The University of Notre Dame has a long history of service, which is incorporated into its mission statement – “to cultivate in its students not only an appreciation for the great achievements of human beings but also a disciplined sensibility to the poverty, injustice, and oppression that burden the lives of so many. The aim is to create a sense of human solidarity and concern for the common good that will bear fruit as learning becomes service to justice.”
As a result, social entrepreneurship has a natural home at Notre Dame. The very attributes of social entrepreneurship discussed in so many classrooms internationally and across the country - passion, business-like discipline, ingenuity and innovation, determination and perseverance, relentless pursuit, spread of ideas, systemic change, and marshaling of resources/bootstrapping - resonate with Notre Dame students, faculty and staff, alumni, and the wider Notre Dame community. By way of example, Notre Dame’s founder, Fr. Sorin, was a man with incredible vision, passion, determination, and numerous other entrepreneurial qualities. He sought to create an institution of higher learning in the Catholic tradition that would be recognized across the globe.
At the Gigot Center for Entrepreneurship, we have taught nearly 1,000 students in our social entrepreneurship classrooms since fall 2006 and engaged countless others through internships, guest lectures, and the Irish Impact Conference. Social entrepreneurs exist in every industry/profession, and our students represent many colleges and disciplines. In addition to (or instead of) creating their own social enterprises, we hope our students see their own potential as social “intra”preneurs, engaging in social impact no matter their profession, industry or company size, as well as engaging in a supportive ecosystem.
Our University’s social entrepreneurial constellation continues to expand, whether through the Center for Social Concerns, the Ford Family Program in Human Development Studies and Solidarity, the Initiative for Global Development (IGD), or our Master’s programs in global health and STEM that are engaging in social entrepreneurship. Finally, the Fellow Irish Social Hub (FISH) is a social incubator that works with students, faculty, staff, alums and the South Bend community to help them commercialize their social/environmental ideas and research. Both Mendoza and the Gigot Center are grateful to FISH for their collaboration on Irish Impact.