According to Stuart Williams, impact entrepreneur-in-residence at the College of Charleston School of Business, he doesn’t have an “off” switch.
“My brain never shuts down because I’m always thinking about the many things that need to be fixed in the world,” says Williams, founder of impact ecosystems architecture firm, In Place Impact.
But it’s not just the problems of the planet that keep his mind abuzz; it’s their potential solutions as well.
Williams has dedicated a large portion of his professional life to impact entrepreneurship — or, making a difference through profit-based initiatives — and has created a program at the School of Business to inspire the next generation of innovators and problem solvers.
The Stuart M. Williams Impact Scholars program, which officially launched this fall, is designed to provide seven exceptional undergraduate students with the guidance, resources and network to tackle some of the most pressing issues of the 21st century.
“There are so many young people who are truly passionate about affecting change in the best way possible,” says Williams. “I want to give as many students as I can the opportunity to make those dreams a reality.”
Participants in the program have the chance to sharpen their skills through professional development, roundtable dinners, internships and tours of local impact businesses. The Scholars also meet weekly with Williams as well as other mentors and advisors, including Professor David Wyman, Professor Lancie Affonso and MBA candidate Kelly Muxworthy to discuss their respective impact projects.
The 2017 Stuart M. Williams Impact Scholars are Latosha Andrade, Mya Belden, Carlie Christenson, Kionnie Epps, Catherine Hill, Sofia Troya and Brandon Williams.
The impressive inaugural cohort, which was selected after a rigorous application and interview process, is comprised of freshmen and juniors from a diverse range of disciplines, including business, public health, political science and criminal justice.
Some of the young innovators have already launched exceedingly successful businesses, says Williams. All of them have incredible personal stories and achievements: one student carried more than 50 credits into college from high school; one came all the way from Ecuador to learn how to solve the problems in her country; and, one spent more than five years serving in the military.
Students in the program are looking to take on various social and economic issues such as eradicating poverty, improving supply chain sustainability in the coffee industry and ensuring quality primary school education for children.
“It’s all about impacting in a way that is fulfilling for you,” Williams told students at one of their first meetings.
What seems to fulfill Williams is ensuring that the School of Business is properly positioned to become one of the nation’s leading academic institutions offering impact studies.
Williams is a noticeable presence at the school, not only through his new scholars program but also through the ICAT program and the Center for Entrepreneurship. He has also successfully helped the School integrate impact studies into many of its classes.
The business school was honored to have Williams join its board of governors this year. “We owe a great deal to Stuart here at the School of Business and are thrilled he has joined our Board,” says Alan T. Shao, dean of the School of Business. “His passion for impact studies paired with his commitment to further the strategic goals of this institution have paved the way for our students to become the socially and environmentally responsible business leaders of tomorrow.”
With no “off” switch in sight for Williams and the students he continues to inspire, it’s safe to say the biggest impact is yet to come.