TJ KESSINGER | Photo Illustration

New course teaches social change

The Department of Business and Communication recently approved the Social Innovations course as an official class. The department is offering the class for Winter Semester 2016 under B399R.

Spencer Hoffman, a junior studying healthcare administration, Mark Nygren, a faculty member of the Department of Business Management, and Nathan Gwilliam, CEO and creator of and an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Business Management created the class.

“The course is intended to provide opportunities in a career with non-profits, social ventures, like Tom’s Shoes or Warby Parker glasses,” Nygren said. “It is also intended to help students be more socially responsible within organizations and follow the Savior’s example of ‘going about doing good.’ The class will help students do good, better.”

Hoffman said he did not know what he wanted to do with his major. He only knew he wanted to make a difference in the world.

“I wanted to help healthcare reform, especially for mental health treatment,” Hoffman said. “I ended up going to the psych department, and I ran into a professor, Brother Delton. He told me all about social innovation. For the next couple weeks, I was obsessed.”

Hoffman said he looked at other universities and saw that they had education in social innovation. He saw the lack of social innovation and entrepreneurship education at BYU-Idaho as a problem. He decided if he truly believed in social innovation, he should live by it. He decided, instead of transferring, he was going to try and start a social innovation society here.

Hoffman said the society was extremely hard to create. He said there was a lot of resistance. He said he emailed President Kim B. Clark about social innovation education at BYU-I. He met with President Clark two months later to discuss social innovation.

Hoffman said President Clark told him he needed to find some faculty and make a class. Hoffman said he teamed up with Nygren and Gwilliam to create a social innovations course.

Hoffman said he, Gwilliam and Nygren did the research, networking and planning for two years.

“You know that quote, ‘You have to spend 10,000 hours doing something to become an expert?’” Hoffman said. “That’s what I’m going for. I’m not there yet, but that’s what I’m going for.”

Gwilliam said the Social Innovations course will help students find which area of social change would best fit their personality and strengths.

“Students (will) learn the difference between nonprofits, social businesses, social entrepreneurs, NGOs, impact investing, philanthropy, social innovation, corporate social responsibility and much more,” Gwilliam said.   

Nygren said the target audience for this course is the millennials.

“In a recent survey conducted by the Global Shapers Community, 65 percent of millennials said one of their top three goals in selecting a job was to make a difference in society, their city or country,” Nygren said.

Hoffman said students who take the class have the opportunity to receive large benefits.

“I think I’ve had more spiritual experiences in a social innovations class than I ever have in any other class,” Hoffman said. “It’s just that charity part of it, that part that Christ wants us to get active and get involved and do something.”

Hoffman said the students who took this course while it was in testing have gone on to do amazing things.

“We have a student that was in Nepal working for a non-profit there,” Hoffman said. “We had a student in Arizona organizing a bunch of non-profit stuff. We have a student that’s in the NPA program at BYU.”

Nygren said this class will help further the idea from Elder David A. Bednar, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, that BYU-I is a Disciple Preparation Center.

“I can’t think of a better course to help students take action and actually be involved in actual projects in the class to make the world better,” Nygren said. “Our invitation to them is, ‘Make a dent in the universe,’ and ‘Be the change you want to see in the world.’”

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