Center for Social Entrepreneurship

at Middlebury

A New Face at the CSE: Elana Dean

by Otto Nagengast ‘17


The CSE welcomed a new member of the team this semester, Elana Dean. Elana and her husband, Professor Adam  Dean in the Department of Political Science, come to Middlebury from Chicago. Although new to the Center, Elana is not new to social entrepreneurship.
After college, Elana joined the Peace Corps and spent two years in Honduras working on youth development projects. In this time, she says, “The same questions always came up. How do we know if this program is working?… It wasn’t clear how what we were doing was making an impact.” After the Peace Corps, Elana pursued a Masters Degree in Public Policy. She says that they were learning “how to leverage social science research” for positive social impact.

After graduation, Elana worked for the University of Chicago Medicine’s Urban Health Initiative. After that, she joined the University of Chicago Crime Lab as a project manager. The Crime Lab describes their work as “ [using] insights from basic science to help government agencies and non-profit organizations develop innovative new approaches to reducing violence, and work with them to test new innovations using randomized trials.” Elana was responsible for coordinating projects that involved the Chicago Police Department, Chicago Public Schools, and researchers at numerous universities.

This fall at the Center, Elana has been working with Professor Jon Isham, Director of the CSE, to assess the Davis Projects for Peace. Founded nine years ago, the Davis Projects for Peace offers $10,000 grants for students who have a project that “promote peace and address the root causes of conflict among parties.” Projects range from youth programming like camps to microloans for low-income families in developing countries to business development projects like cooperatives for artists. To date, over 800 projects have been funded, and they span the globe. Elana says that with the assessment they hope to better understand “what is a successful project and what makes a successful project.”

Elana also volunteers at the Open Door Clinic in Middlebury. The clinic aims to provide healthcare for all, regardless of someone’s financial circumstances. The Clinic, Elana says, helps many migrant farm workers in the Middlebury area.

Elana says that the CSE is “asking really great questions.” She finds “the level of collaboration [at the CSE] between students and staff really impressive…[it’s] a really dynamic place and everyone is really passionate.” She added “the really cool thing about the center is that it works both in local and global spheres.”

The CSE is thrilled to welcome Elana to the team and to the Middlebury community. Her work will hopefully enable the Center to answer some of those really great questions.

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