educational experience, the school announced today.

This year, more than 90% of the 488 Stanford GSB MBA and MSx students took a course related to social innovation or social impact: 95% of the MBA Class of 2019 and 81% of the MSx Class of 2019.

The average number of MBA and MSx students earning the Certificate in Public Management and Social Innovation from 1990-1999 was 35, while from 2010–2019, it exploded to 114, a 225% increase. In this year’s graduating class, 118 students are on track to receive the certificate, out of approximately 488 students. For contrast, in 1971, the first year the public management certificate was offered, only two students received the credential.

Additionally, MBA student interest in pursuing social entrepreneurship is also on the rise, with a 6% increase over the past three years: in years 2017, 2018 and 2019, with interest rising from 12% to 13% and 18%, respectively.

Stanford GSB’s approach to educating socially conscious leaders has evolved since 1971, when the school established one of the country’s first programs focused on the interaction between business and society. At that time, the Public Management Program, as it was called, had a simple mandate: 40 spaces were reserved for applicants who wanted to go into public service. In 1987, the school experienced an upswing in student interest. By the mid-1990s, students were defining social impact more broadly, including social entrepreneurship, nonprofit management, and public policy, along with domain specializations like education, environment, or health care. Stanford GSB’s Center for Social Innovation was founded in 1999 to guide students interested in pursuing career paths and ventures with a social impact.

“I see two trends in the activities at CSI, and more generally at the GSB: The first, and one that deserves great celebration, is the remarkable number of our students and young alums who are dedicated to social impact, and to seeking purpose and mission along with professional success,” Jonathan Levin, the Philip H. Knight Professor and Dean of Stanford Graduate School of Business, told the students at the celebration. “The second theme I want to celebrate is students’ collective dedication to addressing big issues. Their willingness to ask challenging questions about the world, and even about the GSB, is fundamental to bringing about change in organizations. And I think this willingness — in a leading business school — is also to be celebrated.”


Their willingness to ask challenging questions about the world, and even about the GSB, is fundamental to bringing about change in organizations.
Jonathan Levin

The annual awards recognize a select group of students for their outstanding contribution to the Stanford GSB social innovation community. A $110,000 Social Innovation Fellowship was awarded to two of the students: This year’s recipients of the Fellowship, Karin Underwood and Christina Guilbeau, will each receive the financial stipend upon graduation to be disbursed throughout the following year as they work with Stanford GSB’s CSI to advance their business models and build their nonprofit organizations. Both Underwood and Guilbeau are pursuing technology ventures related to individual health and mental wellness services for underserved communities.

“What we are seeing is a generation of students who expect meaning and purpose from their work, are questioning the system, and don’t shy away from big problems,” says Bernadette Clavier, the CSI Executive Director. “I look forward to witnessing the impact the Class of 2019 will have on some of the world’s thorniest issues.”

Underwood, MBA ’19, is building CoachMe, a peer health coaching service that provides behavior change support for low-income mothers with Medicaid who are suffering from chronic heart disease. CoachMe connects clients to culturally sensitive peer coaches who lead clients through a six-month, evidence-based healthy habits program. The service also has an app to provide ongoing support, advice, and accountability. Her background in building health products, including FDA-approved mobile apps and scaling up health services to hundreds of thousands of users in Kenya and Myanmar, prepares her for this work.

Guilbeau, also MBA ’19, aims to extend the reach of mental health therapists to low-income adolescents who currently lack access. Hopebound will connect adolescents in need of mental health assistance with high-quality and reliable one-on-one counseling. Hopebound will use video-based counseling, partner with schools and community programs, and engage supervised graduate student counselors who are earning required practicum hours in psychology, psychiatry, social work, and marriage and family counseling.

Guilbeau majored in psychology as an undergraduate, served in the classroom with Teach for America, cultivated analytical expertise working as a consultant, and has tutored and mentored low-income youth, cementing her commitment to this issue.



2019 Miller Social Change Leadership Award winners. From left to right: Matias Lanus, Abiodun Buari, Karin Underwood, Valerie Shen, Judy Dunbar, Christina Guilbeau, Julia Osterman, Dean Jonathan Levin, Jackie Rotman (not pictured - Kate Wharton and Kathryn Geskermann) | Stacy Geiken

The merit-based Social Innovation Fellowships are awarded by two separate five-member independent judge panels, which include experienced social entrepreneurs, social impact funders, and experts in the field. To be considered, the applicant’s venture must have a clearly defined mission, address a significant market failure and/or meet the needs of underserved populations, and have a robust business model and strong potential for impact.

The Miller Social Change Leadership Award honors the social change leaders of the future — graduating MBA and MSx students who have made an outstanding contribution to the Stanford GSB Social Innovation community and commitments to social and environmental action. MBA2 and MSx students who will earn a Certificate in Public Management and Social Innovation are eligible for the award. Students are nominated by the Stanford GSB student body and faculty and are selected on the strength of:

  • Leadership and contributions to the Stanford GSB community of social and environmental innovators
  • Focus on social innovation through academic coursework and practical application through experiential learning opportunities

The 10 students who received the 2019 Miller Social Change Leadership Award:

  • Abiodun Buari
  • Judy Dunbar
  • Kathryn Geskermann
  • Christina Guilbeau
  • Matias Lanus
  • Julia Osterman
  • Jackie Rotman
  • Valerie Shen

The final two awardees were selected by the Corporations and Society Initiative (CASI) for their focus on exploring questions at the intersection of business and society in classroom discussions:

  • Karin Underwood
  • Kate Wharton

In February, the CSI also awarded the Frances and Arjay Miller Prize in Social Innovation to Kate Wharton and David Osayande. The prize supports one or more students graduating with a Certificate in Public Management and Social Innovation who are choosing social impact career paths, and aims to alleviate some of the financial hardship that can be associated with taking on a career tackling social and environmental challenges.

Prize winners each receive $20,000, awarded for their commitment to building a more just, sustainable, and prosperous world in the next chapter of their careers.

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