“This class is a lot different than armchair learning” is the way Professor Wessels explains her new course. She is the Executive Director of the Center for Transformative Action and is launching a new course, AEM 4940, where students learn social entrepreneurship by working with Anabel’s Grocery throughout the course. It is this applied learning that Wessels finds distinctive from more theoretical “armchair learning.” Students will take concepts taught in the course and apply them directly to the context of Anabel’s Grocery, a student-run nonprofit on campus.
Anabel’s Grocery is a student run grocery store in Anabel Taylor Hall that plans to open at the end of March. The idea of an on-campus grocery store that offers quality food at affordable prices emerged after responses to a PULSE survey question revealed that 22% of Cornell undergraduates regularly skip meals to save money. Not being able to afford food is one aspect of food insecurity. Others include not having access to quality food and not knowing how to prepare nutritious meals. Anabel’s Grocery tackles these issues by providing free cooking classes, education on how to plan nutritious meals, and a soon-to-be opening grocery store on Cornell’s campus with prices comparable to Aldi’s. The store and the educational programming are available to all Cornell undergraduate and graduate students.
At the beginning of the course, students will gain a deeper understanding of food insecurity and about how social ventures manage the competing demands of creating social and financial value.They will hear from practitioners in the food industry and from non-profit leaders. They will explore the legal structure Anabel’s Grocery navigates, supply chain decisions, and managing finances. These more fundamental business concepts are balanced with discussions and readings about how to create an organizational culture, community and sense of wellness that embody the social mission and values of Anabel’s Grocery.
Toward the end of the course, students will have the opportunity to further their knowledge by facilitating discussions and conducting their own hands-on research based on Anabel’s Grocery’s emergent needs and the students interests. What to purchase and where to purchase from are a few of Anabel’s current challenges, and aligning these decisions with getting the lowest price so groceries can be affordable to students makes the task more difficult. Students are also welcome to research how to design a space so it is most accessible, or how to create value for student volunteers and as Wessels explains, “develop an inclusive culture that creates community around food.” The grocery is located beside Durland Alternatives Library, and Wessels hopes that students will not only purchase food at the grocery, but discuss social change as they eat bagels and browse books at the library. Students’ presentations have the potential of creating tangible change at Cornell.
Wessels comments she is “inspired by ingenuity of students” in the creation of Anabel’s Grocery, and is excited to see how the course will help “make it a reality.” She has been pleasantly surprised by the amount of support Anabel’s Grocery has received from staff and administrators around campus, and she is excited for the course to be an extension of this support. AEM 4940: Social Entrepreneurship Practicum Anabel’s Grocery will be taught Tuesdays and Thursdays 1:25-2:40pm. At the time of this publishing, there are still seats available.