Six Social Impact Courses to Consider Next Semester


At Penn, undergrads can choose from a plethora of courses relating to social impact.

These interdisciplinary courses help increase understanding of business practices, while also giving students the tools to tackle the most pressing social issues affecting our world today.

As you select your spring semester schedule, consider one (or more) of these electives:

BEPP 214: The Nonprofit Sector, Economic Challenges & Strategic Responses, Professor Ashley Swanson.

Meets Mondays and Wednesdays 1:30 PM – 3:00 PM. This course examines the unique economic environment facing nonprofit organizations, and explores how best they can adopt and adapt effective strategic, governance, and management approaches from the public and for profit sectors. The course features real-world cases and expert guest lecturers. Learning cumulates in a semester-long group project in which students evaluate the strategy of a nonprofit organization of their choice.

FNCE 254/FNCE 754: Impact Investing, Professor Christopher Geczy.

Meets Monday and Wednesday in three sections, 9:00 AM – 10:30 AM (UG); 10:30 AM – NOON (MBA); NOON – 1:30 PM (UG). This survey course gives a broad overview of socially oriented investing. Emphasis is on strategies yielding social benefits that have expected investment returns equal to or better than comparable non-impact investments. Guest lecturers are important figures in the social investing world, from private equity tycoons to community philanthropy activists. Coursework includes practical exercises/problem sets, midterm exam, and a “final exam” for which students organize as teams to research and deliver an investment presentation. No prerequisites but a familiarity with basic financial modeling will be helpful.

HCMG 868: The Role of the Private Sector in Global Health, Stephen Sammut, Senior Fellow, Health Care Management.

Meets Mondays 4:30 PM – 5:50 PM. The purpose of this course is to describe entrepreneurial and business approaches that the private sector can implement in addressing the issues of global health, especially in developing countries. The course does not attempt to duplicate a conventional international public health course, but builds upon what is conventionally known and taught in such courses from a managerial perspective. The course will address a range of means of managing medical services and related businesses—public and private—in underserved areas for underserved populations in emerging markets and developing countries, and where appropriate, in underdeveloped parts of developed countries.

MGMT241: Knowledge for Social Impact: Analyzing Current Issues and Approaches, Professor Katherine Klein

Recent technological changes have raised awareness of the magnitude and devastating long-term effects of poverty, food insecurity, limited and unequal access to education, and other social issues. Coupled with growing awareness of these issues is the emerging sense that traditional government programs and charities may be unable to solve these problems – at least, not alone. What may be needed are new strategies – strategies borne of (a) a deep understanding of the issues; (b) interdisciplinary collaboration; and (c) access to business knowledge, frameworks, and resources.

MGMT 715: The Political and Social Environment of the Multinational Firm, Professor Aline Gatignon.

Meets Tuesday and Thursday at 10:30 AM – NOON, 1:30 PM – 3:00 PM,  and 3:00 PM – 4:30 PM (2 sections) during Q3. This course will teach you to manage effectively in challenging political and social environments, specifically emerging markets – places where the institutional infrastructure (access to capital, labor, talent and vertical intermediaries) is too weak to adequately support firms’ development, but where opportunities to do business abound. The ability to engage diverse groups of stakeholders – not only customers and employees, suppliers and distributors, but also politicians, non-profit organizations, and local communities – is key to navigating these challenges. The class will provide students with an integrative perspective towards managing political and social risks through a combination of practical tools and the latest academic thinking on this topic.

SWRK798: Social Impact Strategy, Analysis, and Leadership (A Multi-Disciplinary Perspective).

Meets Thursdays 9:00 AM – 11:50 AM. Since 2006, Penn’s Center for High Impact Philanthropy has been a pioneer in developing approaches for identifying, assessing and growing opportunities for social impact. Team-taught by the Center for High Impact Philanthropy, the course will be directed by the Center’s founding executive director, Katherina ‘Kat’ Rosqueta, and will include guest lectures from other leading faculty and social impact innovators working in Philadelphia and around the world.  Through hands-on practice, team projects, and highly interactive case-based discussions, students will gain the skills need to: analyze opportunities for impact and potential for impact, including how to determine the scale and scope of an opportunity and how to use the tools of social impact economics to determine the cost implications of the opportunity; confidently address the strategic issues and key tasks faced by managers/leaders with a social impact mandate; influence others towards social impact by leveraging relevant research and real-world examples of effective communication and stakeholder management; and apply their research and effective storytelling skill to present their impact analysis in projects using different formats (e.g. video short, venture capitalist/donor pitch, policy brief). This class is designed for a highly multi-disciplinary cohort of students committed to understanding solutions to society’s most pressing issues. It is open to advanced undergrads and graduate students from across the university, by permission of the instructor. For consideration in the class, please email and provide

  • Your name
  • Your year and major/school
  • A copy of your resume
  • A recent writing sample from an academic course
  • A brief statement of no more than 100 words describing why you are interested in taking this course, what you expect to contribute to the cohort of students taking the course, and what you hope to get out of it

About the author: Devon Turner is a Penn freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences, and a marketing and design fellow with Wharton Social Impact initiative. She is passionate about initiatives that impact young girls in developing countries, through taking advantage of untapped business opportunities for sustainable change.