Santa Barbara’s Christian liberal arts college is tapping into the downtown business community with a new program that focuses on entrepreneurship and social change.
Westmont College President Gayle Beebe announced the course track and downtown campus at the annual Westmont President’s breakfast on March 6, saying he hopes the new Center For Social Entrepreneurship will become a place for students to learn while immersed in the downtown environment.
Westmont College recently took over the entire third floor at 26 W. Anapamu St., which also houses the Hutton Foundation, The Fund for Santa Barbara, Peritus Asset Management and the Community Environmental Council.
The program aims to immerse students in the city’s downtown and connect them with area mentors in the business community. Students from a wide range of majors are expected to take part in the program.
Rachel Winslow is the director of the new Center for Social Entrepreneurship and an assistant professor of history. The new program, which is under the umbrella of Westmont Downtown and also includes the college’s lecture series, centers on a 20-hour-per-week internship.
The inaugural fall 2015 class is being kept intentionally small — just nine students — to ensure that students’ goals and employers’ needs are aligned. The spring 2016 class will have a cap of 15 students.
“We’re looking for really good fits,” Winslow said. “It requires solid projects that students can work on, and we’re not doing this in a haphazard way. We want students to leave the organizations better than they found them, and putting that together just takes some time.”
At the breakfast, Beebe extended the invitation to some 600 business and community leaders to participate in the program’s outreach effort. “We want every junior and senior to have an internship experience,” he said.
Tom Parker, head of the Hutton Foundation said that his organization wanted to help the community take advantage of renewed interest in cities by millennials. “We gave Antioch a downtown campus and now Westmont,” he told the Business Times. “Urban environments are hot. They are a big draw for young professionals.”
The Hutton Foundation previously purchased the building at the corner of Anacapa and Cota streets and leased most of it to create a new location for Antioch University’s Santa Barbara campus.
Students involved in the program will also live downtown. Winslow said the college will assist students in finding private market rental housing, with the intention of getting students off campus and into the neighborhood they’ll work in.