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Transformative Experiences: 2023 Social Impact Fellows

Gehrig Harris during his internship

By Erin Lehmberg

By partnering with nonprofits, social enterprises, and community organizations local to Atlanta, the Institute for Leadership and Social Impact (ILSI) connects Georgia Tech students with key community leaders to make an impact through a semester-long fellowship called the Social Impact Fellows. The ILSI collaborates with community partners by providing student interns at no cost to their organizations, while supplying a stipend to students for a resume-boosting, life-enriching experience. 

Throughout the Social Impact Fellows program, the ILSI has collaborated with 15 organizations to date, providing 35 fellowships to 31 students (students can serve multiple rotations and each partner can apply up to four times). Since the inception of the program, ILSI invested a total of $52,500 in social impact and transformative student experiences, amounting to 3,400 hours of service. Some of the most valuable results from the program are the leadership and entrepreneurship skills gained by students while brushing shoulders with inspiring leaders in the day-to-day challenges of running a social business. Fellows Gehrig Harris, Anna Carver, Alexander Sean, and Olohije Ayeni comment below on their pivotal experience as Social Impact Fellows:

“As part of the Social Impact Fellowships program, I worked for Beautiful Curly Me, a social impact-focused company that makes dolls, books, and puzzles for young black and brown girls… After several weeks of working with Zoe and Evana to analyze their website, their dolls, their donation model, and the very purpose of the Beautiful Curly Me brand, I presented them with a Strategy Deck that presented multiple options for directions in which to take the company. With these potential new directions in mind, Zoe and Evana have decided to organize a doll donation event during the holiday season and have invited me to be involved. I cannot wait to see how Beautiful Curly Me continues to grow and develop, and I will be the first in line to buy their new products, attend their new meetings, or hear about their new programs.” -Gehrig Harris (BSBA), SI Fellow, Beautiful Curly Me

“I have been gathering quotes to use in posts for Plywood People’s social media, specifically to promote the themes of the upcoming Plywood Presents: Here to There. Unfortunately, the founder, Jeff, made the executive decision to postpone the event because ticket sales were not meeting expectations. He talked in length about the kinds of decisions that leaders have to make that involve balancing finances, health, and purpose. It was a really difficult choice, but it was nice to be able to experience his process as a leader of a non-profit.” -Anna Carver (LMC), SI Fellow, Plywood People

I got to see first-hand how often nonprofit founders have to sacrifice their own money, time, and effort to carry out their mission…While watching Umi serve as the main person within the nonprofit, it also showed me how Georgia Tech and our students can utilize our technical skills to bridge the gap that many nonprofit founders have: bringing their passion and ideas to fruition. We shifted the scope of my work to focus on a 3-year strategic plan that helps better articulate Umi’s vision for the nonprofit, provide a roadmap on how to achieve the 3-year vision, but also creating strategy around how to best achieve her goals and minimize the risk throughout the upcoming journey.” -Alexander Sean (BSBA), SI Fellow, Umi Feeds

“I had the incredible opportunity to intern with Step Ahead Scholars, a non-profit organization with a mission of creating college-access equity by empowering under-resourced students to and through college…I became interested in Step Ahead Scholars because of their commitment to College Access Equity for underrepresented minorities, having previously benefited from a similar organization…As an intern, my responsibilities involved administrative tasks such as scheduling, updating/preparing documentation, branding activities, working on special projects, and liaising with Strategic partners. This experience was an eye-opener for me, as I got to experience how non-profits operate and learn more about elements such as funding and legal that are pivotal to the successful running of a non-profit organization.” -Olohije Ayeni (MS,ECE), SI Fellow, Step Ahead Scholars

“We started these collaborations during the pandemic to address an immediate need from both our students who overnight found themselves with no summer internship opportunities and our nonprofit partners who lost one of their crucial strategic partners: volunteers. Hands on Atlanta was our pilot partner, and the program took off from there. Three years later this program is a shining example of Georgia Tech’s Strategic Goal: Develop our students into ethical leaders who understand how to innovate and leverage technology to address business challenges and opportunities for the benefit of industry and society,shared Dori Pap, Managing Director of ILSI.

Keep an eye out for the next round of applications for Social Impact Fellows for spring and summer of 2024, and contact Shola at with any questions about the Social Impact Fellows Program or for more information on becoming a community partner.

The Institute for Leadership and Social Impact is an interdisciplinary institute that promotes servant leadership and social innovation that contribute to a more just, caring, and equitable world.

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