Arkansas High Schools Pilot Social Innovation Initiative

Jesse Schnebelen

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – This spring, the University of Arkansas' Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation partnered with the Walton College's Business Communication Lab to welcome to campus 21 students, ranging from 6th to 12th grade. As a part of the High School Social Innovation Initiative, students and faculty from the EAST Initiative and Noble Impact classrooms across the state have been working with U of A faculty and staff, ENACTUS student mentors and Business Communication Lab tutors to create solutions to social problems that they have identified within their communities.

The campus visit was the capstone event for a pilot program that began in October of 2018 with the goal of implementing the university's social innovation curriculum into high school classrooms around the state. Students from the following high schools participated:  Sheridan High School in Sheridan; eStem Public Charter School in Little Rock; Don Tyson School of Innovation in Springdale; Lamar High School in Lamar and Hope High School in Hope. 

During the visit, the students attended writing and pitch workshops that showcased the outcomes of the work they had done during the program. Nathaniel Scallion, a Noble Impact student from eStem High School, said, "This was my favorite part of the weekend. It was great to get feedback and develop our projects that we've put so much work into." Students also toured campus, met with the admissions and recruiting teams, and took a side trip to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.

The weekend culminated in a collaborative pitch event, in which the students presented their solutions to community leaders, faculty and staff. They received valuable feedback that will help make their projects more viable, sustainable, and scalable—guiding principles of the university's Social Innovation Initiative, which is led by Dr. Rogelio Garcia-Contreras.

Some of the student projects included teaching middle school girls how to code, creating a virtual, interactive tour of a local museum, bringing healthy food programs to public schools, and 3-D printing a more affordable and accessible prosthetic for people with missing limbs. Logan Ingram of Sheridan commented on the campus visit, saying, "It was really helpful for my team especially. It was great to get new feedback that we hadn't even considered yet."

This event gave students an opportunity to see themselves on a college campus while providing the tools necessary to develop sustainable community projects using the principles of entrepreneurship and innovation. Charlie Kinser, a Noble Impact facilitator at Sheridan High School, had this to say about the experience, "I love anytime I can bring my students on a college campus. This event especially because of the open-minded thinkers students had the opportunity to work with."

This event was made possible through funding from the Women's Giving Circle Grant and the Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation. If you are interested in learning more about the high school social innovation program, please contact Deb Williams,

About the Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation: The mission of the University of Arkansas' Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation is to catalyze entrepreneurial activities and innovation across the university and throughout the state in order to build Arkansas' knowledge-based economy and support healthy, sustainable communities. Since 2009, University of Arkansas students have won more national business plan competitions — 27 in all — than any other institution.

About the University of Arkansas: The University of Arkansas provides an internationally competitive education for undergraduate and graduate students in more than 200 academic programs. The university contributes new knowledge, economic development, basic and applied research, and creative activity while also providing service to academic and professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the University of Arkansas among only 2.7 percent of universities in America that have the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the University of Arkansas among its top American public research universities. Founded in 1871, the University of Arkansas comprises 10 colleges and schools and maintains a low student-to-faculty ratio that promotes personal attention and close mentoring.


Sarah Goforth, executive director
Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation


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