Since its founding in 1864, Swarthmore College has given students the knowledge, insight, skills, and experience to become leaders for the common good. Offering a liberal arts and engineering curriculum, the College is private, yet open to all regardless of financial need. It is also decidedly global in outlook, drawing students from around the world and all 50 states. The diversity of perspectives represented by Swarthmore students, faculty, and staff - including different viewpoints, identities, and histories - contributes to the community's strong sense of open dialogue and engagement with ideas and issues.”
Student Innovation and Entrepreneurship on Campus
Center for Innovation & Leadership (CIL)
The CIL's mission is to engage innovative thinking to foster student leadership practice. According to their website, the CIL "provides opportunities for Swarthmore students to develop the abilities to lead and inspire, to listen and learn in ways that meet the challenges of our time, and to reflect the values of our community. ... The CIL strives to give all Swarthmore students the individualized support they need to become strong imaginative leaders of tomorrow. We support students by creating opportunities to hone their leadership skills in capacities like team-based collaboration, the development of social and cultural capital, and inventive thinking processes." This is done through resources available to students developing projects as well as event series that promote innovation and leadership.
Social Innovation Lab
The Social Innovation Lab is housed at the Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility, and is an on-site “makerspace” that provides students, faculty, staff, and community partners with room to grow. The space promotes design thinking and tools for prototyping ideas. This center works closely with the Center for Innovation and Leadership (above) and resources that come out of the Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility, like the Lang Opportunity Scholarship (below).
Swat Tank, an idea competition, focuses on an inclusive model, one that provides students with the opportunity to take a rough idea, product, or concept and develop it towards its next incarnation, ideation, or realization. However, SwatTank is more than just a competition; it is a chance to transform the ideas you think and dream about into a business or social enterprise.
Lang Opportunity Scholarship
The Lang Opportunity Scholarship (LOS) Program each year selects members of Swarthmore’s sophomore class as Lang Scholars. Selection criteria include distinguished academic and co-curricular achievement, leadership qualities, and demonstrated commitment to civic and social responsibility. This program offers a diverse range of benefits including a $10,000 grant, a designated adviser, and networking opportunities to support the development of a project that creates a needed social resource in the U.S. or abroad. The program was conceived and endowed by Eugene M. Lang ’38.
Haverford Innovations Program
In collaboration with the CIL at Swarthmore, The Haverford Innovations Program (HIP) seeks to catalyze creative and entrepreneurial thinking around a problem, need, or question, with the goal of fostering new solutions and opportunities. Students need to apply to attend this 8 week summer incubator program.
Community-Based Learning Initiatives (CBL) Coursework that bridges the liberal arts curriculum and civic service serve at the core of Swarthmore's commitment to educating students on becoming lifelong learners. Many courses throughout the humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences divisions of the college offer classes that incorporate a community service extension of the course that brings students to local community organizations to apply their classwork to serving the greater community.
The Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program
This provides Swarthmore students with the opportunity to study the consequences of the mass-incarceration epidemic. Over the course of 14 weeks, “insider” students from the prison system in Chester, Pa., and Swarthmore student “outsiders” are tasked with creating and researching projects and programs that could tangibly help break the cycle of mass incarceration.
RELG 10: African American Religions- Swarthmore students will learn side-by-side, via Zoom, with formerly incarcerated scholars who have recently returned home and are avid followers of a particular religious denomination(a religion that they picked up while incarcerated).
Faculty Entrepreneurship on Campus
Because Swarthmore is a teaching rather than research based university, professors are encouraged to focus on students and classes rather than their own projects. Nevertheless, the Lang Visiting Professor, Denise Crossan, was a prime example of faculty entrepreneurship on campus. She worked on a social innovation map, which charts all kinds of entrepreneurial activities going on at Swarthmore. She also created a Swarthmore Social Innovation Lab and helped to spearhead the Presidential Sustainability Research Fellowship Program, which connects faculty and students over sustainability initiatives on campus. Denise was also the faculty advisor for the University Innovation Fellows chapter at Swarthmore.
There are also several student run courses that promote student and faculty innovation alike. These include:
CPSC 016SR (a student-run computer science course)- Critical Theory of Technology
A historical lens is used to explore and understand how the use of technology exacerbates inequalities around the world and what can be done to control its direction.
PEAC014 (a peace and conflict studies course)- Systems Thinking for Social Change
The ecosystems by which problems in particular communities form are analyzed; a systematic approach is used to promote the "greatest social impact" through "social innovation solutions" to these problems.
ENGR 053 (an engineering course)- Inclusive Engineering Design
Universal design, human-centered design, and critical design approaches are explored as they relate to how they can be applied to existing technologies and projects in society that place particular groups and communities at a disadvantage.
CS Directed Reading - Foundations of Technological Foundations
This course is intended to help students gain a better understanding of the overall startup and venture capital funding landscape, acquire a better working vocabulary of the terms within the industry, and learn how professionals think about building and scaling their startups. There will be a technical component of this course where students learn how to build a landing page for a startup and learn to break down the different technical considerations when it comes to building a software product. We will then conclude with how students can take the next steps in their entrepreneurship education by working at a startup.
University Techonology Transfer Function
Design Thinking Workshop
The Design Thinking Workshop, through the Center for Innovation and Leadership, teaches students how to process design thinking and apply it to technological or entrepreneurial projects.
SwatTank is an idea competition that provides students with the opportunity to take a rough idea, product, or concept and develop it towards its next incarnation, ideation, or realization. The process has student teams working on developing their ideas and projects by attending workshops, programs, or meeting with staff before putting together an official pitch.
Facilitating University-Industry Collaboration
Center for Innovation and Leadership trip to San Francisco
The Center for Innovation and Leadership (CIL) at Swarthmore seeks to build capacity for entrepreneurship and leadership, by fostering collaboration and innovation while promoting experimentation, collaboration, and reflection. One of the ways the CIL implements its mission, is a fully funded 6-day intensive trip to San Francisco. During this trip, a group of ten students visit Swarthmore alumni at major companies in San Francisco and Silicon Valley. The tech-oriented nature of the trip, allows students to engage with a variety of entrepreneurs in start-up, venture capital, and tech communities.
Externship Program (SwatWorks)'
Swarthmore’s externship program allows students to participate in a one-week shadowing experience with alumni, which in turn gives a glimpse into specific careers. The externships offered encompass a variety of different sectors, and provide students with the ability to learn from, and connect with alumni that are experts in their respective fields.
Swarthmore Future Entrepreneurs Program
Curated internships at local start up companies through a partnership with Ben Franklin Technology Partners. Students (seniors and alumni are ineligible) can apply to posted internships and interview with participating start-up companies. If selected, students will gain experience working for a start up while gaining insight into the entrepreneurial world while receiving a $4800 stipend for 10 weeks of full-time work.
180 Degrees Consulting
180 Degrees Consulting is a club that aims to develop strong leadership, communication, and teamwork skills in its members. It is run entirely by students to bring high-quality and affordable consulting services to non-profits and social enterprises.
Regional and Local Economic Development Efforts
180 Degrees Consulting
This is a national student consulting group that offers free consulting services to nonprofits. A selected few students at Swarthmore are trained to support startups and nonprofits in various fields from education to healthcare with consulting services. These startups and nonprofits can be located all over the US and students carry weekly meetings with their management teams to provide their services.
Lang Center for Social and Civic Responsibility
This center is heading Swarthmore’s Regional and Local Economic Development. The mission of the Lang Center for Social and Civic Responsibility is to connect “curriculum, campus and community through engaged scholarship and collaborative action.” Not only does it provide students with engagement, counseling, and networking opportunities for action outside of Swarthmore College, but it also provides students with funding opportunities that can last beyond a summer project. The most prominent example is Project Pericles.
This program empowers students to take on “social and civic action projects whose scope and sustainability will advance solutions for the issues in question and also promote recognition of students' motivation and capability to address such major issues effectively.” It offers grants of up to $25, 000 for regional, national, or international projects. Some of the Project Pericles awardees went on to develop sustainable eyewear in Iran or implement geospatial analysis tools to increase wider scope food security in the Philadelphia area.
Chester Community Fellowship
This program is one of many funded through the Lang Center where selected interns work on a project in the City of Chester in collaboration with a Chester-based organization. Chester county is recognized to be one of the most underserved communities in the area. The goal is to develop a "scholar, civic leader, and public servant" out of these students.
Dare 2 Soar
As an initially student-run organization funded through the Lang Center, the group has grown to help hundreds of kids in the Chester county area by providing tutoring. This includes assisting them with their academics and teaching important life skills by allowing Swarthmore students to act as role models for them.
In promoting design thinking, human-centered design, and lean start-ups to address issues in Philadelphia, a day-long sprint is hosted in collaboration with the Center for Innovation and Leadership (CIL), the Haverford Innovation Program (HIP), and educators from the Malvern Preparatory School.
However, outside of the Lang Center for Social and Civic Responsibility and 180 Degrees Consulting, there are no concrete technology/industrial/wet lab spaces nor outside Lang Center financing opportunities (i.e. VC, angels) that encourage and support grassroot student commercialized enterprises/projects to continue and pivot over a 3 to 10 year span.
2021 Swarthmore University Innovation Fellows
2019 Swarthmore University Innovation Fellows
2018 Swarthmore University Innovation Fellows
2017 Swarthmore University Innovation Fellows