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Carleton Receives Gift To Create Will Internship Fund in Social Entrepreneurship

September 17, 2013

NORTHFIELD, Minn.—Thanks to a gift from Eric ’66 and Mimi ’66 Carlson P’97, Carleton College has announced the establishment of the Robert E. Will ’50 Endowed Internship Fund in Social Entrepreneurship. Administered by Carleton’s career center, the fund supports 8-10 domestic or international internships per year at up to $5,000 each for students pursuing social entrepreneurship.

The fund honors Bob Will, the Raymond Plank Professor of Incentive Economics, Emeritus. A 1950 Carleton graduate, Will earned his PhD at Yale University and taught at Carleton from 1957-93. He championed the importance of a liberal arts education, and each year the Robert E. Will Economics Prize is awarded to the senior economics major or majors who demonstrate excellent academic achievement and breadth of intellectual interests in the best tradition of a liberal arts education. Professor Will remains a resident of Northfield and is very involved in community activities.

“We are especially grateful to the Carlson family for their generous gift to fund internships. This program enables students to gain invaluable, first-hand knowledge about social entrepreneurship careers. Moreover, we are so pleased that students will gain these perspectives through an initiative that honors and celebrates such a beloved model citizen and master teacher,” Carleton President Steve Poskanzer said.

The money allows students to accept unpaid internships while receiving financial support from the College.  The internships will provide field experiences at organizations that allow for the exploration of for-­profit solutions to problems at a grassroots level, which is at the heart of social entrepreneurship. Internships may include experiences in clean energy, agriculture, the environment, health care, job creation, mobile commerce, financing, and transportation systems. Promoting social change is the primary objective of these funded internships.

“During my junior year at Carleton I took a course from Bob Will called ‘the economics of underdeveloped nations’ during which it dawned on me that stimulating development was more likely to be successful if financed from the bottom up rather than from the top down,” Eric Carlson said. “I used this basic idea throughout my life, mostly with non-profits.” Carlson has worked closely with Santa Clara University, helping it start the Global Social Benefit Incubator, which has worked with over 1,000 social entrepreneurs. He also designed and taught a social entrepreneurship master’s level course at the school.

“Who better to name the endowment for than Bob Will, who inspired my approach to and my involvement with social entrepreneurship,” Carlson added. “A liberal arts education proved critical in helping me help other entrepreneurs.  But what really convinced Mimi and me to make the gift to Carleton was more than the fact that many of our family members attended Carleton; It was the fact that many Carleton students are interested in careers in social entrepreneurship.”

The Carlsons are hopeful that their gift will motivate other donors to support students and faculty who wish to pursue social entrepreneurship.