Social Impact Fellows

Collaborating across disciplines to solve today’s most pressing social challenges.

Through UB's Social Impact Fellows program, students from the School of Management, School of Social Work and other UB graduate and professional schools spend the summer learning about and creating social innovation in Western New York. Presented in collaboration with UB’s Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars, the program brings together students for a fellowship at a mission-driven organization, where they collaborate to address pressing social issues and make an impact.

The program has received philanthropic support from the Charles D. and Mary A. Bauer Family Foundation, the School of Management Alumni Association, the UB President’s Circle and several generous alumni and friends of the university.

Learn more about social innovation in the School of Management and School of Social Work.

2020 program

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Last year’s Social Impact Fellows. Photo: Onion Studio.

Be part of the 2020 Social Impact Fellows program. Applications for students and partner organizations are now open.

Timeline for students

Applications are due January 31, 2020. To apply, visit bit.ly/20SIFStudent.

Important Dates

  • Information Sessions:
    • Nov. 5, 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., 684 Baldy
    • Nov. 19, 5-6:30 p.m., 684 Baldy
    • Nov. 21, 12-1 p.m., 684 Baldy
  • Jan. 31: Student application deadline
  • Feb. 24-27: Interviews – MSW and MBA students
  • March 24-26: Interviews – Other graduate/professional students
  • April 22: Group breakfast
  • May 26-29: Social innovation course
  • June 1-2: Project launch planning session and introduction to sites
  • June 3-July 29: Fellowship experience
  • July 31: Pitch for a Cause event

For questions about the student application process, contact Jessica Wangelin, Social Impact Fellows coordinator, at jbiegaj@buffalo.edu or 716-881-8967.

Timeline for organizations

Organization proposals are due January 6. To apply, visit bit.ly/20SIFOrg.

Important Dates

  • Nov. 13, 9:30 a.m.: Information session teleconference
  • Jan. 6: Application deadline for organizations
  • Late January: Notification of selection to organizations and request to secure MOU commitments
  • March 2: Deadline for selected organizations to return their MOU commitment
  • June 2: Meet students and develop plan for project launch
  • June 3-July 29: Students work at their designated organization to complete projects
  • July 31: Pitch for a Cause event

For questions about the host organization process, contact Maureen Hammett, vice dean and chief of staff, School of Social Work, at hammett@buffalo.edu or 716-645-9113.

How the program works

A team of Social Impact Fellows developed a plan to sustain the Service Collaborative’s Beds for Buffalo initiative—and got their hands dirty constructing beds too. Photo: Onion Studio.

The Social Impact Fellows program prepares students to address social issues using principles of entrepreneurship and social innovation.

  • During the eight-week internship, multidisciplinary teams of students work with mission-driven organizations to address systemic social issues. Teams are made up of an MBA student, an MSW student and a graduate/professional student from a variety of other UB programs.
  • At each site, fellows learn about issues the organization tackles and meet with stakeholders who are working on or affected by these problems. Then, using the entrepreneurial principles they learn, they create a solution to address these issues.
  • Fellows conduct their internship Monday through Thursday. On Fridays, they return to campus for sessions with management and social work faculty, who teach them how to identify, define and generate solutions for social challenges. Students also visit social enterprises, attend forums with guest speakers and share their experiences with one another in facilitated discussions. 
  • The program culminates with the Pitch for a Cause competition, when fellows present their projects and compete for funding to help their partner organization continue to implement their solution.

How students, organizations and the community benefit

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Another Social Impact Fellows team worked with Stitch Buffalo, a nonprofit that empowers refugee women through textile arts. Photo: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki.

Across the globe, social innovation is rapidly growing, as companies, nonprofits and governments partner to tackle sweeping challenges. That’s the spirit that guides the Social Impact Fellows program—and benefits all involved.

  • Students gain skills in strategic planning, creative problem-solving, entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship (the ability to innovate within an organization), making them more competitive in the job market. They also receive a modest stipend for tuition and fees.
  • Through their internship and experiences, fellows find creative ways to address social issues, thereby making a tangible impact on our community.
  • By working closely with peers from other disciplines, students gain an appreciation for the background and skills their peers bring. Many said the program inspired them to expand their career goals to include nonprofit management and social entrepreneurship.

Our impact in 2019

During the third year of the program, 10 student teams helped their partner organizations enhance business performance and address gaps to better serve and strengthen their communities. Each team included an MBA student, an MSW student and a graduate student researcher from another discipline, who provided additional context to help ensure their solution was sustainable.

2019 fellows and projects

  • ACV Auctions: Nicole Capozziello (MSW/PhD), Julia Schoonover (PhD, sociology) and Yash Shah (MBA) designed an initiative in which ACV will work with car dealerships to identify and address community needs.
  • Canopy of Neighbors: Meg Denton (MSW), Macy McDonald (PhD, English) and Jordon Sobon (MBA) evaluated and recommended a location to expand the organization’s services and support the aging population.
  • Erie County Department of Social Services: Rave Glynn (MSW), Akshata Gogate (MBA) and Azalia Muchransyah (PhD, media study) created a marketing outreach plan to recruit and retain foster parents using evidence-based best practices.
  • Family Justice Center: Sarthak Chakravarty (MBA), Karolina Kulicka (PhD, global gender studies) and Allison Murphy (MSW) researched and planned a wellness program that could be integrated into the organization’s one-stop services for domestic violence survivors.
  • Habitat for Humanity Buffalo: Josh Flaccavento (PhD, English), Paige Iovine-Wong (MSW/MPH) and Danial Khan (MSW/MBA) worked to increase the sustainability of the organization’s Critical Home Repair program by educating potential clients, assessing household needs, recruiting partners and establishing reliable revenue streams.
  • Journey's End Refugee Services: Gabriela Cordoba Vivas (PhD, media study), Timothy Madden (MBA) and Elias Schmidt (JD/MSW) developed a business plan to enhance the Green Shoots for New Americans program, which teaches refugees, immigrants and community members to grow their own crops in Buffalo’s climate and sell them to CSAs and farm stands.
  • LegWorks: Abid Alam (MBA), Derick Evans (PhD, music composition) and Delaney Voorheis (MSW) built out LegWorks’ social impact monitoring by creating a dashboard to increase the organization’s ability to raise grant funding and develop partnerships to provide amputees with high-functioning prosthetic devices.
  • Partnership for the Public Good: R.J. Haq (PhD, political science), Mel LeMay (MSW) and Geoffrey Mercene (MPH/MBA) created a plan to educate community members about major voting reforms enacted in New York State.
  • The Service Collaborative of WNY: Rachit Anand (PhD, comparative literature), Jacob Friedman (MSW) and Cassidy Malough (MSW/MBA) created a plan to help the Beds for Buffalo initiative—which trains volunteers to build quality beds for children living in poverty—raise awareness and increase its impact.
  • Stitch Buffalo: Kristie Bailey (MSW), Xingyu Chen (PhD, global gender studies) and Shannon Lach (MBA) analyzed the nonprofit's operation and developed a three-part plan to improve efficiency and help Stitch Buffalo prosper in the future.