Social Impact Fellows
Collaborating across disciplines to solve today’s most pressing social challenges.
Through UB's Social Impact Fellows program, MBA and MSW students from the School of Management and School of Social Work, along with graduate students from the College of Arts and Sciences, create social innovation in Western New York. Together, our students collaborate, address pressing social issues and make an impact.
The program has received philanthropic support from the John R. Oishei Foundation, Charles D. and Mary A. Bauer Family Foundation, School of Management Alumni Association, UB President’s Circle and several generous alumni and friends of the university.
"It was an extraordinary experience. Working on this project, I’ve found that we really need to collaborate and work with people from all disciplines relevant to the problems and issues we face in society."
— Ejura Adebayo, MSW/MPH student
This summer, student teams will tackle a variety of social issues at 10 organizations across Western New York. Here are our partner organizations and the projects our fellows will complete:
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Erie, Niagara and the Southern Tier
- Project: Create a plan to enhance mentoring services for children in rural communities, based on data students collect related to family needs and volunteer interest
- Team: Ashley Wimble, MSW; Lucas Grisanti, MBA; and Shiyue Cui, PhD in Sociology
Erie County Medical Center
- Project: Complete a gap analysis of care at ECMC, and write a playbook to implement a complex care model that addresses the needs of patients and caregivers
- Team: Alyssa Ruminski, MSW; Muhammad Ashraf, MBA; and Thaddeus Okon, PhD in Linguistics
Family Justice Center of Erie County
- Project: Advance understanding around how restorative justice may be applied to domestic violence services, ultimately helping the agency become the first domestic violence service provider in the area to adopt these practices
- Team: Nicole Kuhn, MSW; Karina Alfaro, MBA; and Jenna Labbie, PhD in History
- Project: Develop a business plan for a mobile farm truck that operates in neighborhoods that lack access to fresh produce, including identifying future expansion opportunities and best practices for year-round operations
- Team: Mikayla Logan, MSW; Angela Wang, MBA; and Poushali Bhattacharjee, PhD in Geography
Learning Disabilities Association of Western New York/LEAD716
- Project: Use innovative research methods to generate new funding sources for LEAD716, a free program that provides early academic intervention to preschool children diagnosed with elevated lead levels in their blood
- Team: Nina Jacobsen, MSW; Sivarama Mandapati, MBA; and Sameera Abbas, PhD in Comparative Literature
Lt. Col. Matt Urban Human Services Center of WNY
- Project: Devise a business plan and marketing strategy for a social enterprise where participants receive soft skills training, learn culinary fundamentals and sell food products locally
- Team: Andy Whitehead, MSW; Elizabeth Ramirez, MBA; Samantha King-Shaw, PhD in Global Gender Studies
- Project: Develop a go-to-market strategy for the Omantec Lift™, a patented, wall-mounted mechanical lift that helps bedridden and limited-mobility patients receive care in the comfort of their home
- Team: Tenzin Metok, MSW; Matthew Taboni, MBA; Oluwafisayo Ogundoro, PhD in Sociology
- Project: Create a dashboard of resources that will educate residents on the impact of climate change in their neighborhood and empower them to address systemic environmental, economic and health disparities
- Team: Kiara Owen, MSW; Michael Mankiewicz, MBA; and Alex Bakke, PhD in Spanish Language and Literature
South Buffalo Community Association
- Project: Gather input from South Buffalo community members about their needs and use that data to recommend strategic priorities for the center
- Team: Maria Rothaupt, MSW; Kennethea Wilson, MBA; and Abhipsa Chakraborty, PhD in English
Victory Sports Global Outreach
- Project: Research and develop a business plan to expand the organization’s summer Ball-Bin Campaign into a year-round program that provides kids from under-resourced schools and neighborhoods with access to the equipment they need to be active and play sports
- Team: Karolina Ware, MSW; Ryan Ende, MBA; and Hanyu Liao, PhD in Media Study
For questions, contact Amy Bayerl, program assistant in the School of Social Work, at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also contact Carrie Gardner in the School of Management (email@example.com) or Caitlin Hoekstra in the College of Arts and Sciences (firstname.lastname@example.org).
How the program works
In 2021, one team of fellows worked with PUSH Buffalo, a local nonprofit working to advance economic and environmental justice. Photo: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki
The Social Impact Fellows program prepares students to address social issues using principles of entrepreneurship and social innovation.
- During an eight-week summer internship, multidisciplinary student teams work with local mission-driven organizations to address systemic social issues. Teams are made up of an MBA student, an MSW student and a graduate student from the College of Arts and Sciences.
- At their site, fellows learn about issues the organization tackles, meet with individuals who are working on or affected by these problems—and develop solutions to address them.
- Each week, fellows actively participate in their internships for four days and then gather as a group on Friday mornings for sessions with management and social work faculty, who coach them on identifying, defining and generating solutions for social challenges.
- The summer culminates with the Pitch for a Cause competition, where fellows present their projects and compete for funding to help their partner organization continue to implement their idea.
- Fellows receive a program stipend.
How students, organizations and the community benefit
Another 2021 team worked with clients at Belmont Housing Resources for WNY. 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.
- Many students have said the program inspired them to expand their career goals to include nonprofit management and social entrepreneurship.
- Through their internships, fellows find creative ways to address social issues, thereby making a tangible impact on our community.