MASI Students Create Impact for San Diego Organizations During Winter Practicum

Friday, March 2, 2018TOPICS: Student Success

During January 2018, 13 students in the Master of Arts in Social Innovation (MASI) program had the opportunity to design and deliver consulting projects for three San Diego organizations in their course, Social Innovation Consulting Practicum. Student teams worked closely with leadership at SAY San Diego (SAY), Qualcomm and SOLO Eyewear (SOLO) to address a key concern or market need identified by each of these organizations, do research, and present their findings and recommendations.

In every case, students had an excellent learning opportunity in an applied, field-based consulting project. Each of the three organizations reported outstanding experiences in working with Kroc School students in terms of the value they added through the project, their professionalism and their spirit of collaboration. The practicum was led by Karen Henken, Professor of Practice, Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

SAY San Diego

Master of Arts in Social Innovation students stand with the SAY San Diego team

From left to right: Nancy Gannon Hornberger, CEO Say San Diego; MASI students Jayne Eckels, Leslie Willis, Emily Cox, Connie O'Brien; Chris Jewell, Vice President, Child and Youth Development, SAY San Diego.

Leslie Willis was a member of the MASI team working on SAY San Diego and shared this about their team’s experience:

SAY San Diego is a large social advocacy nonprofit organization which works for opportunity, equity, and well-being for all San Diegans, focusing on holistic solutions. The MASI team consisted of four students—Emily Cox, Jayne Eckels, Connie O'Brien, and Leslie Willis—who worked directly with SAY's Child and Youth Development (CYD) impact area under the leadership of Chris Jewell, Vice President of Child and Youth Development, and Julia Baker, Director of Business Development. CYD serves over 4,500 children and families every day. As part of SAY’s mission to expand its social enterprise solutions, they hoped to create a new specialty summer camp that would generate additional revenue which could in turn be used to subsidize their other youth programs.

Our MASI team dove head first into the project. Through a combination of primary and secondary research, we ultimately proposed a new STEAM—Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics—themed camp. Given current discourse regarding the need for skilled workers in STEAM-related fields, there is great potential for SAY to increase its influence in this educational sphere. Our interviews with local community members, parents and students revealed desired qualities and topics of summer camp opportunities, and assisted our final proposal for SAY. Through this consultancy process, we learned the importance of human-centered design thinking and including potential customers in all stages of program creation to ensure its success.

This consultancy gave the MASI team the opportunity to experience the inner workings of a large nonprofit while increasing the organization's capacity for positive community impact as well as generating new revenue streams. By providing recommendations for program differentiation and curriculum structure, as well as data-backed research on the desires of their potential customer base, we established a foundation for SAY to pursue establishing new specialty camps in the summer of 2018. We are grateful for the opportunity to work with SAY San Diego and will surely use the best practices we learned in our future innovative engagements.

Chris Jewell shared her praise of working with the MASI students. “It was an honor and a pleasure to work with the USD MASI team on an organizational social impact initiative. We were able to work together efficiently and collaboratively to ultimately ensure the success of our future programs.”


From left to right: Carrie Sawyer, Manager, Inclusion and Diversity, Qualcomm; MASI students Viet Mai, Carmen Knight, Kristania De Leon, Jordan Waldron, Vicky Madera, Nico Darras, Dipshika Karki.

Seven MASI students worked on a project with Qualcomm’s Global Inclusion and Diversity (GID) program under the direction of Carrie Sawyer, Inclusion and Diversity Manager. As one of the largest and most innovative technology companies in the world, Qualcomm embraces diversity and inclusion throughout their workplace and recognizes the important business benefits this brings to their company. The GID team’s charter is to drive the company towards an inclusive environment where each person can feel valued, contribute fully, and achieve their career goals.

The MASI student team consisted of Kristania De Leon, Dipshika Karki, Nico Darras, Viet Mai, Carmen Knight, Jordan Waldron and Vicky Madera. The MASI project was designed to help the GID team uncover insights into the millennial experience at Qualcomm. Through a series of human-centered design methods, students were able to develop creative solutions to help Qualcomm more effectively bring millennial ideas, creativity and energy to the table.

Students conducted extensive interviews with a wide range of millennial employees, ran interactive workshops and used the insights they gained to develop a series of reports and recommendations for Qualcomm management. These insights were presented to over 20 managers at the end of the project as well as incorporated into materials used by Qualcomm’s executive team on this topic.

As millennials make up approximately one-half of Qualcomm’s global workforce, the outcomes of increasing engagement and reducing exit rates are very significant to the company. Therefore this MASI project was an important stepping stone towards continuing to foster positive, inclusive change in leveraging the creative ability and ideas of the millennial generation at Qualcomm.

Carrie Sawyer shared this quote about the success of working with the MASI students on this consulting project:

Working with the MASI students was an incredible experience for me and my team. I was impressed by their professionalism, enthusiasm and the quality of work that they delivered! The work that they did (an incredible amount in just 3 weeks) has already added value and momentum to the work that my team is doing. We are in the process of expanding our research to more groups and locations, including the UK! Their presentation started great dialog around this topic and has already been shared both internally and externally. I hope to be able to bring on another MASI team to assist with the research as it evolves next year!

SOLO Eyewear

Master of Arts in Social Innovation students Bianca Alvarado and Jessica Aparicio

Jessica Aparicio and Bianca Alvarado (above) were members of the MASI team working on SOLO Eyewear and shared this about their team’s experience:

SOLO Eyewear is a purpose driven for-profit social enterprise, led by Executive Director Jenny Amaraneni. By donating 10% of their profits from selling eco-friendly sunglasses made from bamboo and recycled materials, SOLO Eyewear has restored vision for 13,000+ people in the world. 

Expanding SOLO’s business to reach a larger level of social impact, and increasing transparency between SOLO customers and suppliers, were the challenges our team helped to address.

During the 3 weeks of this project, our goal was to identify a market research strategy for SOLO to understand their customer profile and buying habits, and identify a potential collective in Mexico to collaborate with in developing existing and new products. As a result, we focused on two main components to achieve our goal. The first was to develop a customer data survey tool. The second was to contact collectives and analyze their capabilities to meet the requirements of SOLO.

SOLO plans to use our recommendations to further assess their customer market and future collaboration with an artisan collective in Mexico. The customer lifestyle survey that we created will help SOLO identify a potential product that can be tested as a prototype for their customers. It was recommended for SOLO to create a role for community outreach, start establishing a relationship with potential collectives and learning their story, visit 3-4 potential collectives, ask for samples to assess the quality of products, and create a prototype.

Our team chose SOLO because of our passion for community outreach, entrepreneurship, and socio-economic development. Our purpose was to gain more understanding of the start-up business model. Learning this model was beneficial to our own aspirations of establishing a social enterprise. We were also drawn by the opportunity to do more research on artisan collectives, millennials, and the trend around fair trade. 

This practicum experience taught us project management skills. We feel more empowered to manage projects more successfully in the future. Having a timeline allowed us to see the big picture of what we wanted to accomplish as a team. We became clear on the social issues behind artisan fair trade.

Jenny Amaraneni, CEO of SOLO Eyewear, shared this quote about the success of working with the MASI students on this consulting project:

It’s exciting to see the University of San Diego at the forefront of social innovation in education. Working with their students was a privilege for me and greatly assisted me in identifying new suppliers in Mexico. The students showed a keen interest in ethical sourcing and fair trade. As MASI graduates enter the workforce, they will undoubtedly create a brighter future for both current and future generations.

This was the Kroc School’s first consulting practicum. It was a great success for both the MASI students with this in-depth practice based learning opportunity and for the clients they worked with as they benefited from valuable insights and recommendations from our student teams.

If you're interested in participating in similar projects or pursuing a graduate degree in social innovation, learn more about the Master of Arts in Social Innovation program at the Kroc School.


Justin Prugh
(619) 260-7573

Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies


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