Penn School of Social Policy & Practice names New Social Innovation Scholars Program

The Randi and Brian Schwartz Social Innovation Scholarship will provide full-tuition support for students seeking to generate impact in such areas as economic security, immigration, and global conflict.

Randi and Brian Schwartz
Randi Schwartz and Brian D. Schwartz, a Trustee and vice chair of the SP2 Board of Advisors. (Image: Courtesy of Brian and Randi Schwartz)

The University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy & Practice (SP2) has named the Randi and Brian Schwartz Social Innovation Scholarship to provide full-tuition support for students seeking to make a difference through innovation. This scholarship named for the couple will provide dedicated financial aid to graduate students seeking to innovate and generate impact in areas like economic security, immigration, and global conflict.

The scholarship will cover tuition for a select cohort of master’s degree students at SP2, known as the Schwartz Scholars. The scholarship will be awarded to a student in the Master of Science in Nonprofit Leadership Program first, beginning in the fall of 2024. As the program grows, the Schwartz Scholars will expand to include students in SP2’s other master’s degree programs. 

The funding has been made possible by Brian D. Schwartz, a Trustee and vice chair of the SP2 Board of Advisors, and his wife, Randi, and is part of a $12.5 million commitment to provide graduate student financial aid and to support the Social Justice Scholars Program

“We appreciate the vision and leadership Randi and Brian Schwartz have demonstrated by making this extraordinary commitment with such lasting impact,” said Penn President Liz Magill. “Supporting these students and the careers they will be able to pursue in nonprofit leadership and social innovation is particularly important to our University and society.”

“SP2 is known for educating students who go on to become changemakers. They graduate poised to make the world a better place through their fields of social work, social policy, and nonprofit leadership,” said Sara S. Bachman, dean of SP2. “We are grateful to Randi and Brian for their years of service to SP2, and for their generosity helping more students grow meaningful careers. It will now be possible for SP2 to produce more leaders who can make an impact, and to bring fresh approaches for public good.”

SP2 master’s degree programs incorporate a global focus, and international students comprise 20% of the student body. Classes often travel abroad for field work. One such course, Energy, Innovation, and Impact in the Global South, imparts the nuances of operationalizing social ventures and provides a business toolkit for designing and launching a venture in developing countries.

Chao Guo stands in a room with SP2 students.
Students in SP2’s MS in Nonprofit Leadership (NPL) Program undertake a group assignment in Strategic Management and Leadership of Nonprofit taught by Chao Guo (center), professor of nonprofit management and faculty director of the NPL Program. The new scholarship will be awarded to a student in the NPL Program first, beginning in the fall of 2024. (Image: Krista Patton Photography)

“If we want to make an impactful difference, we have to focus beyond any single organization, or sector, or even country to address the pressing issues of our time,” said Adam Roth-Saks, administrative director of the Nonprofit Leadership Program. “It takes an international approach and a cross cultural exchange of ideas, and here at SP2, the Schwartz Scholars will benefit from an incredible global perspective.”

“I don’t think there is a graduate program that has as big a focus on social innovation as SP2,” said Chao Guo, faculty director of the Nonprofit Leadership Program. “Every one of our faculty members is involved in some aspect of confronting deep rooted public problems. We are thrilled that the Schwartz Social Innovation Scholarship will provide resources and experiential learning opportunities for students. The Schwartz Scholars will work alongside our top-notch faculty members and pioneer new ways to confront the world’s most serious challenges.”

Graduates of SP2 apply social innovation in their work locally and abroad. Alumni become leaders in nonprofit organizations and government agencies. For instance, Shadrack Osei Frimpong founded Cocoa360, a civic organization dedicated to uplifting farming communities by increasing access to education and healthcare in East Legon, Accra. Hasan Alkurdi serves as executive director of Syrian Forum USA, a nonprofit organization committed to fostering economic development and creating employment opportunities for Syrians in need.

“SP2 increased my capacity to lead. Right after graduation, I was promoted to interim executive director, and then executive director one year later,” Alkurdi said. “I was able to build successful relationships between the organization and its board from one side, and our donors and their local communities in the United States from the other. I credit these achievements to the combination of skills and experience in social innovation, leadership, and social design that I gained from SP2.”

Brian Schwartz is co-president of H.I.G. Capital, a global alternative investment firm. He is the past board chair of the Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital Foundation and past chair of the Investment Committee for Pine Crest School (Fort Lauderdale, Florida), where he also served on the Board of Trustees. Prior to joining H.I.G., he held various positions at PepsiCo and Dillion Read.

Randi Schwartz is a holistic health and wellness coach who owns and operates Soulful Being. She holds a master’s degree in physical therapy from the University of Miami and a graduate level certification in Nutrition and Building Healthy Communities from Tufts University. She is a graduate of The Institute of Integrative Nutrition.

In addition to their philanthropic support of students, the Schwartzes have contributed to Penn in other capacities. They were members of the Parent Leadership Committee in 2018-22, including years of service during The Power of Penn Campaign. In 2017, they established the Brian and Randi Schwartz University Professorship, a Penn Integrates Knowledge Professorship, created to foster interdisciplinary scholarship by granting faculty appointments in more than one School.