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DU Social Enterprise Fellowship Launches in Partnership with Quarterly Forum

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Graduate students will seek interdisciplinary solutions to social and economic challenges


A new partnership between the Barton Institute for Philanthropy and Social Enterprise at the University of Denver and Quarterly Forum (QF) will give 12 graduate students the opportunity to apply their skills and talents to challenging problems in the real world by helping to improve the lives of vulnerable populations.

The Social Enterprise Fellowship program will consist of a cohort of 12 students selected from programs throughout the University who will study and apply the principles of social enterprise. The goal of the fellowship, which lasts from September through June, is to help individuals and families who face challenges, including homelessness or lack of resources, as well as people with disabilities, veterans and others who have needs that they cannot meet on their own.

“We’ve had an outstanding response from students, as well as from potential community partners who believe individual students or teams of students can help address their social enterprise goals,” said David Miller, executive director of the Barton Institute. “We are deeply grateful for our partnership with QF to support the first year of this program.”

A total of 94 DU graduate students applied for the highly competitive fellowship, which is being represented by seven academic programs. The students and programs represented include:

  • Anna Bernhardt — Sturm College of Law
  • Sajjid Budhwani — Morgridge College of Education
  • Jayne Butler — Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
  • Jerry Ceja Jr. — University College
  • Emma Heffernan — Josef Korbel School of International Studies
  • Alexandra Lustig — Josef Korbel School of International Studies
  • Sofia Ponte — Daniels College of Business
  • Spencer Rockwell — Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
  • Eric Shimono — Josef Korbel School of International Studies
  • Becky Stifter — Sturm College of Law
  • Jennifer Wilson — Graduate School of Social Work
  • Rachel Wolf — Josef Korbel School of International Studies

“We see the partnership with the Barton Institute as essential to expanding our capacity to build community leaders, including business leaders who are interested in the nonprofit sector,” said Ashley Buderus, CEO of QF Group, a Colorado-based, non-partisan, not-for-profit leadership organization that connects, educates and inspires the state’s best emerging community leaders. “We are excited to link these outstanding fellows with our members who are experienced leaders and can serve as mentors.”

As part of their involvement, students will receive a stipend of up to $5,000 ($16.40 per hour for 10 hours of work each week) during the academic year. In the fall, the Social Enterprise Fellows will study the tenets and applications of the broad field of social enterprise, and in the winter and spring they will be matched with community partners to work part time with existing social enterprises. Barton Institute staff is currently working to develop relationships with community partners.

For Budhwani, an international student from India, the fellowship is an opportunity to learn more about social enterprise, which he hopes will serve as a catalyst between the business world and local communities.

Sajjid Headshot

“There’s a lot of excitement and hope within me to leverage this fellowship to its optimum and make the most out of it,” Budhwani says. “Being an international student on campus, I actively seek innovative opportunities which are transformative in nature, and I believe that this is the best one I have come across thus far. The institute’s social enterprise concept, vision and fellowship work description not only resonated with the professional and volunteer work I used to do in my home country, but also is the much-needed ingredient for the overall growth and development of communities that are socially and historically marginalized and underserved.”

Rockwell hopes to apply what he has learned in his career in local government, including his academic studies in public policy and economics, to the Social Enterprise Fellowship. He sees the fellowship not only as a convergence of everything he’s interested in, but also as the next big step in his journey.

Picture Rockwell

“I hope to learn more about how social enterprise is taking place across Denver to address the city's biggest issues, like education and affordable housing, as well as to gain a better understanding of how communities can engage in social enterprise to improve their lives,” Rockwell says. “Through this fellowship, I hope to position myself for a long and successful career innovating solutions to challenging social problems, and to become part of a network of people looking to do the same thing.”

Wilson, a doctoral student in the Graduate School of Social Work, is excited to see the discipline of social work being valued as part of the fellowship. She hopes to further develop her research skills so that she can develop, propose and successfully carry out a research design that addresses the challenge of measuring social impact.

Jennifer Wilson

“I am interested in understanding poverty reduction through social innovation — approaches that highlight the intersection between social work values, business principles and international perspectives,” Wilson says. “This fellowship and the study of social enterprise offers me a perfect opportunity to explore the vast possibilities for research and evaluation of social impact in this space.”

In addition to the fellowship, QF will sponsor the Barton Institute’s first Bold Philanthropy, which takes place Oct. 4. Bold Philanthropy Convening will bring together leaders and thinkers to examine how philanthropy can make a significant difference in the lives of vulnerable people.