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UNC Social Business Conference for Students at NC A&T State University Encourages Change for a Better World

Oct. 10, 2012. Appalachian State University students participated in the inaugural UNC Social Business Conference at North Carolina A&T State University on Sept. 27. The conference brought together people from all regions of the state to learn more about social business and how to combine business practices with the desire to improve quality of life.

Student teams were challenged to develop business solutions for pressing local and state issues.

Thirty-one student teams from all 17 UNC campuses participated and competed at the conference. Two teams from Appalachian competed and were supported by various students and delegates, including Chancellor Kenneth E. Peacock.

Eric McTeir, a senior finance and banking major, and Dennis Alcorn, a 2012 finance and banking graduate, presented “Aquaseng” – a ginseng aquaponic system designed to help plants and fish grow together in one integrated system, creating a sustainable ecosystem.

Connor Holland, a senior interdisciplinary studies major, and Tim Hodan, a senior management major, presented “Boone Social Bike” – a community bike rental program designed to encourage bike riding as an alternative to emissions-producing transportation. 

The conference’s keynote speaker was Dr. Muhammad Yunus, the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner and founder of the concept of microcredit. Yunus spoke about the importance of developing social businesses to help solve social ills.

Social businesses are cause-driven enterprises, not nonprofit organizations. Investors may recoup their investment, but subsequent profits are reinvested in the enterprise, making it sustainable. Social businesses create jobs, cover all their own costs, make a profit, and at the same time achieve a social objective, such as providing healthcare for the poor, financial services for the poor, or nutrition for malnourished children.

Yunus told students that they have the power to change anything because of the technology that exists today.

“Human creativity is limitless,” he said. “The distance between possible and impossible is shrinking.”

“Professor Yunus has offered us an innovative way to implement sustainable social change starting at the grass roots level,” said senior sociology major Joelle Justiz.

Conference winners included N.C. State University, first place for “Pennies for Progress,” a microfinance initiative; Fayetteville State University, second place for “BioWaste Energy,” biowaste pollution mitigation systems; and UNC-Chapel Hill, third place for “Sanitation Creations,” an environmentally friendly portable toilet.

“It was wonderful to see students applying business principles to influence change and solve social problems,” said Heather Dixon-Fowler, entrepreneurship professor and director of the Transportation Insight Center for Entrepreneurship in the Walker College of Business. “In a time of general pessimism, I believe we all walked away from the conference very hopeful for a better future both in North Carolina and for the world.”