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515 East Gregory Drive
Champaign, IL 61820
Phone: (217) 333-2740
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Undergraduate Affairs > Current Students > Social Entrepreneurship Institute (SEI)

Social Entrepreneurship Institute (SEI)

The Social Entrepreneurship Institute (formerly known as SESI) is a multi-faceted civic engagement initiative that combines business education outreach for professionals working in the non-profit sector with service-learning internships for University of Illinois students. The institute features lectures and workshops by U of I faculty, APs, and business professionals; and the curriculum emphasizes principles in social entrepreneurship. Students apply the concepts learned during the institute and companion course, Social Entrepreneurship & the Citizen Leader, to address community needs in innovative and sustainable ways.

SEI Overview
SEI is a program that educates students about social entrepreneurship, civic engagement, and societal needs, through service learning, workshop and a lecture series. The institute also provides community organizations with student consulting teams and training on basic business concepts, in an effort to help these organization to function more effectively while grappling with limited resources. The institute also helps community organizations to explore whether a “social entrepreneurship” enterprise, creating a for-profit venture to sustain their non-profit’s organization and mission, is right for them.

The institute is a program that is hosted by the College of Business Office of Undergraduate Affairs in partnership with several institutional and community partners, including Illinois Business Consulting, the Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership, the United Way of Champaign County, and Hanley Foundation.

Students apply to the SEI to become Social Entrepreneurship Fellows. If accepted as a fellow, a student becomes part of a consulting team assigned to a project with a non-profit and is required to attend workshops and our lecture series to learn about social entrepreneurship and the positive ways in which business can respond to critical issues facing communities and the planet as a whole.

In the past four years, SEI has worked on consulting projects for many community organizations including Crisis Nursery, Girls Scouts of Central Illinois, Hope Community Health Center, SmileHealthy, Illinois Green Business Association, Don Moyer Boys & Girls Club, Center for Women in Transition and a Women’s Fund. We charge community organizations nothing for our work. SEI was established, in part, to invest the intellectual capital of the University of Illinois back into the communities of the State of Illinois. The mission has become all the more important during the current economic and state budget crisis.

For Community Organizations
The Social Entrepreneurship Institute (SEI) provides community organizations with business training and a team of student interns to work on a consulting project. Organizations that wish to participate will be able to apply online starting the third week of April.

For Students
Connected with the Social Entrepreneurship Institute is the Social Entrepreneur Fellows Internship Program. The Fellows program provides an excellent opportunity for students to both learn about societal issues and civic engagement and to serve the community. Students may apply to participate as fellows in a variety of internship roles, including interning with community organizations, interning as research assistants and interning as SEI administrative assistants. Students applying for the internship positions with community organizations will need to be available to participate in both the Institute’s workshops and lectures. Additionally students are required to enroll in the “Social Entrepreneurship and the Citizen Leader” course. Students that wish to participate will be able to apply online starting the third week of April.

Service-Learning Internship Course
Student fellows are required to enroll in the affiliated course, Social Entrepreneurship & the Citizen Leader (3 credits/graded/Summer Session 2), which is intended to provide structure and support to maximize learning and accountability in the academic service-learning internships. The course focuses on social entrepreneurship, in which principles such as opportunity recognition, resource mobilization, and value creation are used to address social issues in innovative and sustainable ways. Students gain hands-on experience with the theory and application of social entrepreneurship in authentic contexts through the service-learning internships and participate in structured activities, discussions, and reflection to connect those experiences to concepts and readings in business, social entrepreneurship, leadership development, and community psychology. Through a process of thoughtful engagement and civic reflection, the course objectives are designed to help student fellows achieve a functional understanding of social entrepreneurship principles in context, develop skills to be effective citizen leaders and community practitioners, and demonstrate competency in business and professional skills through the successful completion of deliverables that meet genuine community needs.

SESI Staff Contacts

  • Collette Niland, Executive Director (333-2740)
  • Mary Nokes, Director of External Communications and Social Media (333-2740)
  • Valeri Werpetinski, Director of Curriculum and Service-Learning (333-3370)


Upcoming Event:

An Interactive Workshop on Social Entrepreneurship
1-5 pm, April 15
2043 Business Instructional Facility

Distinguished Speaker: Vanita Viswanath, Udyogini, India
Coordinators: Sunny Jeong and Srini Venugopal

Learn about social entrepreneurship in an interactive workshop covering a range of issues from understanding social issues to designing enterprises and assessing impact.  The workshop will emphasize audience participation through group assignments and presentations.  Participants will include students and staff at the University of Illinois and social entrepreneurs and staff from non-profit organizations in the community.

Registration is required - please email Dean Collette Niland at to register by April 1st.


1-2:00 pm - Challenges and Opportunities in Social Entrepreneurship?  - Vanita Viswanath
2:15-3:30 - Audience Participation in Exercises
3:45-5:00 pm - Panel Discussion (Srinivas Venugopal, MBA Student; Vanita Viswanath, Udyogini; Sunny Jeong, Business Faculty; Kathleen Robbins, Jatropha Pepinye)

Vanita Viswanath is the CEO of Udyogini, an organization providing business development services to poor women in the backward and remote regions of India. Prior to joining Udyogini in 2000, she was a consultant to the World Bank and other international agencies. She was a staff member of the World Bank in Washington in the early 1990s. She has several writings to her credit including books and articles on political development, gender, development practice and microenterprise. She has a PhD from the University of Texas at Austin in the United States.

Sponsored by

Subsistence Marketplaces Initiative - 
Social Entrepreneurship Institute, College of Business
Women and Gender in Global Perspective Program

Call for Posters

The Service-Learning & Social Entrepreneurship Showcase is an all-campus event that features service-learning and social entrepreneurship courses and programs at the Uni- versity of Illinois. The showcase provides opportunities for students, faculty, staff, and community members to network and learn about ways to get involved in academic and co-curricular projects that strengthen communities and foster civic responsibility. Any member of the campus community is eligible to submit a proposal, which may include non-University partners as presenters. Please click on the link below for more information about the Showcase and how to submit a proposal.