Thursday, Mar. 8, 2012 12:00 am

Grinnell, IA -  

The Social Entrepreneurs of Grinnell (SEG), a student-run nonprofit microfinance lending organization at Grinnell College, was named by the White House this week as one of the top five winners of  the “Campus Champions of Change Challenge.”

SEG represented the only Iowa college and the only small college in the 15 finalists of the White House challenge, which began last fall to highlight innovative ideas on college campuses and to inspire community involvement. 

“The work of the Social Entrepreneurs is an excellent example of creative collaboration and compassion in a global context,” said Grinnell College President Raynard S. Kington, M.D., Ph.D. “Current Grinnell students, recent alumni and community partners have reached out locally and globally to improve the lives of others.”

In its five years of operation, SEG has expanded from providing international loans for small projects in remote communities to also assisting individuals in the local community. The microfinance organization has loaned more than $37,000 in 44 countries, with $13,000 going to 25 individuals in the Grinnell area. A volunteer board of Grinnell students, alumni and local residents oversees the lending and fundraising.

This is the second White House recognition for a Grinnell program in two years. In January 2011, the Grinnell Science Project was awarded the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring of students underrepresented in the sciences.

The SEG award also represents Grinnell’s long-standing commitment to social justice. In 2010, the college initiated The Young Innovator for Social Justice Prize program to recognize individuals under 40 whodemonstrate leadership in their fields and show creativity, commitment and extraordinary accomplishment in effecting positive social change throughout the world. 

Six SEG members will attend an event at the White House on Mar. 15. The Grinnell organization will be featured—along with UCLA, University of Chicago, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and University of Arkansas—on an upcoming segment of mtvU.

Grinnell College is a nationally recognized, private, four year, liberal arts college located in Grinnell, Iowa. Founded in 1846, Grinnell enrolls 1,600 students from all 50 states and from as many international countries in more than 26 major fields, interdisciplinary concentrations, and pre-professional programs.