A note from Paul, our director



I hope this letter finds you doing well and doing good! Here in Fort Collins, we are finishing the semester. Cohort 8 made their final presentations in Tom Dean’s Venture Forward Class, C9 is finishing their first semester of final exams and waiting to hear about team/project assignments, and applications are well under way for C10!

It has been a very positive semester. Starting with a multi-cohort weekend orientation at CSU’s beautiful mountain campus, we have enjoyed a fall full of good Colorado weather (you know what that means), challenging classes and progress on venture projects.

We recently learned that Net Impact has released a new MBA ranking for Social Entrepreneurship, and we are third. In the world.  Think about that and let it sink in.  I hope you are as proud of this as I am, because this is possible only from the many efforts of our students, alumni, faculty, staff, funders, and mentors (I could keep going, but thought I’d stop before I got to brewers).  You have all invested in this program, and it is beginning to pay off. Not just in recognition and awards, which are fleeting, but in good work, which is enduring.

This semester, our new dean asked me to shorten my title, so the GSSE is now “interim” free. As you know, I think it is the best program in the world to learn about how to use business to address the many challenges society faces. Almost every week, we hear stories of the good, hard work our graduates are doing around the world and across industries.  I could have said “amazing” work in the last sentence, and sometimes it is. And sometimes it is frustrating, difficult, and demanding. That is the nature of worthy work. It is an honor to be the Director of a program that prepares you for that work while you are here, and supports you in that work after you have graduated.

While you have all invested in building this program to where it is now, the work isn’t over. We also need support to keep the program going and growing.  So please offer to mentor a team that visits your area, Skype into a class to give your perspective on a topic, come visit if you find yourself in Colorado, or hire one of our awesome graduates.  Of course, we also welcome financial contributions, which you can make here. Bottom line, the program will be stronger if you all contribute in some way.

OK, well, Kat asked me to write a letter, not the whole newsletter, so I will sign off with wishing you a wonderful end to 2015, and best wishes for 2016.

Paul Hudnut

Director, Global Social and Sustainable Enterprise MBA Program


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Meet the COB’s New Dean


Beth Walker, Dean of the College of Business, Colorado State University.

This summer, the College of Business welcomed a new dean after Dr. Ajay Menon’s leadership. Dr. Beth Walker joined us in July from Arizona State University, and has been very positive about the GSSE program. She has sat in on classes, and enjoyed meeting some of our students. One thing she did within a month of getting here is ask Paul Hudnut to drop the “Interim” from his title, which he was glad to do.

Get to know our new Dean:

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Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Kelly Martin

martinDr. Kelly Martin, Associate Professor of Marketing in the College of Business, has been teaching the Quantitative Business Analysis class in the GSSE MBA program since 2012. In 2014, she was the first College of Business professor to be awarded the prestigious Monfort Professorship.  Though she would certainly never say it, this award is a BIG deal, and we are lucky to include her in our all-star cast of GSSE professors.

As a way to share the results of research funded by the Monfort award, she recently gave a well-attended and provocative lecture on “Consumption at the Extremes: Social and Cultural Influences”. Her talk included John Lennon quotes, slides full of formulas, and Izikhothane dance battles in South Africa. If you are unfamiliar with Izikhothane, we highly suggest you do a quick google search – it will not disappoint.


For more information about her research, check out this article.

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Meet our Next 29 World Changers: Introducing Cohort 9

Introducing Cohort 9! It is our biggest cohort to date at 29 students. Each year, our pool has become more competitive, and the qualifications of our students more impressive.  This is in no small part due to the impressive accomplishments, and enthusiasm, of the cohorts that have preceded them. And, don’t worry alumni, we still don’t have a favorite cohort – you are all our favorites.


Get to know the cohort – read their bios here.

As C9 finishes their first semester, they are taking a different path on ventures than our previous cohorts. Based on several factors, including input from previous cohorts, we have spent the first semester working on getting a deeper understanding of selected global challenges, and delayed the process of picking teams and designing venture ideas. The goal is to have students get a better grounding in the problems, as well as more experience working with each other, prior to finalizing teams. The other change will be that their summer work will focus more on validating markets and customer discovery, and less on validating business model designs. Our goal is that this will provide our students with more tools, better information, broader networks and more ninja skills that they can employ after their time at CSU.

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Social Business in Action: Summer 2015 Adventures

It’s amazing for those of us who have been involved since the early years of GSSE to hear that Cohort 8 is graduating already. C8 returned this fall from their practicum work on 4 continents, working in areas from healthcare to energy, to early childhood education and supply chain redesign. They worked with well-known organizations such as Partners in Health in Malawi, to grassroots organizations such as DESCO in Peru. As always, students learned how to apply business tools in the field, conduct research in difficult conditions, build relationships, and test hypotheses about their ventures’ key elements. They are now in the midst of taking what they learned to determine what they will do post-graduation.

To learn more about their summer practicum experiences, check out our blog.


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Working Towards a Healthy Malawi One Village at a Time

Eric and John working with Village Health Workers in Malawi

Eric and John working with Village Health Workers in Malawi

8/18/15 – This guest post is written by Global Social and Sustainable Enterprise MBA students John Garvey and Eric Harry, who spent a month working with Partners in Health on their Village Health Worker program in Malawi.

Nine years ago in Malawi’s remote Neno district there were only five people receiving anti-retroviral therapy (ART). Today that figure stands at 6,800. Abwenzi Pa Za Umoyo (APZU), the sister organization of Partners in Health here in Malawi, has vastly increased detection and treatment of HIV, and its Village Health Worker program has been the cornerstone of that success.  Things in the field may seem to move a bit slow on some days around here, yet real change doesn’t occur overnight. Nor does it occur without cultural competence. APZU has accomplished a tremendous amount since breaking ground in 2007, and the organization’s new initiatives promise much more.

On our second day here we were fortunate to attend a SHARC screening. This has nothing to do with marine biology: SHARC stands for Screening for Health and Referrals in the Community, and has helped identify hundreds of cases of health conditions such as hypertension, tuberculosis, diabetes, HIV, and malnutrition. Working alongside a dedicated (and extremely good humored) team of professionals in the tiny village of Lumbe, we helped to screen 137 people (including 64 children) for five common yet very threatening illnesses. The team issued 13 medical referrals, representing the potential to intervene early in disease processes before they become debilitating or fatal. If necessary, Village Health Workers will follow up on the referrals.

SHARC and other programs complement another major initiative APZU is undertaking with our assistance: shifting the VHW program to a more proactive household model. In a nutshell, VHWs previously trained in the detection and treatment of HIV/AIDS and TB will be retrained to help extend access to medical services to healthy individuals. This is a major step toward the goal of bringing comprehensive primary healthcare to all 151,000 people in Neno. We expect that our continued assistance will help the organization roll out a successful program, avoid potential “growing pains,” and identify strategic opportunities.

Much more to come!

– John & Eric

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Experience and Expectations: Yukos Hospital in the Classroom and in Real Life

Colorado State University Global Social and Sustainable Enterprise student Charles Jeza

GSSE MBA Student Charles Jeza

8/3/15 – This guest post is written by Global Social and Sustainable Enterprise MBA student Charles Jeza, the Co-Founder and CEO of Yukos Hospital, based in his hometown of Nairobi, Kenya. Their business model is a for-profit private hospital with a foundation offering fistula care based on a percentage of profits and partner donations.

As part of this MBA program, I have experienced important learning both in the classroom as well as in the field. For class, I learned how to create a Business Plan and present business ideas to potential investors. In the class setting the “investors” were the judges in what we called “Line of Fire” sessions. This helped me a lot in the field; I was always prepared meeting up with all the potential partners for Yukos Hospital. In a meeting with the top management of the NGO Project C.U.R.E. at their headquarters in Denver, I had answers to all the questions that were posed to me at the drop of a hat. This impressed everyone in the management team and I got the feeling that I was more than prepared for them. Looking back, working on the business plan in detail, from the beginning to the end, enabled me to answer questions and give explanations about the business, the history of the hospital, current and future plans, and financial projections.

In addition to the coursework, a core component of the GSSE MBA is the summer practicum requirement to validate propositions, which for me did not require travel since I started the hospital in 2014.  One thing I learned by working on getting the hospital operational, which I couldn’t have ever really learned in class, is that the biggest challenge to starting any business is that no matter how focused you will be on it, everything will end up changing in due course as a result of factors such as compliance issues, laws, financial requirements, obligations etc. I believe no class training can prepare you for that kind of business reality; you just get to experience it out there.

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Chaka Fibers: Finding Markets for Alpaca Fiber in the Altitude of the Andes

7/27/15 – This guest post is written by three students in the Global, Social and Sustainable Enterprise MBA program at Colorado State University, who are co-founders of Chaka Fibers. Chaka is working this summer in Peru, getting to know the entire alpaca fiber supply chain.

Claudia Molina and Emily Fifield, two of the three co-founders of Chaka Fibers, with the alpaca ranchers in the Peruvian highlands.

Claudia Molina and Emily Fifield, two of the three co-founders of Chaka Fibers, with the alpaca ranchers in the Peruvian highlands.

Far away from the warmth of the Colorado summer, we have been busy working in remote Peruvian alpaca ranching communities at altitudes of 14,000 feet.  We are here to test the feasibility of a business model that connects alpaca ranchers to international markets in order to help alleviate rural poverty in the Andes.  NGOs have a strong presence in Peru and play an important role in working towards this same aim, but we see business-based solutions as key to moving towards more sustainable, long-term progress. This belief has only been reinforced during our time in Peru so far.

The difficulties facing alpaca ranchers, or alpaqueros as they are called here, are complex and multi-faceted and require solutions that address this complexity. DESCO, the Peruvian NGO that has been assisting us in our fieldwork, has been working for decades to do just that in remote Andean communities.  Their projects include alpaca vaccination campaigns, training ranchers in improved breeding practices, and working on strategies to mitigate the effects of climate change on alpaca production.

An alpaguero - alpaca rancher - with his flock in the Peruvian Andes.

An alpaquero – alpaca rancher – with his flock in the Peruvian Andes.

This organization does great work to improve the lives of the alpaqueros, but it didn’t take long for us to see that gaps exist in their work that could be best filled by business-based solutions. Over the past week, we’ve been interviewing alpaqueros to learn more about their production systems and the challenges they face as they work to support their families.  All of the alpaqueros we’ve interviewed are participating in DESCO’s alpaca breeding program, which trains them on methods to improve the health of the animals and increase the quality of their fiber in order to capture higher prices in the market. We asked our interviewees if they have seen improvements in quality over the past few years, and all of them responded proudly that they have had more uniform coloring and finer fiber than what they produced before.

However, when we ask how they are now selling this improved fiber, we begin to see the limits of the good work being done by DESCO and other NGOs in these communities.

In the absence of other market channels, the alpaqueros continue to sell their fiber as they always have: through middlemen that pay them a low price based solely on the weight of the fiber, regardless of the quality. Thus, they are receiving no reward for the improvements they’ve made to their product and are in the same economic situation as before. DESCO’s work to improve alpaqueros’ practices is a critical first step, but without access to a market that compensates the alpaqueros for the resources and effort they have invested into improving their product, it does little in the long run to improve their livelihoods.

We believe a business-based solution that builds upon the work of NGOs like DESCO can provide these alpaqueros with options to make a better life for themselves and their families. We at Chaka Fibers intend to fill this gap by connecting them to markets that will pay them a fair price and reward them for their efforts to create a better product.

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How Biogas is Improving Lives in Ethiopia: Focus on the Customer

(B)energy logo7/21/15 – This guest post is written by three GSSE MBA students who envision an entrepreneurial future involving biogas.  This summer, they are partnering with the Ethiopian branch of the social business (B)energy.  Biogas is a clean-burning cooking fuel generated through the decomposition of organic material such as manure, kitchen scraps, agricultural residues, and human waste.  In countries that are livestock-rich and energy-poor, biogas may just be the perfect cooking solution.

Although nothing could have fully prepared us for our hands-on work in Ethiopia, our GSSE coursework equipped us with certain tools to get the most out of our time here.  Most notable among these tools was IDEO’s human-centered design framework, which includes creative ways to conduct market research in foreign markets less infiltrated by western commercialism.  The basic idea is that, when you are trying to provide new solutions, you need to talk to the actual people that might want those solutions in their own locales.  You need to observe how people function in their everyday lives.  In the end, products should satisfy needs from the perspective of their users, not from the assumptions of their inventors.

(B)energy Ethiopia’s Yodit  Balcha, getting the low-down on cooking with biogas

(B)energy Ethiopia’s Yodit Balcha, getting the low-down on cooking with biogas

For the (B)energy team, this means leaving our office in Addis Ababa to visit rural families and businesses of many kinds: those aware and those unaware of biogas, owners of (B)energy biogas systems, owners of competitors’ systems, and people who cook in the traditional way on three-stone fuelwood fires.  Our goal is two-fold.  First, we want to know how people cook.  What do they expect out of their cooking, where do they cook, what are they unhappy with?  This will help us adapt our products to satisfy local needs.  Second, we want to use these case studies to help our local partner, Yodit, by formulating a profile of the ideal Ethiopian (B)energy customer. Thus far, we have been blown away by Yodit’s capabilities.  She is a fast learner with a knack for connecting to people of all kinds.  She understands how the information we are gathering will be invaluable to her in the future, and she is completely capable of conducting observational interviews on her own after we leave.

Cafe manager, Shitye, joyfully serving up a beautiful Beyaynetu dish

Cafe manager, Shitye, joyfully serving up a beautiful Beyaynetu dish

One case, in particular, strengthened our faith in the powerful combination of biogas and entrepreneurial vigor.  In the small village of Akaki-Kality, we found a small café with a very small manager, Shitye, who was visibly overflowing with pride.  She had a reason to be proud, for her restaurant was teeming with hungry, then very full Ethiopians.  The food was fast but delicious: Injera topped with colorful vegetables and sauces of all kinds.  But this café was different than most.  It was run by biogas!

Shitye demonstrating how they feed the biogas system

Shitye demonstrating how they feed the biogas system

The facilities, including the kitchen and biogas system, were all donated by a local NGO, Emmanuel Development Association in partnership with the international non-profit WaterAid.  True, we at (B)energy prefer market-based solutions to charity, but we can’t help but acknowledge this particular project for its entrepreneurial spirit.  The café is, in fact, now self-sustaining and employee-owned.  Besides Shitye, 22 women work at the café and every one of them knows how to operate and maintain the biogas system.  Yodit shared another bit of insight about these women.  Before the café, they all worked as trash collectors, one of the lowliest positions in the country.  They formed a self-help savings group and approached Emmanuel with their dream of owning a restaurant together.  If that’s not entrepreneurial, we don’t know what is.

Team member, Savannah Miller, taking notes at café interviews

Team member, Savannah Miller, taking notes at café interviews

We left this site impressed and inspired.  Perhaps small restaurants, where saving on cooking fuel means increased profits, are a great target market segment.  We have learned tons about the potential for an Ethiopian biogas market, and our learnings will help us in any market we may decide to enter in the future.  Our team will be gaining more Ethiopian biogas insights until early August. Follow our journey on our The Biogas Revolution Facebook Page!

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From the Barnyard to the Bedroom: A Cultural Divide

7/16/15 – This guest blog post is the second written by The Humane Business Developers, a Global Social and Sustainable Enterprise MBA student start-up that seeks to create unique business models for the animal shelter industry. The Humane Business Developers are conducting their summer field work with the Humane Society of Grand Bahama. You can read their first post here.

This summer our business, Humane Business Developers, has taken us to the island of Grand Bahama to work with the Humane Society of Grand Bahama. While in the field we have learned many things, but perhaps none is more important than learning cultural differences when it comes to the treatment and perceptions associated with dogs and cats. In the United States, the transition from barn yard to bedroom occurs very often with our furry friends. When we planned our pilot here in the Bahamas, we knew we would not encounter the same situation as the United States, but we underestimated the cultural differences that are linked with raising companion animals.

GSSE Student Julia Hebard educating youth at the Potcake Pals summer camp

GSSE Student Julia Hebard educating youth at the Potcake Pals summer camp

After several weeks of working at the shelter it became evident that the treatment of animals is ingrained deeply into cultural history. The island dogs are mixed breeds, and are commonly referred to as “Potcakes” because they used to eat the scraps that are caked onto pots after cooking. The large dogs are referred to as “yard dogs,” while the smaller breeds are “house dogs.” It has also been a commonplace misconception here that dogs are wild and can survive in the wilderness, and that neutering an animal takes away its masculinity. Cats are not even regarded as pets on this island, but more as pests that come around for food every once in a while.

Due to these perceptions, we have realized the importance of education regarding the proper care and treatment of animals. We have been fortunate enough to work with the Humane Society during their annual Kids Camp entitled “Potcake Pals”. The Kids Camp is an opportunity for children ages 4 to 12 to learn proper care for animals and to interact with the shelter animals. Getting young children involved with animal welfare is a necessity when it comes to creating long term cultural change.

HSGB Educational Posters Spay & Neuter

HSGB Educational Posters Spay & Neuter

In addition to hands-on education, we have been working with the Humane Society to create new advertisements, campaigns, and public service announcements to spread animal education throughout the island. By designing ads that appeal to locals, we believe that we can have an impactful and long lasting effect on the perception of dogs and cats on the island. The Humane Society is not only a shelter, it must also act as a school. Of course, overcoming cultural differences via an education campaign is a long-term approach, but one that hundreds of future pets are very eagerly depending upon.

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