Planting the SEEDs

Sewanee’s social entrepreneurship intern program exposes students to new worlds


Michael Benjamin with founder of Grameen Bank Dr. Muhammad Yunus at the 2010 Africa-Middle East Regional Microcredit Summit held in Kenya

Since 2007, students from Sewanee: The University of the South have been leaving their mountaintop campus in Tennessee and crossing the globe in search of new experiences and a world-class education in social entrepreneurship. Through the Social Entrepreneurship Education Program (SEED), summer internships take them to places like Bangladesh, China, and Indonesia, as well as some places at home in the U.S.

The SEED program is a crucial part of a surge in social entrepreneurship education at Sewanee over the last decade, which has included the introduction of new social entrepreneurship academic tracks as well as heavy student participation in the Sullivan Foundation’s Ignite retreats.

Michael Mansfield and Taylor Triplett in a Bangladeshi village with a borrower who used her loan to buy a cow

SEED is a fully immersive, 8-week program that combines the internship with a 1-week intensive pre-business training course where students get an introduction to finance, accounting, and entrepreneurship through

lectures and workshops with faculty and alumni.

Axton Reilly carrying a 32-kilogram wheat bag for a World Food Program beneficiary

Participants in SEED get to work as interns at some of the most innovative and successful socially-conscious companies in the world. For instance, in Bangladesh, students work with the Grameen Bank, which describes itself as the “Bank for the Poor.” It provides credit to the poorest of poor Bangladeshi citizens with the aim of lifting them out of poverty. Despite requiring no collateral for their loans, the bank has an amazing 97% repayment rate.

“Microfinance” organizations like Grameen Bank have been the focus of most of the internships, but students also get to work with more traditional, well-known institutions, like the United Nations World Food Program, the world’s largest humanitarian organization.

Students receive a special certificate for completing the program, but the biggest thing they get is exposure to a new way of thinking that sends many of them on to careers making a living by making life better for others.

Thanks to Sewanee for their help preparing this article and providing photos.

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