Collaborating across disciplines to solve today’s most pressing social challenges.
Through UB's Social Impact Fellows program, MBA and MSW students from the School of Management and School of Social Work, along with graduate students from the College of Arts and Sciences, create social innovation in Western New York. Presented in collaboration with UB’s Blackstone LaunchPad & Techstars, the program brings students together to collaborate, address pressing social issues and make an impact.
The program has received philanthropic support from the John R. Oishei Foundation, Charles D. and Mary A. Bauer Family Foundation, School of Management Alumni Association, UB President’s Circle and several generous alumni and friends of the university.
Working in teams, 30 students from a variety of disciplines collaborated with 10 community partner organizations on projects across Western New York.
Below are all of our partner organizations, student teams and the social issues they tackled throughout the summer.
Organization mission: Bridge the gap for families and communities by providing education, youth development, immigration and support services.
Student team: Joshua Israel, MBA/MSRED; Emily Wiencek, MSW; Andrew Brown, PhD in political science.
Project: Assess and recommend changes to the intake process, and help relaunch the nonprofit’s Arabic language program. In addition, evaluate three youth development programs to improve cost efficiency, digitize the onboarding process for employees and volunteers, and implement a donor model.
Organization mission: Provide an avenue for admission and support for eligible students who have not yet reached their academic potential due to educational or economic barriers.
Student team: Catherine Merletti, MBA; Briana Jones, MSW; Lawrence Mullen, PhD in English.
Project: Examine other EOP programs across the state and recommend ways to improve the UB EOP and initiate innovative programming for students in its Summer Bridge experience—all to address educational inequities, work toward social justice and enhance student success.
Organization mission: Expand affordable housing opportunities and provide direct assistance through a variety of avenues.
Student team: Dylan Howatt, MBA; Thomas Nordstrom, MSW; Nate Lambert, PhD in political science.
Project: Work to increase the use of the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program, which provides families secure and stable housing, by helping Belmont understand the many reasons families lose their vouchers and how Belmont can better assist them.
Organization mission: Develop and implement policies and tactics that promote lasting inclusion within the City of Buffalo’s public and private workforce, increase economic participation among disadvantaged business owners and preserve everyone’s civil liberties, especially the historically disadvantaged.
Student team: Jordan Daniels, MBA; Libby Pokoj, MSW; Adewale Fadugba, PhD in Africana and American studies.
Project: Identify biases within various city departments using an existing database, and help create in-person training plans and identify policy gaps to ultimately reduce those biases.
Organization mission: Provide assistance and programming, including specialized volunteer training and adaptive ice-skating instruction, to children and adults with disabilities to promote physical and mental well-being.
Student team: Anna Zuefle, MBA; Ciara Harrington, MSW; Joel Kirk, PhD in music.
Project: Conduct research and develop recommendations to increase the organization’s financial stability, plan for its future and grow the program, including a strategy for driving sales of adaptive equipment for the for-profit arm of the organization.
Organization mission: Be the best bank customers ever do business with; help people and businesses manage their money and make sound financial decisions.
Student team: Jack DeMarco, MBA; Hannah Wiltse, MSW; Melanie Monroy, Master of Urban Planning.
Project: Create neighborhood-specific plans so M&T can better engage with communities on the East Side, with a particular emphasis on delivering financial education and increasing direct-to-consumer outreach.
Organizational mission: Strengthen communities by rebuilding the lives of the individuals we serve.
Student team: Zach Latella, MBA; Jasmine Clasing, MSW; Kaylee Kagiavas, PhD in global gender and sexuality studies.
Project: Research and develop a project proposal to successfully implement a social enterprise venture focused on workforce development skills.
Organization mission: Achieve strong neighborhoods by promoting affordable housing, economic opportunity and social justice.
Student team: Josh Little, MBA; Ejura Adebayo, MSW/MPH; Jacquie Cherry, MFA in dance.
Project: Create and implement a neighborhood plan, including establishing a real estate cooperative, to achieve major physical and economic change.
Organization mission: Empower women experiencing domestic abuse through education, advocacy, support and housing.
Student team: Katrina Cropo, MBA/MSW; Cam Houser, MSW; Deanna Buley, PhD in global gender and sexuality studies.
Project: Based on an existing storefront RAHAMA owns on Buffalo’s East Side, create a plan for a sustainable business that would enhance RAHAMA's financial stability, while also providing employment and job training for individuals in the community.
Organization mission: Create a culture of possibility so each woman and girl can live, grow and lead to her fullest potential—because when women are secure, communities are stronger.
Student team: Sydney March, MBA; Karli Lawson, MSW/MPH; Jesse Orrange, MA in humanities – interdisciplinary.
Project: Examine studies and models related to child care and educating young children, and work with providers to build a pilot project and budget for a central hub for child care services.
The Social Impact Fellows program prepares students to address social issues using principles of entrepreneurship and social innovation.
Across the globe, social innovation is rapidly growing, as companies, nonprofits and governments partner to tackle sweeping challenges. That’s the spirit that guides the Social Impact Fellows program—and benefits all involved.
To support the Social Impact Fellows program, make a gift to UB’s Social Innovation Fund.