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About Marquette's Social Innovation Initiative

Marquette’s Catholic, Jesuit identity calls members of the campus community to Be the Difference, preparing men and women for others. These fundamental characteristics and traits align nicely with social innovation and social entrepreneurship; attacking root causes of social problems with sustainable models that increase human capability.

“Ultimately, we must understand the need to be agents of change.”

Pedro Arrupe, S.J.

The Social Innovation Initiative is an ongoing exploration of a fit for social innovation at Marquette, including bundled offerings of speakers, residencies, learning activities, coursework, celebrations and community engagements. All campus members are welcome to opt in at any time, and resources are available for those seeking to embrace social innovation through the university experience. Goals for the initiative include equipping champions on- and off-campus, building curricular and co-curricular practices, and serving as a regional convener of like-minded agents of positive social change.

The genesis of the Social Innovation Initiative (SII) can be traced to October, 2009 when Marquette’s first social entrepreneur in residence – Jane Leu, founder, Upwardly Global – visited campus for two weeks, engaging the university and city-wide audiences with an intriguing proposition: social problems can be solved, not just managed. Upwardly Global’s story of solving unemployment among educated, recent immigrants was a compelling example of positive social change through social entrepreneurship, and it continues to exemplify how the field is a powerful tool for interdisciplinary learning and problem-solving, as well as a framework for life (service, leadership, civic engagement).

Based on the overwhelmingly positive feedback to Jane’s residency, and armed with a new awareness that social entrepreneurship is a burgeoning field in American higher education – one that aligns nicely with Marquette’s mission and identity – SII was launched in earnest in early-2010 by the Office of the Provost in partnership with external funding sources. Since then, more than $500,000 in external gifts and grants have helped build out SII at Marquette, and the Office of the Provost provides modest, recurring support to help supply (programs, meetings, etc.) meet the growing demand for social innovation-related education.

Marquette University is especially pleased to be recognized as a “changemaker campus,” a distinction enjoyed by few university campuses nationally through a selective partnership with Ashoka: Innovators for the Public, the largest global organization for social entrepreneurs. Marquette was selected with Duke University and Arizona State University in August 2010, joining George Mason University, University of Maryland and Tulane University, among others.

Going forward, SII’s future seems especially promising as the University moves to implement a strategic plan that includes students equipped by a Marquette education serving as agents of positive social change, and the academic enterprise serving as part of the solution to the world’s great challenges, locally and globally.

For a history of Social Innovation at Marquette, click here.


“Ultimately, we must understand the
need to be agents of change.”       

Pedro Arrupe, S.J.


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Marquette as Changemaker Campus