Center for Social Entrepreneurship

at Middlebury

2015 Annual Symposium

On Thursday, January 22, the Middlebury Center for Social Entrepreneurship kicked-off its 4t Annual Symposium on “Social Entrepreneurship and the Future of Global Health”. This year’s symposium attracted a diverse audience of students, professionals, faculty, staff, and community members from across the country and beyond. Participants reflected upon the current state of global health through interactive and engaging keynote speeches, workshops sessions with national and international health professional, Skype sessions with on the ground health professionals from Uganda and South Africa and our first MiddHackathon. These events sparked productive discussions around the role of social entrepreneurship in furthering global health efforts around the world.


On Thursday January 22, Charlie MacCormack ’63, Executive in Residence at Middlebury College introduced Jennifer Staple-Clark, the keynote speaker and 2015 Vision Award Recipient. Jennifer was joined by Svea Closser, Assistant Professor of Sociology/Anthropology and and Sayre White ’15 and Hannah Blackburn ’17 students from GlobeMed chapter, for an engaging conversation on her amazing professional journey. After her freshman year at Yale, Jennifer, as part of a plan to eventually attend medical school, interned at an ophthalmologist’s office in her hometown of Newtown, Connecticut. She was stunned by how simple yet life-changing some of the ophthalmological procedures were. When she returned to school at the end of the summer, she founded Unite for Sight. She recruited 30 fellow students to go out and find people in the community who could benefit from the procedures that Jennifer had seen that past summer. Just months after deciding to expand Unite For Sight beyond Yale, 25 chapters opened on college campuses across the country. By the time Jennifer graduated, Unite For Sight had helped over 1,000 people receive treatment.

Fifteen years later, United for Sight has treated 1.9 million people around the world. They  currently work in Ghana, Honduras, and India. Jennifer explained that Unite For Sight strives to find “locally-developed and locally-responsible solutions which focus on outcomes.” Too many organizations, Jennifer elaborated, focus on outputs instead of outcomes. She told the story of one of Unite For Sight’s patients in Honduras. This man had previously received a cataracts surgery from a medical missionary team, but he developed an infection after the operation. The medical mission, though, had already left, and there was no way to receive treatment. The infection ultimately robbed him of vision in his left eye. But the organization that sponsored the medical mission could count this man in the number of operations the team had conducted, although the outcome of the surgery was not successful. The example of this man shows that there can be a large difference between output and outcomes.

Much of Unite for Sight’s work focuses on treating cataracts, a condition in which the lens in the eye becomes cloudy resulting in worsened eyesight. Cataracts can be treated with a 5 to 15 minute surgery, and in the developed world virtually no one is seriously afflicted by the condition. Across the developing world, however, cataracts is common, leaving some people with mere light perception. In some places, cataracts is so common that people believe that when your hair goes gray, your eyes go gray.

In the countries where they work, Unite For Sight assists and supports local doctors who provide eye care. This requires close collaboration with the doctors and other medical staff to tailor solutions to local contexts. As Jennifer says, “From the start we asked, ‘How can we help you?’ [because] local doctors really understand what’s going on.” This humble approach has yielded tremendous results. Clinics partnered with Unite For Sight conduct almost 50 percent of all cataract surgeries in Ghana, a country of 27 million people.

When asked about being a leader, Jennifer responded “If you are very passionate about something, you will make others similarly passionate.” From the days of leading those first 30 students at Yale, to now leading a global organization, Jennifer has inspired countless others along way. On Thursday night, she inspired an entire audience.


For more information about Unite For Sight and their incredible student internship programs visit: http://www.uniteforsight.org/.



CSE Fourth Annual Symposium
January 22 – 24, 2015
Program Outline

Thursday, January 22

6:00 p.m. | The Gallery, McCullough Student Center
Student and Community Activity Showcase

7:00 p.m. | Wilson Hall, McCullough Student Center

  • Welcoming Remarks
    Professor Jonathan Isham
    Director, Middlebury Center for Social Entrepreneurship (CSE)
  • Introduction of Jennifer Staple-Clark
    Charlie McCormack
  • “Fire-side chat” Keynote Speech – “Responsible Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship
    Jennifer Staple-Clark, Founder and CEO of Unite for Sight
    With Svea Closser, Assistant Professor of Sociology/Anthropology & Middlebury Students Sayre White ’15 & Hannah Blackburn ’17
  • Presentation of Vision Award
    Elizabeth Robinson’84, Assoc. Dean of the College for Creativity, Engagement & Careers

For Jennifer Staple-Clark’s full bio please click here

*Coffee and light dessert will be served


Friday, January 23

8:30 a.m. | Wilson Hall, McCullough Student Center

  • Breakfast and Opening Remarks
    Professor Jonathan Isham

9:00 a.m. | Wilson Hall, McCullough Student Center
Opening World Café Session

10:00 a.m. | McCullough, Axinn and MiddCORE House
Workshop Sessions with Global Health Innovators



10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.| MiddCORE House | Session #1 & #2
Charlie MacCormack ’63, Executive-in-Residence at Middlebury College

10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.| McCullough Social Space | Session #1 & #2
Dr.  Johana “Jody” Kashiwa Brakeley, M.D., F.A.A.P., Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics

10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.| 103 Axinn | Session #1 & #2
Jennifer Foth ’08, Program Coordinator, Vaccines at Clinton Health Access Initiative from Uganda via Skype

10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.| 109 Axinn | Session #1 & #2
Queen and Nozi, Mentor Mothers from mothers2mothers from South Africa via Skype



1:30 p.m. | Wilson Hall, McCullough Student Center

The MiddHackathon will bring together students, faculty, staff and community members to work collaboratively towards solving chronic local and global health challenges. For more information on MiddHackathon and detailed schedule, please click here.


7:00 p.m. | Wilson Hall, McCullough Student Center

  • Welcoming Remarks
    Miguel Fernandez, Professor Spanish and Chief Diversity Officer
  • Introduction of Mitch Besser
    David Torres ’84, Director of Business Development, mothers2mothers
  • Mitch Besser, MD
    Founder of mothers2mothers
    Interview with Pam Berenbaum, Coordinator of Global Health Programs
  • Presentation of Vision Award
    Katy Smith Abbott, Dean of Students and Assist. Professor of History of Art and Architecture

*Coffee and light dessert will be served

For Mitch Besser’s full bio please click here



Saturday, January 24

9:30 a.m. | Wilson Hall, McCullough Student Center

  • Convening of MiddHackathon Challenge Teams

*Open to Public drop-ins and observation


1:00 p.m. | Wilson Hall, McCullough Social Space

  • MiddHackathon Challenge Presentation



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