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8/26/2014 - Jackson, Miss.

Students from Mississippi Public Universities will have the opportunity to do well by doing good as they develop business plans to tackle some of Mississippi's most pressing problems and help reach the goals established by Blueprint Mississippi. The Blueprint Mississippi Social Business Challenge was announced by Governor Phil Bryant, Mississippi Economic Council President and CEO Blake A. Wilson and Commissioner of Higher Education Dr. Hank M. Bounds at a press conference held today in Jackson.

"Mississippi's universities are hotbeds of innovation, and this exercise underscores the valuable contributions these institutions make to the entire state," Gov. Phil Bryant said. "These students are the leaders of tomorrow, and I know they are up to the task of developing creative ways to address any challenge that is put before them. I look forward to seeing the results of their efforts."

The Challenge invites teams of students to put their heads together and come up with a creative solution to address one of Mississippi's most pressing problems. Open to any public university student, the challenge requires students to work in teams of six with at least one faculty adviser.

Students are asked to focus their efforts in support of one of the nine goals identified by Blueprint Mississippi. In 2012, Blueprint Mississippi, an independent cooperative of organizations and leaders conducted an objective review of Mississippi's economic opportunities and recommended actions for putting Mississippi in the place of greatest opportunity, identified nine goals to enable a more prosperous, vibrant, and resilient Mississippi, built upon a foundation of economic opportunity for all its citizens.

The nine Blueprint Mississippi goals include:

  1. Increase the Educational Achievement of Mississippians
  2. Cultivate a More Robust Workforce in Mississippi
  3. Strengthen and Expand Mississippi's Economy
  4. Promote Health Care as an Economic Driver
  5. Support Mississippi's Creative Economy
  6. Continually Develop the Infrastructure for a Competitive Economy
  7. Increase Availability of Financial Capital
  8. Cultivate Diversity, Community Cooperation and Racial Reconciliation
  9. Improve Communication and Coordination Among Public, Private and Non-profit Leaders

"By tapping into the brainpower of Mississippi's best and brightest at our public universities across the state, we are hyper-launching the success of Blueprint Mississippi," said Blake A. Wilson, President and CEO of the Mississippi Economic Council. "By harnessing these resources and focusing them on accomplishing work that supports the nine major goals of Blueprint, we are helping put Mississippi in the place of greatest opportunity."

The goals of the Blueprint Mississippi Social Business Challenge are to encourage students to develop ideas for solving Mississippi's most pressing problems, while learning important lessons about planning, teamwork and presenting ideas.

"Mississippi Public Universities are solving Mississippi's most pressing problems and advancing the state together, but there is much work to be done," said Dr. Hank M. Bounds, Commissioner of Higher Education. "We know that our students possess the creativity and ingenuity necessary to find unique solutions to these problems. The Blueprint Challenge gives them the opportunity to demonstrate their skills and have an important voice in moving Mississippi toward reaching the Blueprint goals."

Teams will compete first in an on-campus challenge held in the fall. Each team will develop a business plan, outline their concept in a tabletop display and present their ideas to the judges in a brief oral presentation that may include a video.

"Mississippi universities are the innovation incubators in this state and, as Mississippi's leading research university, we here at Mississippi State University welcome an opportunity to showcase the talents of our students in tackling some of Mississippi's bedrock social, economic and cultural challenges," said Mississippi State University Provost Jerry Gilbert. "This process is an excellent opportunity for our best students to experience both academic competition and problem-solving at a very high level, but also to engage in bringing solutions to real-world problems. We welcome the opportunity for our students to exhibit their creativity."

Each team will have at least six members, who may be either undergraduate or graduate students or a blend of both, along with a faculty advisor. The teams may also enlist the assistance of professionals or alumni that have expertise in the topic the team plans to address or in building a business plan.

"The Blueprint Mississippi Social Business Challenge offers an exciting opportunity for our students to not only compete, but also to learn in a unique, experientially rich environment," said Dr. Scott Tollison, Dean of the College of Business and Professional Studies, Mississippi University for Women. "The competition encourages the leaders of Mississippi's tomorrow to craft innovative solutions to problems faced by the state today."

"Our students have the ability to be thought leaders in the use of creative and innovative processes that address real-world problems, and I am confident that their involvement in this initiative will produce valuable results that help improve the quality of life for all Mississippians," said Dr. Dr. Rodney D. Bennett, President, The University of Southern Mississippi.

The winning teams from each of the on-campus Challenges will advance to a state competition, which will be held on March 12, 2015 in Jackson in conjunction with Universities Day at the Capitol. The table displays will be available for viewing in the Rotunda of the State Capitol from 8:00 a.m. until 12:00 noon. Five business leaders will serve as the judges for the event.

"The University of Mississippi is excited to participate in the Mississippi Social Business Challenge," said Dr. Albert Nylander, Director, McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement at the University of Mississippi. "I believe Mississippi's university students are capable of creating innovative business ideas and plans needed to address some of the state's most pressing issues. Hopefully this challenge will provide an opportunity to transform their ideas into action. With support from the university, we expect to see excellent student business plans from campus."

The elements of the written plan include an executive summary, a description of the social problem addressed, a summary of the Blueprint Mississippi goal the business will help reach, a description of the business solution, a market analysis, a financial analysis and the social impact the business will have. The table display and presentation will offer additional information on the plan, how it will be executed and the social results it will have.

"The Challenge provides a unique opportunity for students to engage in an activity that provides them with firsthand knowledge and insight into how social problems are approached, addressed and solved," said Dr. Constance Bland, Vice President of Academic Affairs, Mississippi Valley State University. "It also serves the dual purpose of giving students a chance to gain knowledge that will help them to answer the age old question of 'Where will I ever use this in the real world?'"

"The MSU College of Business is excited to be part of the Social Business Challenge," said Sharon Oswald, Dean of the College of Business, Mississippi State University. "This challenge dovetails nicely with our strategic focus and leadership role in the state, fostering student entrepreneurs."

The Blueprint Social Business Challenge encourages students to work in teams representing a cross-section of the campus and the programs offered at the universities. Through this experience, students will learn how to set and achieve goals, how to work as a team to achieve a common goal and how to use their skills and talents to help others. These skills will translate well as students graduate and enter the professional world as the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs.

"As public institutions of higher education, our ability to help our students develop skills in critical thinking and practical application is a key factor in how well we prepare students for success after graduation," said Dr. Bennett. "The Blueprint Mississippi Social Business Challenge will provide students with the opportunity to hone these skills as they work to resolve challenges that impact our state."

The term Social Business was defined by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Prof. Muhammad Yunus and is described in his books Creating a World Without Poverty-Social Business and the Future of Capitalism and Building Social Business-The New Kind of Capitalism that Serves Humanity's Most Pressing Needs.

"The Social Business Challenge harnesses the power of entrepreneurial thinking to generate new ideas and creative solutions for some of Mississippi's most formidable challenges," said Daniel T. Holt, Assistant Professor of Management, Mississippi State University. "This exciting opportunity allows our students and the College of Business at MSU to be an integral part of the state's continued growth."

"Our start-up has had great support from MSU, and it's exciting to see opportunities for students like me grow even further at a state level," said Charles Parker, MSU student entrepreneur and founder of Rod Sox.

More information is available on Mississippi Public Universities' website and will be posted on Twitter @MSPublicUniv.

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The Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning governs the public universities in Mississippi, including Alcorn State University; Delta State University; Jackson State University; Mississippi State University including the Mississippi State University Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine; Mississippi University for Women; Mississippi Valley State University; the University of Mississippi including the University of Mississippi Medical Center; and the University of Southern Mississippi.

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