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USC Marshall establishes master’s degree in social entrepreneurship

MSSE expands opportunities for students

A new Master of Science in Social Entrepreneurship (MSSE) offered through the Brittingham Social Enterprise Lab at the USC Marshall School of Business expands the opportunities for students interested in careers with social impact.

In 2008, USC Marshall took a leading position in the then-underserved field of social entrepreneurship when it founded the lab. The MSSE gives students the opportunity to learn business and entrepreneurship skills within a framework of achieving a social mission. It requires 26 units and can be completed in one year (full time) or two or more years (part time).

All courses are held in the evening and on weekends and focus entirely on the business aspects of social entrepreneurship. Course requirements include “Cases in New Venture Management,” “Cases in Feasibility Analysis,” “Investing in Impact Ventures” and “Marketing Management.”

Students can choose from electives such as “Environmental Sustainability and Competitive Advantage” or “Designing High-Performance Organizations.” The program also includes a for-credit practical capstone project in which students will develop a business plan for a new social enterprise.


The program includes a capstone project in which students will develop a business plan for a new social enterprise.

Traditionally, students looking to make a social impact in such areas as health, poverty alleviation, environment, education and government pursued advance degrees in public policy and social work.

“With the creation of the Master of Science in Social Entrepreneurship, we are responding to increasing demand from our students who aspire to make a significant impact in business and society,” said USC Marshall Dean James G. Ellis. “This program has the potential to transform the field by uniquely preparing aspiring social entrepreneurs.”

Adlai Wertman, founding director of the Brittingham Social Enterprise Lab and a professor with joint appointments at USC Marshall and the USC Rossier School of Education, added: “The mission of the lab always has been ambitious, supporting the next generation of leaders looking to devote their careers to finding and implementing innovative solutions to global challenges related to poverty, homelessness, education and health care. We are providing students across USC with practical business tools to make a difference in these areas.

“The new Master of Science in Social Entrepreneurship will further our goals by offering advanced study in business, entrepreneurship and social impact — the nuanced knowledge that students need to create, grow and manage successful social enterprises,” he explained.

The MSSE is the latest innovation in the lab’s pioneering efforts to train the next generation of leaders in social impact. It builds on the popular fellows program, which offers a select cadre of MBA students a variety of opportunities for professional development in the field, including funding for conferences and travel, one-on-one time with industry leaders and subsidies for summer internships at nonprofits, as well as career mentoring and job assistance in partnership with USC Marshall’s MBA Career Resource Center.

In the five years since it was founded, the lab has developed numerous undergraduate and graduate courses, an interdisciplinary social entrepreneurship minor and an online learning environment for aspiring social entrepreneurs. Now in its second year, the Social Innovation Design Lab is using interdisciplinary teams of students to solve education challenges in Central California.

“We have developed a large network of leading social entrepreneurs in the Los Angeles area and around the world,” Wertman said. “We are leveraging this network by connecting our students, faculty and alumni with these leaders, resulting in the sharing of best practices and the placement of USC students in impact jobs and internships across the globe.”

The Brittingham Social Enterprise Lab, previously known as the Society and Business Lab and recently named with a gift from the Brittingham Family Foundation, was developed to study and teach about social entrepreneurship — the creation of a new kind of hybrid business model for organizations that balances a revenue mission with an equally important social, environmental or health mission. One of 12 Centers of Excellence at USC Marshall, the lab builds on USC’s commitment to public service in the local community and around the world and leverages interdisciplinary partnerships with academic programs across campus.

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USC Marshall establishes master’s degree in social entrepreneurship

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