Gift from Ron and Alexis Fowler Creates St. Thomas-University of San Diego Partnership

The University of San Diego (USD) and the University of St. Thomas announced today a joint venture that will increase the scope and scale of social entrepreneurship ecosystem at their respective universities and beyond. The Fowlers have made a multi-million dollar commitment to the University of San Diego in support of the Fowler Global Social Innovation Challenge. They have also agreed to fund an expansion of the USD program to include St. Thomas.

The Fowler’s pledge to USD commits $2.5 million to the Fowler Global Social Innovation Challenge. Additionally, the Fowlers committed $500,000 to St. Thomas to participate in the collaborative with USD.

“Our vision for the Fowler Global Social Innovation Challenge is to significantly increase the number of social entrepreneurs creatively tackling humanity’s biggest problems,” said donor Ron Fowler. “USD and St. Thomas have both demonstrated their ability to successfully nurture and lead innovative students. Working together, sharing common ideals and practices, Alexis and I expect to see more ventures successfully transition to advanced stages of prototyping, financial sustainability and start-up.”

“For more than a decade, Ron Fowler’s support has served as a catalyst for new business ideas among St. Thomas students,” President Julie Sullivan said. “We are eternally grateful for his support, which has inspired so many entrepreneurial ventures. His vision to bring together USD and St. Thomas to support global social innovation through an intercollegiate competition will expand our reach and generate invaluable impact for generations to come.”

“The Fowlers have been very generous to USD. Their latest pledge of $2.6 million will help USD advance our efforts to develop global ethical and responsible leaders committed to the common good through social innovation and social entrepreneurship,” said USD President James T. Harris III. “We are grateful for their financial commitment and look forward to partnering with the University of St. Thomas campus to increase our collective global impact.”

Launched in 2011 as a joint program of USD’s School of Business and Kroc School of Peace Studies, the Social Innovation Challenge (SIC) inspires college students to tackle humanities’ pressing problems through social innovation and entrepreneurship. In 2014, USD expanded the program to include local universities in the San Diego, and in 2016 to include Tijuana, Mexico region. In 2018, the SIC was expanded again to include student teams from universities around the world, and renamed the Global Social Innovation Challenge (GSIC). In its inaugural year as a global challenge, student-led teams from 27 universities located in 12 countries across six continents competed in the GSIC. To date, winning teams have received over $377,000 in seed funding and invaluable in-kind support from incubators, accelerators, coaches, and mentors.

USD Kroc School Dean Patricia Márquez said, “By working together, the new USD-St. Thomas program will propel social innovation on both campuses, improve the quality and quantity of entrepreneurial opportunities, expand national and international reach, and build a global movement based on people, planet, prosperity, peace and, partnership.”

Through the University of St. Thomas Schulze School of Entrepreneurship, the Fowler Business Concept Challenge has provided St. Thomas students at St. Thomas with an entrepreneurial springboard to explore new, creative innovations to solve both business and societal problems.

Together, USD and St. Thomas will work to significantly increase the number of universities participating in the Fowler Global Social Innovation Challenge each spring. USD will focus its efforts on targeting institutions in at-risk countries and areas of conflict. St. Thomas will target regional, national and international partners. Both universities will work to connect its students, faculty, and entrepreneurs with the global entrepreneurial community.