Entrepreneurship, Problem Solving, and Social Impact

What makes a business successful? Who becomes an entrepreneur? What can the best businesses teach us about successful problem-solving, team-building, and leadership? Can we use entrepreneurship to solve social problems?

In this two-week course, students interested in entrepreneurship and business will receive an in-depth immersion into the mindset and skill sets of the entrepreneur: how entrepreneurs are people who come to see opportunities in problems; how they devise solutions as products and services; how they build new companies and other ventures around those solutions; how they grow those ventures; how anyone can learn to be more entrepreneurial; and how entrepreneurship can be a mechanism for creating sustainable social change. Students will be introduced to concepts like “human-centered design,” “design thinking,” and “intrapreneurship,” – how to be innovative in a large organization as well as a small startup. In addition, students will use the case study method to gain insight into social business models (for-profit, non-profit, hybrid), analyzing and devising strategies to improve the efficacy of these ventures.

Week One – “Entrepreneurship Fundamentals” – will focus on the “nuts and bolts” of entrepreneurship, and feature hands-on skills-building workshops in several key areas of entrepreneurial thinking and venture building. The week will conclude with student presentations of their venture ideas.

Week Two – “Social Entrepreneurship” – will examine the unique needs of “double- and/or triple-bottom-line” enterprises, learning how social entrepreneurs launch ventures to address deeply-felt human needs. Definitions will be discussed and debated, and students will use their new skillsets to build their own social enterprise.

Both weeks will also feature guest lectures and field trips, to hear from and meet with real entrepreneurs.

Academic Directors

Laura Hollis

Laura Hirschfeld Hollis is a “double domer” (’83, ‘86L), an Associate Professor of Teaching in the Accounting Department at the Mendoza College of Business, and a Concurrent Associate Professor of Law at the University of Notre Dame, where she teaches courses in business law and entrepreneurship.

Professor Hollis has 22 years’ experience in higher education, 12 of which have been focused on entrepreneurship. Prior to her faculty appointments at Notre Dame, Professor Hollis served as Director of the Gigot Center for Entrepreneurship at Notre Dame, and as Program Director of the Technology Entrepreneur Center and Associate Director of the Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership in the colleges of Business and Engineering at the University of Illinois. She has over a decade of experience in the development and delivery of entrepreneurship courses, seminars and workshops for multiple audiences. Her expertise is in entrepreneurship and public policy, technology commercialization, economic development, and general business law.

Earlier in her academic career, Professor Hollis was a tenured associate professor of law at the University of Detroit Mercy, and a visiting professor of law at Michigan State University. In addition to her legal publications in the Temple Law Review, Cardozo Law Review and the Cornell Journal of Law and Public Policy, she has been a freelance political writer for The Detroit News and Townhall.com.

Hollis has received numerous awards for her teaching, research, community service and contributions to entrepreneurship education, including twice being selected as Professor of the Year at the University of Detroit Mercy. She is married to Jess Hollis, a musician, voiceover artist and audio engineer, and they have two children, Alistair and Celeste.

Melissa Paulsen

Melissa A. Paulsen is Assistant Director at the Gigot Center for Entrepreneurship in the Mendoza College of Business, University of Notre Dame.  She serves as director for the Center’s social entrepreneurship program and is a concurrent instructor in the undergraduate and graduate programs. Melissa collaborated with Mendoza’s former dean, Dr. Carolyn Woo, franchising business leader Frank Belatti, and former Gigot Center director, Dr. James H. Davis, to design and implement the Gigot Center’s unique undergraduate offering, the Microventuring Certificate Program. The program incorporates microenterprise development and microfinance theory along with practical skills and tools in a domestic and developing country technical assistance setting.  Melissa’s white paper detailing the program’s learning objectives, methodology and stakeholder impact has been presented at several conferences and was published in Journal of College and Character in November 2012.  Most recently, Melissa's teaching includes courses in Social Entrepreneurship, Microventure Consulting, and Entrepreneurship in Developing Countries, as well as numerous workshops involving social and traditional entrepreneurship.  In addition to Melissa’s curricular responsibilities, she manages experiential and service-learning programs in South Africa, Haiti, Kenya, Uganda, and Guatemala, among others.  She has experience in business model development, nonprofit strategy, operations and consulting.  Melissa holds a Master’s Degree in Nonprofit Administration from the Mendoza College of Business, University of Notre Dame, and a BA in English and philosophy from Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts.