Learning and Curriculum

Chicago Booth offers a discipline-based curriculum with an emphasis on analyzing problems, generating key insights, and implementing creative solutions.

Students interested in social impact are encouraged to build a strong business foundation complemented by social impact-specific for-credit and non-credit courses, experiential learning opportunities, competitions, and cross-university classes.

To map out an academic plan for your time at Booth, students are strongly advised to meet with the Academic Services team.

Below is a sampling of learning opportunities which can help students build social sector expertise.

To learn more about the new CRED Challenge: Creating Economic Opportunity in Chicago (pdf), click on Experiential Learning and Competitions below.

Booth Courses

Scaling Social Innovation Search Lab

In the last decade, funders and practitioners alike have largely coalesced around the need for innovations to scale. However, actually determining what social innovations are effective, why they are effective, and how they can be scaled effectively to other markets and contexts is an enormous challenge for social sector institutions. In the Scaling Social Innovation Search Lab (BUS 34722), students will:

  • Identify a specific social issue and then seek to understand the academic research on the issue
  • Identify organizations outside Chicago that have developed innovative and successful programs to address the social issue
  • Develop and propose the best strategy for bringing the social innovation to Chicago.
  • Present to a panel of local experts, government officials, and funders who could help to make the proposal a reality

Social Enterprise Lab

In the Social Enterprise Lab (BUS 34110), students explore social sector organizations firsthand by working with local nonprofit and for-profit enterprises that have social missions. After careful analysis, students make strategic recommendations to the participating organizations and firms in order to leverage greater growth. In addition, the course helps students understand and analyze different social venture business models and funding models, and incorporates theoretical discussions on major trends and issues in the sector.

The Global Social Impact Practicum

The Global Social Impact Practicum (BUS 34721) is supported by Tata Trusts, one of India’s oldest and largest philanthropies. It is designed to explore issues of international development, philanthropic efforts, and the creation of a social enterprise ecosystem in India and other emerging and developing markets.

The Firm and the Non-Market Environment

The business environment has both a market and a non-market component. Most courses in the MBA curriculum focus on the market component: they study firms’ interactions with customers, suppliers, and alliance partners in the form of mutually beneficial exchanges transacted in markets. In contrast, the Firm and the Non-Market Environment (BUS 33305), taught by Marianne Bertrand, Rustandy Center faculty codirector and Chris P. Dialynas, Distinguished Service Professor of Economics, focuses on the non-market component. For example, businesses need to cope with laws and regulations, lobby for favorable legislation, ensure access to foreign markets, and deal with media coverage and activist pressures, to name just a few. Successful managers need to formulate strategies for their firms that take into account not only the market but also the regulatory, legal, political and social (e.g. non-market) environments in which they operate.

John Edwardson, ’72, Social New Venture Challenge

The Social New Venture Challenge (SNVC) , a social track of the Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge, was started in 2011 as a response to a growing interest of Chicago Booth students in social entrepreneurship. Modeled after the traditional New Venture Challenge, which began in 1996, the SNVC empowers students to conceptualize, develop, and launch new ventures that focus primarily on social impact. SNVC students participate in Dean Robert Gertner’s New Social Ventures (BUS34115) course, are offered individual mentorship and coaching, and are afforded the opportunity to present to faculty, social entrepreneurs, domain experts, foundation officers, and philanthropists. In May, finalists compete for $50,000 in prize money to further their social venture.

Entrepreneurial Internship Program

The (BUS 34105) allows full-time first-year students to participate in a subsidized internship with a start-up company over the summer with the option to develop their internships into case studies through a fall-term course. Internships can be in traditional, global, or socially focused areas. The program is supported by Donald Hamer, '58; Jim Hickey, '82; Rattan Khosa, '79; Immanuel Thangaraj, AB '92, MBA '93; and the dean's office. For more information, contact Hannah Williams of the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

Experiential Learning and Competitions

MBA Impact Investing Network & Training (MIINT)

MIINT is an experiential learning opportunity that allows student teams to conduct diligence on early stage impact investments. Spearheaded by Bridges Ventures US, MIINT seeks to foster collaboration among leading US business schools and help educate the next generation of impact investors. Students are invited to attend an information session and apply in the fall to participate in MIINT over the fall quarter. Student teams will work with Brian Axelrad, ’09, the Rustandy Center's Impact Investor in Residence, as well as other top impact investors from Chicago, to hone their investment presentations. At the conclusion of the fall quarter, two Booth teams will advance to the MIINT finals in spring at Wharton. For more information, email Erica Phillips.

CRED Challenge: Creating Economic Opportunity in Chicago

New in 2017, Chicago CRED and the Rustandy Center are inviting all Chicago-area MBA students to participate in the CRED Challenge: Creating Economic Opportunity in Chicago, during which students will develop ideas for new enterprises designed to employ Chicago youth at highest risk of gun violence. Chicago CRED (Creating Real Economic Destiny), an initiative cofounded by the former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and the Palo Alto–based Emerson Collective, will award cash prizes to the most promising finalist ideas. For more information, contact Jennifer Kaufman at Jennifer.kaufman@chicagobooth.edu

The deadline to apply to participate is October 5, 2017. Apply for the CRED Challenge »

Other key dates:

October 9 - Learning session for applicants

October 26 - Deadline for business plan submissions

November 4 - Workshop for finalists

November 17 - Finals competition

Additional Resources:

CRED Challenge summary (pdf)

Chicago CRED fact sheet (pdf)

Crain's Chicago Business, "Special Report: Jobs vs. Bullets: If jobs stop bullets, why aren't more companies stepping up?" by Lisa Bertagnoli, August 2017 — Read the article »

Chicago magazine, "Can Arne Duncan Save Chicago?" by Lauren Williamson, November 2016 — Read the article »

Arne Duncan’s May 2017 speech at the City Club of Chicago — Watch the video »

Student Competitions Beyond Booth

The Rustandy Center supports Booth students who participate in competitions hosted by outside universities and national organizations. Participating in case or venture competitions can expand your network, provide new opportunities to think creatively about your idea, and potentially win financial support toward your venture. Log in with your Booth ID and password to explore competitions »

Social Impact Courses at the University of Chicago (non-Booth)

Non-Booth University of Chicago courses that Booth students interested in social impact have taken include:

  • Adventures in Urban Economic Development (PPHA 37250-01)
  • K-12 Education Policy (PPHA 34312-01)
  • Economics Of Education Policy (PPHA 35700-01)
  • Energy Law Seminar (LAWS 45302-01)
  • Key Issues in Health Care: An Interdisciplinary Case Studies Approach (SSAD 46622-01)
  • Philanthropy, Public Policy, and Community Change (62600-01)
  • Philanthropy and Public Policy (45100)
  • The U.S. Health Care System (SSAD 47512-01)

Students interested in pursuing non-Booth coursework are strongly encouraged to meet with Booth’s Academic Services team.

Other UChicago Resources

The University of Chicago offers a multitude of resources for students interested in the social sector. Campus partners include:


Doing Good is Serious Business

The Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation is the destination for people committed to helping solve complex social and environmental problems. As Chicago Booth's social impact hub, we build on the school's grounding in business fundamentals with experiential learning and research-based insights. Then, through programs, including the John Edwardson, '72, Social New Venture Challenge and training for nonprofit board members, we equip our community with the knowledge and tools to positively impact humanity.

© 2017 Chicago Booth: Rustandy center for Social sector innovation