The Ballard Center empowers BYU students to make positive impacts

Social Impact Project director and adjunct professor Jill Piacitelli teaches social impact concepts to BYU students. The Ballard Center offers a variety of classes focused on making positive social change. (Samantha Giacobozzi)

The Ballard Center is making waves by providing BYU students with opportunities to create lasting social impacts with far-reaching effects. 

Hannah Lyons works in campus relations for The Ballard Center and said social impact is addressing the needs and problems seen in the world in meaningful, sustainable ways.

“Many students here on campus have seen different social needs throughout the world,” Lyons said. “Especially with so many BYU students having served missions, many have gone to different countries or seen poverty in the United States. Many have been exposed to human trafficking, many have been exposed to pollution.”

Through the center, students can easily apply their skills and strengths into areas where they can make real social impacts, Lyons said. “We partner with non-profits and social problem-solving organizations. We are able to do real work in the real world,” she said. 

The Ballard Center, with its wide variety of course offerings, programs, events, and film series, creates a path for students who want to get involved with bettering the world around them. 

The Ballard Center managing director Steven Fox expressed his personal belief in the power of student-led groups as forces that can do good, better.

“We help students solve significant societal problems,” Fox said. “It’s not just random acts of goodness, we want to be good and be smart about it.”

Fox said he hopes students all over BYU campus will be touched by the reach of The Ballard Center and its opportunities. “The principles of social impact apply everywhere. They are present in every organization from your family all the way up to the worldwide non-governmental organizations,” he said.

Do Good, Better

Teaching assistant Mary Claire said the ‘Do Good, Better‘ class is for students of all different majors and interests, not just business students. “We have students from all over campus. If people are interested in learning how they can make a difference with their career, no matter what it is, ‘Do Good, Better’ is great for that,” she said.

Claire is a junior studying public health. She described ‘Do Good, Better’ as the intro course for all students interested in making a positive social impact. Students learn basic principles of how they can encourage businesses they’re working for to have good practices and help the people they are working with, Claire said.

“It’s also really helped me as a citizen,” Claire said. “When you’re looking at different businesses or charities you might want to support, having an understanding of social impact can help you know who is really doing the most good.”

Whether a BYU student is just interested in learning the basics of social impact or wanting to dive deeper into making a wider scale difference, Claire said ‘Do Good, Better’ is a perfect starting point. 

“Social impact is the desire, no matter what your career is, to help people who cannot help themselves,” Claire said.

Social Impact Projects

Psychology senior Olivia Johnson is the program director of the Social Impact Projects which is “an internship conjunct with a class on campus. But it’s also way more than that,” she said.

Johnson first heard of The Ballard Center during a class presentation as an undeclared sophomore where she was told if she was looking for an opportunity to change the world, she should look into the Social Impact Program. She said she quickly added the course to her schedule.

Social Impact Projects gives a broad range of experiences to students. “There are so many types of projects, it’s every social problem, it’s every geographic area,” Johnson said.

She said if a student asks her what sort of projects have been completed in the past, she simply asks them what social issues they are interested in. For any problem, there has likely been a Social Impact Project tackling it in some way. 

“The project I did, is I got to work with a nonprofit that was working to reduce recidivism with ex-convicts,” Johnson said. “We helped them adjust to normal life and the discrimination they experienced post-release.”  

The Social Impact Projects course is a semester-long internship experience where students will work with a group of five or six students.

“It’s an opportunity for students to take a messy problem from an organization or a company and straighten it out. They take an in-depth look at it, and try to solve it,” Johnson said. 

According to Johnson, the Social Impact Projects class is open to all students who are interested in doing good, both graduate and undergraduate, from any major or background. 

Social Venture Academy

Strategic management senior Breann Hunt is the managing director of the Social Venture Academy, another one of The Ballard Center’s class programs aimed at bringing ideas to life that make the world a better place. 

“The mission of The Ballard Center is to promote social good and economic self-reliance,” Hunt said. “At the Social Venture Academy, we are the entrepreneurial heart of The Ballard Center.”

The Social Venture Academy supports a wide variety of both domestic and international student-created businesses aimed at creating positive impact, according to Hunt. Current student projects range anywhere from combating the opioid crisis through medical technology to bringing BYU Pathways to Indonesia, she said.

“I’m working on a venture to bring sexual assault prevention on an app to colleges across America,” Hunt said.

For student entrepreneurs hoping to make a difference in the world, it can be hard to get an idea moving forward. According to Hunt, the academy can help connect students with funding, social impact strategy and mentorship.

“I think it’s amazing and incredible how as a student in Provo, Utah, at BYU, to see ideas blossom into something that makes a difference right before your eyes,” Hunt said. “In the Social Venture Academy, what you do matters.”

To learn more about the Ballard Center and its wide array of resources, events and opportunities, visit the website or the office in Room 360 of the Tanner Building. 

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