USD Student Innovators Compete for 30K to Solve Global Problems

University of San Diego students who want to become “changemakers” to propose novel social innovation ideas will have the opportunity this Friday, March 2 when they give their presentations and compete for $30,000 in seed money to turn their ideas into reality. The event  takes place from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. in Conference Room A/B of the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice. Students and professionals are welcome to attend to learn more about social innovation projects.

Under USD’s second annual Social Innovation Challenge, students propose for-profit, hybrid social enterprises or nonprofit organizations to help solve a social, economic or environmental problem in San Diego, the United States or the world. After receiving 51 initial proposals on Feb. 19, 29 students have been invited to present their proposals to a panel of distinguished judges. Based on the feedback they receive, students will refine their proposals by April 2 and winners will be announced at an Awards Ceremony on April 27.

The challenge “invites students to take all the ideas and energy they have and implement a project they think can change the world,” said Patricia Marquez, director of USD’s Center for Peace and Commerce and co-chair of USD’s Changemaker Hub. Ideas are designed to tackle social and environmental issues through efforts such as entrepreneurship, education or conflict resolution. Students are asked to develop proposals to achieve “the four P’s – people, profit, planet and peace.”

“Students are proposing ideas from remedying local homelessness to assuaging village conflict in Kenya, to addressing the excess waste caused by used tires in the United States to fueling entrepreneurship for women in Mali, Africa,” said Nadia Auch, who manages the Social Innovation Challenge.

Under last year’s inaugural competition, students were awarded funds to provide clean water to Haiti and create an online platform to engage Africans affected by the Diaspora in entrepreneurship.

Last fall, USD became one of only 15 U.S. campuses to be named an “Ashoka Changemaker Campus,” by the global nonprofit association Ashoka, known for its groundbreaking work in the field of social entrepreneurship to find solutions to global, social, environmental and economic problems. USD is also offering a course this spring, “Global Entrepreneurship for Social Change” where students learn how to develop successful organizations for social change.

Judges for this year’s presentation include Charlie Piscitello, president of the Petco Foundation; Ned McMahon, founder and president of San Diego-based Malma Composites that develops non-petroleum, eco-friendly materials for “green” surfboards and other products; and Peg Ross, director of human capital of the Grameen Foundation.

A full presentation schedule is available at or at

About the University of San Diego

The University of San Diego sets the standard for an engaged, contemporary Catholic university where innovative Changemakers confront humanity’s urgent challenges. With more than 8,000 students from 75 countries and 44 states, USD is the youngest independent institution on the U.S. News & World Report list of top 100 universities in the United States. USD’s eight academic divisions include the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Business, the Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering, the School of Law, the School of Leadership and Education Sciences, the Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science, the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies, and the Division of Professional and Continuing Education. USD recently concluded our successful $317M Leading Change: The Campaign for USD, which represented the most ambitious fundraising effort in the history of the university. In September 2016, USD introduced Envisioning 2024, a strategic plan that capitalizes on the university’s recent progress and aligns new strategic goals with current strengths to help shape a vision for the future as the university looks ahead to its 75th anniversary in the year 2024.