USD to Announce $73,500 in Awards for Social Innovation Challenge

Students from Across San Diego Compete to Solve Social, Economic and Environmental Problems

The University of San Diego’s fourth annual Social Innovation Challenge will award $73,500 in prize money this Friday, May 2. For the first time, students from other San Diego universities are taking part in the competition to propose solutions to social, economic and environmental problems locally and across the globe. The ceremony takes place from 4 to 5:45 p.m. in the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice, followed by a reception.

More than 115 ideas were submitted and 16 finalists were chosen to pitch their ideas to a distinguished panel of judges earlier this week. Finalist proposals include a web app to track violence in Mexico, a solar umbrella charging station and a plan to remove toxic chemicals from rice fields in China.

“Social innovation is the business of empowering emerging leaders to solve real-world problems faced by vulnerable populations,” said Nadia Auch, who directs the social innovation competition.

“The outcome for society at large is job creation, safer streets, better-educated children, optimal use of resources and best of all, human and capital social reinvestment,” added USD Professor Stephen Conroy, faculty director of the university’s Center for Peace and Commerce which holds the competition.

USD students will compete for a total of $50,000. Donors for the prizes include the Verizon Foundation,, John and Nancy Jo Cappetta, the Price Foundation, the Purcell McNamara Foundation, the USD Alcala Alumni Fund, Pacific Western Bank, and U.S. Bank.

Students from Point Loma Nazarene University, San Diego City College, San Diego State University and the University of California, San Diego will compete for a total of $22,500. A generous donation from the Moxie Foundation has made it possible to expand the competition to students from other schools. The Moxie Foundation will award $17,500 in prizes and Mark Bowles from Outerwall/ecoATM will present a $5,000 Award to this track as well.

There will be one final competition at the awards ceremony. The 16 finalists will make a 1½ minute pitch for a $1,000 Social Global Mobile Live Audience Choice Award.

Judges for this year’s competition include Teresa Smith, a two-time winner of the competition and founder of Dreams for Changes. Last year she was the Verizon Environmental prize winner and took home $10,000 to bolster Safe Parking, a nonprofit that offers a safe parking environment for the transitional homeless living in their cars. “As a winner last year, I was able to impact the quality of lives for more than 500 people who needed a safe, warm and connected place to sleep so they could continue to get to their jobs, parent their children and stave off permanent homeless status,” she said.

Other judges included Jenny Craig, founder of Jenny Craig Inc.; Peg Ross, vice president of Global Human Resources & Organization Development at PCI Global and Peter Zahn, president of the Moxie Foundation.

Cheryl K. Goodman, founder and CEO of Social Global Mobile, will curate the awards ceremony. The ceremony’s presenting sponsor is U.S. Bank.

For a full description of all 16 proposals go to

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.


Ted Gosen
(619) 260-4745