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Hult Prize pushes business students to ponder pressing issues

USC Marshall team is eager to take on Third World early childhood education for $1 million in seed funding

Business students
Roshan Desai, Adam Gramling, Zain Shaikh, Scott Moore and Mina Moussa, from left (Photo/Christopher Prado)

Growing up in Pakistan, USC Marshall School of Business senior Zain Shaikh was acutely aware of the challenges facing Third World education systems.

A product of the nation’s private schools, Shaikh understood he was part of a fortunate few, and he was dedicated from a young age to making a difference for those who were not so lucky.

“I was privileged,” he said, “and wanted to give back. Before I moved to the U.S. [in high school], I worked with a local non-governmental organization to raise funds for and help build schools in northern Pakistan.”

Those early efforts would be a prelude to Shaikh’s competitive bid — leading a team of like-minded USC Marshall undergraduate colleagues — for the Hult Prize dedicated to launching the world’s next wave of high-impact social entrepreneurs.

Global initiative

A partnership of the Hult International Business School and the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), the prize encourages the brightest up-and- coming business minds from universities across the globe to focus on the planet’s most pressing issues, from food security and water access to energy and education.

 This year, the topic is early childhood education in the urban slum and beyond.

Shaikh and his teammates are competing with a social enterprise they designed called EducateU, an effort to educate 10 million children under the age of 6 in urban slums by 2020.

Our proposal leverages female teachers and local religious centers to build trust in communities.

Zain Shaikh

“We want to do it in a way that is both sustainable and scalable,” Shaikh said. “Our proposal leverages female teachers and local religious centers to build trust in communities.”

Some 20,000 teams entered the current competition, but USC Marshall’s undergraduate group catapulted to the top, claiming one of only 250 spots for the world semifinals to be held over the March 13-16 weekend in Boston, Dubai, London, San Francisco and Shanghai.

Each city will advance one team to the final face-off in New York in September; the winner, announced at the CGI annual meeting, will receive $1 million in critical seed funding.

Bags packed

Shaikh and his teammates — Roshan Desai, Adam Gramling, Scott Moore and Mina Moussa — are excited to be packing their bags for Shanghai.

“It’s such an adrenaline rush,” Shaikh said. “At Marshall, we’re taught to use our skills not just to get great jobs, but also to help others, and this is the ultimate opportunity. What could be better than partnering with some of your closest friends to enhance people’s lives and improve the world?”

Kim West, the school’s associate dean of undergraduate programs, said: 

“This team typifies the commitment to excellence in leadership we foster at USC Marshall. Through their collaboration, Zain, Roshan, Adam, Scott and Mina are setting a high standard for others to follow.”

The energy, inventiveness and passion fueling EducateU is classic Marshall, agreed Dean James G. Ellis.

“These five young men identified a problem and banded together to envision a solution — capturing the true entrepreneurial spirit and doing it with a focus on using business to make the world a better place,” he said. “We are enormously proud of their ongoing success.”

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Hult Prize pushes business students to ponder pressing issues

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