You are here

Bentley on Bloomberg: Preparing Students to Become Social Innovation Leaders


Bentley on Bloomberg: Preparing Students to Become Social Innovation Leaders

Millennials and Gen Z are interested in much more than the bottom line. Making a difference in their communities and corporate responsibility is among their top priorities. Instead of climbing the traditional corporate ladder, many want to start their own business that will tackle social challenges.

A recent study of both millennials and Gen Z found that 84 percent believe every company should fund some sort of charity and 82 percent actively purchase from brands that contribute to causes they feel passionately about.

Bentley President Gloria Larson joined Bloomberg Radio’s Carol Massar and Cory Johnson, along with guest experts, to talk about what colleges and universities are doing to prepare future ethical leaders and how companies are responding to this commitment to social good. Here are excerpts from the show.

Teaching social innovation skills

“College students are forcing business to do good while doing well. Companies need to rise to this challenge quickly to recruit the best talent while colleges and universities must do everything they can to prepare our future leaders for social innovation. Just this year Bentley received a $500,000 grant from the Yawkey Foundation to educate students to effectively lead nonprofit organizations and expand student efforts to help community groups.  We also offer a minor in Non-Profit Organizations within our Management Department due to student interest and demand.”

- Gloria Larson, president, Bentley University

Creating real world experience

“The social entrepreneurship and social innovation movement is growing. Employers - faced with millennials pressuring them to do better on the civic front - are also asking us on the university level to do a better job in teaching students the skills they need to be triple bottom line leaders. They are specifically looking for civic skills - critical thinking, leadership, a depth of understanding of social issues - in order to create the deepest impact and social change skillsets. At Bentley, we send more than 1,000 students out in the community every year to work with more than 50 nonprofits at 80 different sites. They can take the business skills they are learning at Bentley and apply those in the real world to create social good.”

- Jonathan White, director, Bentley University Service-Learning and Civic Engagement Center

From profit to purpose

“Students today expect more. At Synchrony Financial, our purpose is very clear: we pioneer the future of financing, improving the success of every business we serve and the quality of each life we touch. That last part is incredibly important to us; whether it’s our customers, our employees or the communities where we live and work, we want to make the world a better place for all of us.  We offer a two-year, three-rotation leadership development and career acceleration program for recent graduates who value social good. Participants collaborate and experience the personal, professional and moral responsibility required to support community-based organizations. This year, our program will support roughly 20 different projects in 15 different nonprofit organizations across the country.”

- Stephen Kennedy, vice president of leadership programs and university relations, Synchrony Financial

Creating synergies

“At the millennium campus network, we work to connect a generation of ethical leaders – those who will lead with empathy and humility – whether they work for a nonprofit, or on Wall Street. We carry out this work through a global conference convening young leaders from 40 nations and our fellowship,  where we help student leaders do a deep dive into hard and soft skills, from how to write budgets and business plans to managing teams to managing teams through conflict. It is clear that working with nonprofits alone isn’t enough - we need nonprofits, the markets and government to find synergies. We want to ensure our generation knows how to pull levers of power and ensure we have a seat at the table in shaping our own futures.”

- Sam Vaghar, executive director, Millennium Campus Network


by Kristen Walsh October 19, 2018

Alison Davis-Blake, the former business school dean at the Universities of Michigan and Minnesota, was inaugurated as the eighth president of Bentley University in a ceremony attended by students, faculty, staff, alumni and other members of the extended Bentley community.

TOPICS: News, Leadership