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Colleges offer 'Social E' classes

By Alexandra Peterson, CNN
Amarynth Sichel donates cooking skills to raise money for charity. Social entrepreneurship has surged on U.S. campuses
Amarynth Sichel donates cooking skills to raise money for charity. Social entrepreneurship has surged on U.S. campuses
  • "FeelGood World" has 23 chapters on U.S. campuses
  • Students learn how to start social enterprises
  • "Social entrepreneurship" grows as a subject of study for U.S. college students
  • Harvard, Columbia and Stanford are among the universities offering "Social E" courses

Los Angeles, California (CNN) -- Amarynth Sichel grills cheese sandwiches and sells them to Columbia University students five nights a week. But Sichel's not just a cook; she's also a college student and social entrepreneur-in-training.

Sichel is the president of one of 23 "FeelGood World" chapters on U.S. college campuses, where students donate time and cooking skills to raise money for charity.

Social entrepreneurship has surged on American campuses in the past few years, according to Melanie Edwards, who lectures on the subject at Stanford University.

"I believe the rise in 'Social E' publicity, coupled with the heightened social problems in our U.S. economy and the world, speaks to the millenials," Edwards said.

A growing number of college applicants ask about Stanford's social entrepreneurship program before applying, and freshman enrollment in "Social E" classes has increased, she said.

"I was a devout grilled cheese-maker in high school, so for me, joining FeelGood was a must," said Sichel. "I have always been committed to groups that are dedicated to uplifting the world. When you know you're working for your global family, that's a powerful motivator."

Sandwich sales help sustainable village programs, including CHOICE Humanitarian and The Hunger Project.

The social entrepreneurship trend has many schools rethinking curriculum and recruiting strategies.

Harvard recently introduced courses in social entrepreneurship and rewards students' social startups in its annual Innovation Challenge.

Columbia joined the "College Challenge" -- a competition among 17 colleges to determine which academic institution has the greatest commitment to civic engagements.

At Babson College, all freshmen take a two-semester course that includes 20 hours of community service. Students are required to create an idea and launch a venture funded by the college. They pay back their seed funding with money from sales at the end of the course.

Babson now offers 17 courses in social entrepreneurship, up from five classes in 2005.

Stanford's alternative spring break has students visiting social enterprises ranging from education to criminal rehabilitation.

Students can also apply for grants to help build their own social enterprises.

Sophomore Nishant Jacob said he chose Stanford because of its "Social E" opportunities.

"Coming to Stanford was an amazing way to get immersed in the world of 'Social E'," said Jacob, who ran a small startup in Bangalore before being admitted to Stanford.

New York University sponsors an annual competition that provides $1,000 seed grants and a prize of $20,000 for teams that develop organizations with a positive, sustainable and measurable impact on their communities.

The level of enthusiasm and participation has increased among students worldwide, according to Gabriel Brodbar, director of NYU's Reynolds Program in Social Entrepreneurship.

"There is a greater recognition today among young people that regardless of sector or profession, they have an active responsibility to meaningfully address some of the intractable social challenges that we are facing," said Brodbar, who is developing a university-wide "Social E" concentration.

As for Sichel, she's addressing those social challenges by making one grilled cheese at a time.