Get Stoked!


“Social entrepreneurs are not content just to give a fish or teach how to fish. They will not rest until they have revolutionized the fishing industry.” —William (Bill) Drayton, CEO, chair and founder of Ashoka

surfingIn 2005, Pace launched the Helene and Grant Wilson Center for Social Entrepreneurship. The goal? To teach current and aspiring non-profit professionals to use the same creative problem-solving approaches that start-up businesses use to increase their impact. These skills are critical to a sector that is not only a huge force for social change, but also one of the fastest growing in the United States. The field currently employs almost 10 percent of all workers, making it the third largest workforce in the country and a huge attraction for Pace graduates. In the last five years, 20 percent of Pace students have gone on to internships or jobs in the non-profit sector.

Over the last several years, the Wilson Center has offered a variety of programming to further their goal (see sidebar). But this year, they focused on a unique concept: The Social Enterprise in Residence. While the Center has had entrepreneurs in residence in the past, this year they decided to apply the concept of creative problem-solving to their own program. “We asked ourselves: What if the whole organization is in residence?” says Rebecca Tekula, PhD, executive director of the Center. “That makes it much more of a two-way street. We can do site visits; work with founders, program managers, board members; and be involved on many levels, instead of just working with one entrepreneur. It fits in well with the Wilson model and focus on teamwork.”

The Center partnered with Stoked, a youth mentoring program that engages young people through sports such as skateboarding, snowboarding, and surfing. The Founder and President Steve Larosiliere spoke at a Pace student leadership conference and his message resonated with students, leading to a number of other panels and events, and internships for Pace students. But the Wilson Center was looking to move beyond seminars and internships. When Larosiliere said he was seeking advice and resources, Tekula connected him with the School of Education who, in turn, connected him with local high school principals so Larosiliere could introduce Stoked’s after school program. Larosiliere also had a rough concept to start a surf shop in the Far Rockaways (where the members take surfing lessons and store their equipment) to supplement the organization’s income. That idea became an opportunity for one enterprising Lubin student, Jonathan Prato ’13, who is president and co-founder of SIFE: Students in Free Enterprise.

“SIFE is directly in line with the Wilson Center and has a strong focus on social responsibility and entrepreneurship,” says Prato. “So we reached out to the Center and Rebecca told us about their programming and the Social Enterprise in Residence.” Prato met with the Larosiliere several times and, with guidance from the Wilson Center and Lubin’s Entrepreneurship Program, produced a well researched 55-page business plan in just two months.

“The whole experience was a great opportunity,” says Prato. “I knew I was interested in entrepreneurship, but meeting with the founders, doing all the research, getting help from so many sources, and writing the business plan in full helped cement that.” It also helped Prato secure his next two paid positions: doing student outreach and program development for the Wilson Center in the spring semester, and a summer internship for the NYC Department of Small Business Services.

For Tekula, it was the epitome of what the Wilson Center strives to accomplish and teach. “This program was about real deliverables and real outcomes,” she says. “What’s different about the Wilson Center is that it’s not just about community service; it’s about impact. It’s not about donation of time or volunteering. We’re using our students as experts, trusting their skills, and helping them develop new ones. We treating them as, and teaching them to be, professionals.”

A Partner for Non-profits

50: Fully funded internships for 28 different organizations*

323: Continuing education students who have taken non-profit management workshops in the last year

3,000: External attendees to public events

*In the last four years


  • Funded internships—Provide students with critical skills and support non-profit organizations including the Robin Hood Foundation, Safe Horizon,  the New York Urban League, and more
  • Coursework—Add non-profit subject matter to the University’s current offerings including  graduate courses in technology, entrepreneurship, and public administration, and a certificate in not-for-profit management
  • Social Entrepreneur in Residence—Past entrepreneurs include Susan Rodgerson of Artists for Humanity, Charles Best of, and Majora Carter of Sustainable South Bronx
  • Not-For-Profit Management Center—In partnership with Chase Bank and the United Way, provide more than 400 non-profit professionals with learning experiences
  • Career Support—In conjunction with Career Services, provide resources and networking opportunities for students interested in the field
–Article by Margo Alderton
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