Around 25 Penn students will leave behind their cellphones, laptops and other electronics and head to Nicaragua this May to fully escape the “Penn bubble” and study strategies for social impact.
Penn Impact Lab, a one-week program, includes workshops and training intended to help students develop ideas for social impact ventures. According to the program’s website, participants will stay at Magnific Rock, a resort in Nicaragua. The trip is organized by the Center for Social Impact Strategy, which was founded at the School of Social Policy & Practice in 2014.
Much of the workshop material draws on concepts presented in traditional business classes, with additional focus on social impact, Director of Operations for CSIS Anna Dausman said.
She said the goal of the Penn Impact Lab program is for students to develop a “concrete plan for how they want to channel their interests, passions or skills to create social impact.”
Wharton senior and 2016 participant Kevin Park said he had an idea for a social impact venture going into the program,but after workshops and discussions with mentors during the trip, he realized his idea was “not feasible.”
The trip costs $2,450. College senior Emily Irani, who went on the 2016 trip and is now an intern for CSIS, said financial aid is available for some students.
The program took place for the first time last year in the rainforest of Costa Rica. Last year’s trip was in January, but Dausman said it was moved to May to allow students the “open door” of summer to begin working on new ventures.
Students live in a sustainable “ecolodge” during the program and participate in activities aimed at engaging them with their surroundings. “It was very integrated into the culture,” Irani said.
Park praised the community aspect of the program, noting that participants “were able to just hit it off really quickly.”
The program requires an application, which Dausman said includes a personal video component and is focused on selecting a diverse group of students. “Anything is fair game,” she added, since there are no eligibility requirements beyond enrollment at Penn.
“We try our best to recruit the most diverse group of people possible,” Irani said. “You can be a freshman, you can be a senior, you can be anybody.”