Being “All In” on Social Change

PROVO, Utah – May 18, 2021 – The Ballard Center for Social Impact at the BYU Marriott School of Business connects students with opportunities to make a difference through social innovation. One way the Ballard Center helps students create a positive impact in the world is through its on-campus Social Innovation Projects (SIP) internship classes. Giving students the unique chance to improve lives through joint efforts with nonprofit organizations, SIPs help students find purpose in helping others.

The Social Innovation Projects class is offered as MSB 491R and is available for all BYU students with three different sections offered during the winter semester: projects where students work with nonprofits and social entrepreneurs, corporate projects where students work with corporations and focus on social responsibility, and impact investing projects where students are involved with investors in social entrepreneurs.

As director of SIP classes, Jill Piacitelli said the program helps promote the Ballard Center’s mission to help students solve social problems. “The whole point of the SIP program is to have students roll up their sleeves and get to work on organizational and social problems that need some time and attention,” Piacitelli says.

Piacitelli, who worked in the nonprofit sector for nearly twelve years after graduating with her undergrad in sociology from BYU, found the SIP program through the Ballard Center during her MBA program with BYU Marriott.  “The Ballard Center mission landed nicely with my heart and mind since the Ballard Center is connected to social impact work, which aligned with my interests perfectly,” Piacitelli explains.

After graduating with her MBA in 2019, Piacitelli started working for the Ballard Center as an adjunct professor. She teaches the class portion of SIPs and says she loves seeing student accomplishments up close. “What makes the SIP such a memorable experience for students is being able to work with a multidisciplinary team over the course of twelve weeks and solving a real-life problem,” Piacitelli says

Piacitelli also says she loves hearing students talk about how the program changed their academic careers, like what happened for BYU sociology major Olivia Johnson. A former SIP participant and now the SIP program director as a student employee, Johnson says the SIP program is the best-kept secret at BYU. After considering transferring from BYU, Johnson says the SIP program is what helped her decide to stay.

Specifically, Johnson points to the loving culture she felt as part of her SIP and is grateful for the family she has found in this program. “The SIP program is such an amazing opportunity for students to not only feel needed but actually be needed by important people doing important work. That's what drew me to participate in my SIP,” Johnson says. During Johnson’s first SIP, she worked with Defy Venture, a nonprofit organization that teaches entrepreneurial skills to inmates. The project her team worked on focused on creating an after-release program to help former prison inmates adjust back to normal life.

“Helping prisoners prepare for re-entry and avoid recidivism was my first glimpse of the life I wanted: helping people who had been hurt by an unfair system to grasp ownership of their lives with tools intended to overcome inequality,” she says. Johnson notes that her SIP experience helped her to overcome her own self-doubt and be “all in” when it comes to social change.

Both Johnson and Piacitelli encourage students from all majors to take the SIP class and experience for themselves the life-changing power of social innovation. “The class will stretch you, but it's the most worthwhile thing you could do at BYU,” Johnson says.

Ballard SIPs connect students with organizations.
Ballard SIPs connect students with non-profit organizations to make a difference in the world. Photo courtesy of BYU Photo.

Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Veronica Davis