New York University has received a $10 million grant from The Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation for the purpose of creating an exciting new program in social entrepreneurship studies. The program has been providing annual fellowships for 23 graduate students and scholarships for 20 juniors and seniors beginning in the 2006-2007 academic year. More than 120 NYU students will benefit from the Foundation’s grant to the university. Four consecutive commencement speakers at NYU have been Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellows.

Social entrepreneurship takes a bold new approach to solving a broad range of social problems. It channels the drive, imagination, discipline, and accountability inherent in entrepreneurship towards the formidable task of resolving society’s most pressing issues, thereby creating a mechanism for creating lasting social value. Through competitive graduate fellowships and undergraduate scholarships – available to students at all of NYU’s 14 schools — The Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Program for Social Entrepreneurship will encourage and train a new cadre of public service leaders. Thanks to the program, they will possess the necessary knowledge and skills to create financially self-sustaining not-for-profit organizations capable of effectively addressing the social challenges facing America and the world in the 21st Century.

In announcing the grant, NYU President John Sexton took particular note of the fact that the program will be extraordinarily far-reaching in both its impact and its scope. “Universities have long time horizons,” he observed. “We are among the most enduring human enterprises. When we contemplate the future, we tend not to think of next year, or next decade, but of generations to come.”

“This is a remarkable gift,” Sexton continued, “one that fits superbly with this University, which has the motto ‘A private university in the public service.’ It holds the breath-taking prospect of creating nothing less than the next generation of social problem-solvers and leaders. When one thinks of the seemingly intractable difficulties that will confront our children and our children’s children in the decades to follow – global warming, nuclear proliferation, international competition for energy and natural resources, large and growing inequities in income in the US, spreading prosperity to the developing world, the creation of a new definition of national and international security – it is clear that a very new set of tools will be needed.”

According to Sexton, the emerging field of social entrepreneurship offers the prospect of creating those tools. It crosses disciplines and sectors to frame solutions, find new incentive structures, and apply new ideas and techniques to solving society’s most pressing problems, while offering new, exciting opportunities for public service. In his view, it would be hard to imagine a better location for such a program. “New York is the world’s capital,” Sexton said, “and it is here that the best minds will be drawn to wrestle with the most difficult challenges.”

Sexton’s thoughts were echoed by Ellen Schall, dean of NYU’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. “This approach embodies the very heart of the Wagner School’s approach to education,” Schall noted, “commit[ing] us to connect learning from both theory and practice. Social entrepreneurship is a critical lens through which students as future leaders and policy makers can learn to make a difference in their communities and the world.”

In expressing NYU’s gratitude to The Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation for its generous gift, Sexton was quick to praise the Foundation for its far-sighted personal devotion to this idea. Said Sexton, “A generation from now, the laurels for solving some enormous problem will go to some social entrepreneur, but the true praise will belong to the Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation for believing in and supporting this approach.”