The Fowler Global Social Innovation Challenge

San Diego, CA - The University of San Diego (USD) and the University of St. Thomas announced today a joint initiative that will increase the scope and scale of social entrepreneurship ecosystem at their respective universities and participating universities around the world. Made possible by Ron and Alexis Fowler who pledged a multi-million-dollar commitment, the Fowler Global Social Innovation Challenge will expand USD’s very successful Global Social Innovation Challenge to include St. Thomas.

“Our vision for the Fowler Global Social Innovation Challenge is to significantly increase the number of social entrepreneurs creatively tackling humanity’s biggest problems,” said donor and former USD Board Chair Ron Fowler. Adding, “USD and St. Thomas have both demonstrated their ability to successfully nurture and lead innovative students. Working together, sharing common ideals and practices, Alexis and I expect to see more ventures successfully transition to advanced stages of prototyping, financial sustainability and start-up.”

“The Fowlers have been very generous to USD. Their latest pledge of $2.6 million will help USD advance its efforts to develop global ethical and responsible leaders committed to the common good through social innovation and social entrepreneurship,” said USD President James T. Harris III. “We are grateful for their financial commitment and look forward to collaborating with the University of St. Thomas campus to increase our collective global impact.”

Launched in 2011 as a joint program of USD’s School of Business and Kroc School of Peace Studies, the Social Innovation Challenge (SIC) inspires college students to tackle humanities’ pressing problems through social innovation and entrepreneurship. In 2014, USD expanded the program to include local universities in the San Diego, and in 2016 to include Tijuana, Mexico region. In 2018, the SIC was expanded again to include student teams from universities around the world, and renamed the Global Social Innovation Challenge (GSIC). In its inaugural year as a global challenge, student-led teams from 27 universities located in 12 countries across six continents competed in the GSIC.  To date, winning teams have received over $377,000 in seed funding and invaluable in-kind support from incubators, accelerators, coaches, and mentors.

USD Kroc School Dean Patricia Márquez said, “By working together, the new USD-St. Thomas program will propel social innovation on both campuses, improve the quality and quantity of entrepreneurial opportunities, expand national and international reach, and build a global movement based on people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership.”

The Fowler’s pledge to USD commits $2.5 million to the Fowler Global Social Innovation Challenge, and $100,000 to the Fowler Business Concept Challenge in USD’s School of Business.

Through the University of St. Thomas Schulze School of Entrepreneurship, the Fowler Business Concept Challenge has provided students at St. Thomas with an entrepreneurial springboard to explore new, creative innovations to solve both business and societal problems.

“For more than a decade, Ron Fowler’s support has served asa catalyst for new business ideas among St. Thomas students,” President Julie Sullivan said. “We are eternally grateful for his support, which has inspired so many entrepreneurial ventures. Hisvision to bring together USD and St. Thomas to support global social innovation through an intercollegiate competition will expand our reach and generate invaluable impact for generations to come.”

Together, USD and St. Thomas will work to significantly increase the number of universities participating in the Fowler Global Social Innovation Challenge each spring. USD will focus its efforts on targeting institutions in at-risk countries and areas of conflict. St. Thomas will target regional, national and international participants. Both universities will work to connect its students, faculty, and entrepreneurs with the global entrepreneurial community.

About the Schulze School of Entrepreneurship, University of St. Thomas

A leading U.S. school for entrepreneurial education, the Schulze School of Entrepreneurship within the Opus College of Business at the University of St. Thomas provides undergraduate and graduate education, public entrepreneurial and business education, and funding opportunities for new ventures. The Schulze School enables all students to combine their knowledge, experience, passions and insights, with innovation skills around entrepreneurial action in order to build careers around solving problems that matter to them and to society. The Schulze School of Entrepreneurship is named for its generous benefactor, Richard M. Schulze, founder and chairman emeritus of Best Buy Co., Inc.

The University of St. Thomas is Minnesota’s largest private, non-profit university offering bachelor's degrees in over 90 major fields of study and more than 50 graduate degree programs. Inspired by Catholic intellectual tradition, the University of St. Thomas educates students to be morally responsible leaders who think critically, act wisely, and work skillfully to advance the common good. For more information, visit


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.


Pamela Gray Payton
(619) 260-4681