Getting Into the Business of Social Change
Tuesday, July 14, 2020
The following post was contributed by Marjon Saulon, an incoming student in the Master of Arts in Social Innovation program.
Growing up in a Filipino immigrant family in Taiwan, social change was always at the forefront of current events that shaped my life. In addition to feeling the effects of geopolitical disputes in the region, I learned how public policy, education, and economic opportunity can transform lives and uplift migrants across the country.
This curiosity led me to pursue my bachelor’s degree in International Studies at San Diego State University, where I was first exposed to the diversity and entrepreneurial energy of the United States. That spirit then motivated me to lead a nonprofit organization that provided cross-cultural volunteer experiences in Asia and Latin America for over thirty university students. It also led me to work for local government offices, where I was exposed to the importance of trust and transparency in building dynamic communities.
As I neared graduation, I yearned to get involved with my cultural community. I was fortunate enough to work at the Philippine Consulate of San Diego, where I not only learned basic consular skills, but also the use of diplomacy in community building. Eventually, I built on those skills working as a community organizer at an educational nonprofit organization. During that time, however, I started learning about the major economic actors of society. I realized that businesses, along with the help of government, nonprofit organizations, and engaged citizenry, can play a central role in uplifting communities. I started asking myself, “How can I play my part in creating more economic opportunity for the less fortunate?” It was then that I decided to pursue a graduate degree to gain the tools to solve the widening income inequality gap that has caused polarization across the country and the world.
When I learned about the Kroc School’s Master of Arts in Social Innovation (MASI) program, I knew it was a perfect fit. With the Kroc School's position as a global hub for peacebuilding and social innovation, it offered the best of both worlds. The MASI program in particular prepares students to tackle societal challenges by not only analyzing the roots of social issues, but also by creating innovative solutions and sustainable businesses. This includes well-known services such as microfinancing and fair trade certifications that have balanced profit-making with economic opportunity.
As an incoming student of the program, there are several opportunities I'm looking forward to. First, I’m excited to work as a Kroc Practice Fellow with the Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice's Impact:Peace initiative. I hope to gain further real-world research experience and learn from experts like Rachel Locke and Dr. Andrew Blum. Second, I hope to take advantage of unique opportunities to further develop my business skills. This includes taking part in the Fowler Global Social Innovation Challenge and the Social Innovation practicum, where my classmates and I will work as consultants to help local businesses. Finally, I’m excited to develop close relationships with students and faculty who bring a wealth of innovative ideas, experience and expertise from their careers. I’ve already connected with Professors Paula Cordeiro and Austin Choi-Fitzpatrick, and they have been tremendously helpful – I'm eager to get to work with them.
Ultimately, my goal upon graduation is to solve issues in economic development through innovation and education. Despite the challenges we face amid the global pandemic and recession, I am optimistic that I can take the skills and connections I develop at the Kroc School to work in a variety of roles, whether that’s in an international NGO, a certified B corporation, or a PhD program. Having grown up as an immigrant witnessing the myriad of opportunities that education can bring, my goal is to create more economic opportunities for the less fortunate. And I feel confident that the Kroc School can help me on my path to achieve that goal.
If you're interested in learning more about the Kroc School's Master's programs, including our Master of Arts in Social Innovation, click here.