As the coordinator of social entrepreneurship at Fisher College of Business, Judy Tansky is acutely aware of the overwhelming desire from students to get involved with social enterprise opportunities.

It’s not a fad. Rather, it’s an area that Fisher has identified as an important aspect of a business education.

“We’ve seen tremendous interest in the number of students who want to apply what they learn in the classroom to pressing challenges faced by socially focused businesses and organizations,” Tansky said. “We’re constantly working with our partners throughout the region to provide additional opportunities for our students to explore this emerging and vital area of entrepreneurship.”

Tansky leads the social entrepreneurship initiative within The Ohio State University Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE), and thanks to partnerships forged within the local community, she has helped connect dozens of students with agencies in need of business insights.

For Tally Wolff (MBA ’16), a career in social enterprise has long been her dream. When she arrived at Fisher as a first-year MBA student, she connected with the undergraduate organizers of the Alleviating Poverty Through Entrepreneurship (APTE) Summit, a student-run event that began at Fisher and has since grown to include hundreds of attendees from around the country who travel to Ohio State to examine social challenges.

“It’s a generational mindset,” Wolff said of the popularity of social entrepreneurship. “Millennials want to feel like they’re making a significant impact in something. We don’t just want to work for a company—we want to work for a company that’s making an impact doing good.”

Tally Wolff 1
As part of the MBAs Across America program, Tally Wolff (MBA '16), left, and Molly Tafrate (MBA '16), right, joined students from universities across the country to solve challenges for entrepreneurs and organizations throughout the U.S.

Fisher students interested in social entrepreneurship have taken their classroom insights and applied them to challenges that a number of organizations are facing, including:

  • Creating a business plan to bring a grocery store and fresh produce to the disadvantaged Franklinton area.
  • Addressing the growing problem of human trafficking in central Ohio.
  • Building houses in Honduras and creating a sustainability model for future homes.

As part of an independent study project with Tansky, Wolff and classmates Anna Klatt and Erika Meschkat conducted a feasibility for Star House, the only drop-in center for homeless youth in central Ohio. The project focused on providing clients at Star House with vocational training programs that would lead to apprenticeships in any number of building trades.

“The social sector sees the value in the skill sets of business students,” Wolff said. “We’re using business principles to achieve impact.”

Wolff, who most recently served as managing director for Sea Change, a Cleveland-based organization that nurtures socially minded startups, augmented her social entrepreneurship curriculum at Fisher by participating in MBAs Across America. The program connects teams of MBA students from universities throughout the country and sends them on the road to help entrepreneurs and organizations across the nation solve challenges. Wolff teamed with Fisher alum Molly Tafrate and students from Yale and Harvard throughout her 2015 experience.

“Students who are interested in social entrepreneurship are confronting a lot of global problems, like climate change, poverty and class issues,” Wolff said. “As we become more global and we experience more of these places, we’re having to confront a lot of issues. And we’re starting to see a change in perception about these issues—that they’re no longer just problems to be dealt with in the social sector.

“Now, corporations are beginning to take notice and are starting to address them by bringing in socially aware and socially driven employees. And that’s a positive step forward.”