A USD student will have the chance to participate in the Hult Prize competition, an international social entrepreneurship competition, for the first time this year.
The Bill Clinton Initiative and the United Nations have partnered up for the last 10 years to put on the Hult Prize. Each year, Clinton chooses a current social issue as a theme for the competition. This year the theme is youth unemployment.
Ghofrane Baaziz, an exchange student from Tunisia, North Africa, has competed and made it to the regional stage for the past two years and this year is the campus director for the competition at USD.
Baaziz, a business major at her home university and a media and journalism major at USD, said she is taking a gap year this year and is at USD on a scholarship program, an opportunity she said she received because of the Hult Prize.
“It’s a huge network of students, I participated twice and got to the regional finals two times,” Baaziz said. “It’s been a life-changing experiencing for me. It’s the reason I got this scholarship I am on right now because it is on my resume. It’s a great opportunity and that’s why I am bringing it to USD.”
The Hult Prize competes first at a university level, and then the winner of the university competition moves on to compete regionally, and then finally competes at the international competition.
Since this is an international competition, the regional competition only takes place in 16 cities worldwide. The United States regionals are held in either Boston or San Francisco. Baaziz has competed in San Francisco and London.
“I got involved in my freshman year of college; I was a freshman who was excited about activities and trying things,” Baaziz said. “Even though I had no prior knowledge when it comes to entrepreneurship, (my team and I) wanted to try it. We started brainstorming problems, and we got to our idea and we won. It felt so great and we went to London, where I met amazing people.”
In order for a university to compete, there must be 16 teams of three or four students participating. Currently, there are six formed teams at USD. Meghann Jarchow, chair of the Department of Sustainability and Environment at USD, said this year is about making students familiar with the competition.
“It’s new there is a certain amount of people who will be hesitant,” Jarchow said. “Ghofrane (Baaziz) having done it recognizes that it’s fun and that it’s delightful and really great to be a part of. Since we don’t have a history of having done the prize there’s no previous excitement. This year I think there is some amount of making sure we get people doing it and then we can start getting the history of it.”
Jarchow said she hopes students will become excited about the Hult Prize and it can continue at USD in the future.
“This year is the 10th year of the Hult Prize so it would be nice if we could plug into the system and every year just be a competing campus,” Jarchow said. “People know that they can just plan for it. I think now that it’s on our radar too we can do a better job of getting the word out and getting more students involved.”
Baaziz said this year’s theme of youth unemployment is exciting because it is something everyone can relate to.
“Youth unemployment is an issue that touches all of us really. It is more relatable than the themes from past years,” Baaziz said.
The Hult Prize allows for students to think about social issues they may never realize exist, Baaziz said.
“It really pushes you to think of something that touches us but we’ve never really had the opportunity to think about. Who has thought about youth unemployment and how we can fix it?” Baaziz said. “The Hult Prize really gives you the tools to do that. So students should get involved if they want to make a change somehow.”
Jarchow said she encourages students to get involved because it is a way to bring creativity to sustainability issues.
“It’s an example of doing real-world stuff, and it is a good way to empower people. Another way is it helps is with the creative aspects of sustainability,” Jarchow said. “There is some amount of ‘yes we should recycle’ and ‘yes we should turn off lights’ and yes, those are fine, but they’re not that innovative or fun or compelling at highlighting to people that you can help come up with solutions.”
USD’s competition will take place on Dec. 1, and the deadline for teams to register will be the last week of November.