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Edwardson Social Entrepreneurship Program

Part of a powerful entrepreneurial ecosystem at the University of Chicago, the center helps UChicago students and faculty connect research with practice and go from idea to impact.

Whether you have an idea already or are looking to explore launching or joining a startup, the Rustandy Center can help you on your entrepreneurial journey.

The Edwardson Social Entrepreneurship Program

The Rustandy Center’s Edwardson Social Entrepreneurship Program supports UChicago students and faculty in jump-starting businesses and nonprofits founded on social missions.

The program also helps drive the Rustandy Center’s mission to become the leading university-based launchpad and knowledge center for game-changing social entrepreneurs, their ventures, and the people who fund them. And it supports the center’s work in impact investing through student competitions, experiential learning programs, and more.

Looking for help navigating our social entrepreneurship resources? Contact us.

Discover Social Entrepreneurship Resources

UChicago Entrepreneurship Offerings

UChicago students, faculty, and alumni have access to a wide range of entrepreneurship opportunities across the University of Chicago. The Rustandy Center partners closely with campus partners like the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and others on these offerings, including:

Polsky Accelerators
In this program, student teams work intensively on businesses and social enterprises over the summer. Teams receive funding, coaching, mentorship, and more.

The Polsky Center’s Mentorship Program
This program provides UChicago students with access to a variety of carefully curated entrepreneurs and experts from a wide range of industries.

South Side Pitch
This annual event hosted by the Institute for Justice’s Clinic on Entrepreneurship showcases inventive, inspiring, and impactful entrepreneurs from the South Side of Chicago. Finalists compete for $25,000 in prizes. The Rustandy Center and the Polsky Center are sponsors of this event. 

This program brings UChicago students together with researchers, technologists, and faculty who want to explore the commercialization opportunities and business applications of their work. 

Courses in Social Entrepreneurship

The Rustandy Center facilitates several courses designed to promote the skills required for launching successful social ventures. Here’s a sampling:

New Social Ventures
This course is the academic component of the John Edwardson, ’72, Social New Venture Challenge (SNVC), in which teams develop and hone ideas for innovative social startups. At least one student from each SNVC team must enroll in New Social Ventures.

Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation
In this course, UChicago students study social innovation with a focus on the role of research and social entrepreneurship in developing and scaling innovative solutions to society’s problems.

Global Social Entrepreneurship Lab
This is a project-based course that matches students with leaders of social ventures. The course’s aim is for students to learn from and accelerate the impact of their “Partner Social Ventures."

Meet Our Social Entrepreneurship Executives in Residence

Learn from industry experts in the Rustandy Center’s network, who work closely with students as mentors and advisors and share insights from their experience in the social sector. Learn more about opportunities to engage with Todd Connor and David Ellis.

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Todd Connor, ’07, Social Entrepreneurship and Nonprofit Board Service

Todd Connor, '07, is the founder of Bunker Labs, a national entrepreneurship organization dedicated to helping the military-connected community start and grow businesses in over 40 chapters across the United States. He is the founder of The Collective Academy, a leadership development consulting firm, as well as Emerson House, a luxe retreat venue in La Porte, Indiana. He is currently CEO of Veterans for Political Innovation, an organization he co-founded to fight political polarization and advocate for more political competition and choice for voters. Todd also serves as the lead facilitator for the President George W. Bush Veteran Leadership Program in Dallas, Texas.

Todd Connor, ’07, Social Entrepreneurship and Nonprofit Board Service
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David Ellis, Social Entrepreneurship

David Ellis is Founder and co-CEO of Hatch Africa. Hatch works across six countries in sub-Saharan Africa supplying resilient, high-yielding chickens to rural smallholder farmers, thereby improving their income and nutrition. In 2023, Hatch supplied over 40 million chickens to more than 4 million smallholder farmers throughout Africa and employed 2,000 full-time personnel.

David Ellis, Social Entrepreneurship

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