Collage of images from the WIlson Center at Pace University

Faculty Fellows

Each year the Wilson Center for Social Entrepreneurship funds four fellowships for Pace University faculty to grow our diverse portfolio of research projects with a focus on the identification and analysis of issues facing nonprofits and social enterprises. Fellows are selected by the Faculty Steering Committee in a double-blind review based on the strength of the submitted project. During their fellowship year, each faculty member works on a specific case study or academic research project that actively engages current Pace students. These fellows participate in the Wilson Center Faculty Steering Committee for a 3-year term and present their work in at least one Pace research showcase. Full application details for the program are available.

2022-2023 Faculty Fellows

Photo of Wilson Center Faculty Fellow Prof. Fink

Kate Fink, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Media and Communication Arts, Dyson College of Arts & Sciences

Sustaining Local News Nonprofits

This project focuses on the struggles of local news nonprofits to attract funding while maintaining their commitment to public service. Given increasing interest in nonprofit models for news, and the relationship between press independence and democracy, donor influence on journalism is a concern. Depending on a limited pool of donors can lead to real or perceived conflicts of interest—a significant risk as the public’s trust in news media remains low.

Nonprofit news models are popular partly due to the perceived failure of profit-driven media to serve the public interest. However, nonprofit news media often struggle with sustainability. Foundations provide the most funding, although their support can be fleeting, ideologically biased, and include conditions that journalists feel compromise their independence. Foundations also favor national outlets, limiting fundraising options for local news nonprofits. Financial struggles have been more severe for local media generally. One-fourth of local newspapers closed in the years 2004-2019, a trend that accelerated during the pandemic. The U.S. now has hundreds of “news deserts”—or communities that lack regular local news coverage. News deserts are most common in disadvantaged communities, such as those with lower incomes and higher ethnic diversity. This study will be based on interviews with leaders of nonprofit news organizations about their funding sources, how fundraising is integrated into their operations, and specific challenges to sustainability they have faced.

Photo of Wilson Center Faculty Fellow Prof. Lawler

James Lawler, DPS, Professor, Department of Information Technology, Seidenberg School of CSIS

A Case Study for Enabling Advocacy Non-Profit Organizations to Better Help Entrepreneurial People with Disabilities to Enter Industry Programs in STEM

A strong advocate for disadvantaged people in STEM, in his current study, Prof. Lawler is evaluating how advocacy non-profit organizations can engage capable client people with disabilities in careers in STEM. Entrepreneurial people with disabilities, especially students with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), can be guided into industry opportunities in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). Possibilities in STEM are real for those with disabilities interested in industry positions. Prof. Lawler is planning to review further the industry practices in integrating young people with ASD productively in neurodiversity programs in technology.

Based on his findings, Lawler plans to propose a model of industry requirements to be shared with local non-profit organizations, so that they can be better positioned in presenting entrepreneurial people with disabilities, such as ASD, but foundationally skilled in STEM, to the industry. Most non-profit organizations do not have enough post-pandemic resources to help people with disabilities into STEM. Prof. Lawler will be integrating moreover CIS 102W disability-focused non-profit organization students interested in joining the study. Findings from the current study will be a foundation for further study with students with ASD at the university. The benefit of this study is anticipated to help non-profit organizations in helping young people with disabilities join people without disabilities in the potential of STEM.

Photo of Wilson Center Faculty Fellow Prof. Mendelsohn

Joshua Mendelsohn, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Health Sciences, College of Health Professions

Reducing HIV-related stigma among young people attending school in Northern Uganda: a community-based participatory model for developing and delivering a transformative arts-based educational population health intervention using not-for-profit management in a low-income setting.

HIV-related stigma negatively impacts HIV prevention, care, and treatment, particularly among children and adolescents living in sub-Saharan Africa. Interventions that are culturally grounded, participatory, and community-driven show promise for addressing the root causes of stigma experienced by young people living with, or affected by, HIV. This proposed work, to be conducted in a post-conflict, rural setting in Omoro District, Uganda, will develop and test a transformative educational arts-based HIV-related stigma intervention drawing on local cultural knowledge, community-based participation, and engagement with a local not-for-profit organization. The school-based intervention will be delivered to young people (10 years of age) who attend primary or secondary school in Omoro District. The approach aims to re-establish the important cultural and social role of Elders within a community that has suffered the loss of inter-generational transfer of cultural knowledge due to a 25-year civil war. The formative research phase covered by the Wilson Center grant will collect qualitative data from interviews with not-for-profit personnel, community Elders, teachers, and students to generate preliminary data to inform intervention approach and content. Undergraduate students will be trained to assist with data analysis and reporting. The intervention will be evaluated using a stepped-wedge cluster randomized trial with 12 schools randomized into three blocks that will crossover from the control to intervention condition. This work is expected to generate a comprehensive dataset to inform a community-based protocol for developing and implementing a transformational arts-based HIV-stigma reduction interventions among young people attending schools. Findings will have widespread implications for HIV prevention, treatment and care in low-income and post-conflict settings. The study is funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and includes a consortium of co-investigators representing six universities. The trial is registered at

Photo of Wilson Center Faculty Fellow Prof. Scharff

Christelle Scharff, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Computer Science, Seidenberg School of CSIS

Developing Ethical AI in Social Startups in Africa

Organizations are attempting to leverage a growing demand of innovative products and services by focusing on the uptake of novel technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI). The adoption of such technology does not go without a prepared workface and the needs of public policy and regulations. Misaligned AI-adoption strategy entails the risk of leading to the incorporation of technologies not serving the needs of their users, alienating communities, and, even, causing death. Through this research, Professor Scharff will study the adoption of AI and ethical AI practices in social startups in in Africa and the existing frameworks for the design, development and deployment of ethical AI practices, and adapt them to produce a framework for social startups in Africa.

2021-2022 Faculty Fellows

Professor Braga Alves headshot

Marcus Braga-Alves, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Finance & Economics, Lubin School of Business

Political Corruption and Nonprofit Organizations

A recent general decline in the quality of U.S. political institutions led to the worst corruption perception rating in almost a decade. Corruption, which may be defined as the abuse of entrusted power for illegitimate private gain, wears away the trust in political institutions, limiting the most fundamental individual rights such as self-determination, due process of law, and freedom of association. Dr. Braga Alves's research tests the hypothesis that higher political corruption inhibits risk-taking spirit and managerial skills in nonprofit organizations because of the fear of expropriation by public officials. The statistical analysis consists of multiple regressions in which nonprofits' risk- and performance-related characteristics are the response variables, and local political corruption is the main explanatory variable.

This study's findings support the Wilson Center's mission of promoting social change by serving nonprofit organizations with research about one of the worst evils of modern days. Its results advance the identification and analysis of a crucial and immediate issue that has significant implications for those organizations' decisions, supporting the Wilson Center's goal of preparing leaders to face common nonprofits' challenges. Its conclusions also have implications for social enterprises since corruption certainly limits their ability to act against social inequality and division.

E. Melanie Dupuis, PH.D., Dyson faculty professor

E. Melanie Dupuis, Ph.D. Professor & Chair, Department of Environmental Studies & Science, Dyson College of Arts & Sciences

Growing Greenspace: Nonprofit Farms as Local Food Infrastructure

Nonprofit farm organizations provide significant services to their communities over and above adding to the supply of local food. They are a manifestation of what Lyson (2004) termed “civic agriculture”: the role of local farms in fostering resilient local food systems that support growing local economies. While there have been several studies of nonprofit food organizations, focusing primarily on food coops, urban gardens and farmers’ markets in cities, there has been little research on the impact of nonprofit farms, particularly outside of urban communities. Our research will therefore focus on the largely-ignored role of nonprofit farms in suburban/peri-urban/exurban areas, with a focus on New York’s Hudson Valley. We will explore how nonprofit farms perform their public mission and whether they are the same or different from private peri-urban farms and from urban non-profit farms and gardens, both in terms of their impact in their community as well as their role in their local food system. We will explore nonprofit farm histories, governance and how they view their mission in terms of community impact. With the current interest in re-regionalizing agriculture, the question becomes, “how can the non-profit farm sector contribute to the growth and resilience of regional food systems?”

Vaness Merton, J.D., law professor pace university

Vanessa Merton, J.D., Professor of Law & Director, Immigration Justice Clinic, Elisabeth Haub School of Law

The Viability of a New Option to Obtain Lawful Status for Immigrant Victims of Representation Fraud: Developing a Strategy for Nonprofit Advocates

This project will explore the viability of a novel approach to encouraging immigrants to cooperate in the prosecution of legal representatives – lawyers and non-lawyers – who exploit and defraud them, and thus become eligible for U visa certification, a pathway to lawful permanent residence.

Not even the most sophisticated immigrant can navigate the morass of U.S. immigration law without competent, ethical representation, but that can be hard to obtain and prohibitively expensive. To enrich themselves, some representatives systematically deceive clients, a pernicious phenomenon often called “notario fraud” that may include crimes like suborning perjury, extortion, and obstruction of justice. Clients realize this only belatedly, once they are ordered deported or permanently barred from status, but are still deterred from reporting and testifying because of their precarious legal situations and perpetrators’ credible threats to retaliate by disclosing confidential information (or misinformation) to authorities – not unlike the plight of domestic violence survivors.

This category of immigrant should be, but has never been, deemed eligible for the U visa, a status awarded certain crime victims. This research will determine why the U visa is under-utilized, and how to overcome the legal and practical obstacles – a need all the more urgent as today’s volatile immigration law and overwhelmed nonprofit sector induce immigrants to turn to unscrupulous, profiteering scammers. Publications will include a scholarly article; a toolkit for service providers; and a manual for more effective prosecution of representation fraud. The Law School will also host a conference of those interested in this initiative.

Seidenberg professor Namchul Shin, PH.D.

Namchul Shin, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Information Technology, Seidenberg School of CSIS

Social Media and Charitable Giving for Nonprofit Organizations

In recent years, online giving made on mobile phones has increased with the use of social media. As the number of people using mobile phones (or smartphones) increases, the potentials of social media for charities are increasing since they make online donations easier. Research has extensively studied nonprofit organizations’ use of social media. However, there has been limited research examining the impact of social media on charitable giving. This research attempts to address the gap by empirically examining the relationship between the use of social media and charitable giving for nonprofit organizations. For the empirical analysis, we employ a data set of the Nonprofit Times’ top 100 nonprofits ranked by total revenue. We use multiple measures for social media traction: Facebook Likes, Twitter Followers, and Instagram Followers. We plan to construct a data set for the research by combining the social media traction data with the top 100 nonprofit data. Our base model estimates charitable giving as measured by contributions and grants influenced by social media traction while controlling other variables such as total assets and industry. We extend the base model to incorporate the economic model of giving proposed by Weisbrod and Dominguez (1986). This research sheds light on the literature on IT impacts on charitable giving in the nonprofit sector by adding new knowledge on the impact of social media. It uses various social media traction measures, i.e., how extensively nonprofits draw supporters on their social media page, which have little been used in previous research.

2020-2021 Faculty Fellows

K.Collica-Cox Bio Photo

Kimberly Collica-Cox, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Criminal Justice and Security, Dyson College of Arts & Sciences

From the Inside-Out: Students and the Incarcerated Learn Together

The transient population of county jails pose unique challenges for program implementation and maintenance. This project will address a critical void in rehabilitative initiatives for those incarcerated in county jails by utilizing a quasi-experimental design to evaluate an “Inside-Out” program, which allows Pace students to take a college class alongside incarcerated men and women at the Westchester Jail. This past year, the spread of COVID-19 substantially increased such challenges. Despite a change in pedagogy due to COVID-19, innovative methods will be utilized to maintain program integrity. College programming, which helps to reduce rates of institutional misconduct, as well as mitigate recidivism, is rare in most jails. Yet, “Inside-Out” type classes, which allow college students to take a credited course alongside the incarcerated in a correctional setting, is a great way to provide a missed opportunity for purposeful intervention for the incarcerated, while providing a unique experiential learning opportunity for undergraduate students. Through college programming, opportunities are created for inside/outside students to have transformative learning experiences that highlight partnership, discourse, and primary roles in addressing vital social issues. With empirical evidence, there is the opportunity to impact policy by demonstrating why partnerships between correctional facilities (government agencies) and universities/colleges (nonprofits) are crucial in addressing social inequity (i.e. educational attainment) among our most disadvantaged citizens.

Ric Kollenda Bio Photo

Ric Kolenda, Ph.D. Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Public Administration, Dyson College of Arts & Sciences

Empowering Entrepreneurship: Platform Cooperatives as Pathways from Gig Work to Sustainable Careers

As worker ownership is an important and uniquely effective form of social enterprise, this project explores cooperativism in the large and growing platform economy. My previous research suggests that creating opportunities for entrepreneurship can be an important way to address social and economic inequality. This inequality has increased as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. I see platform cooperativism as one critical alternative to corporate firms, offering both improved conditions and wealth creation for its workers, and this research will offer suggestions for public policies to expand and nurture it.

The “gig economy,” which comprises both traditional categories such as freelancers and contract workers, as well as those now working from app-based platforms such as Uber, Door Dash and TaskRabbit, has both suffered and benefited from the COVID-19 pandemic and its associated economic effects. So why does this matter? First, we have seen how dependent we are on the “gig economy,” and we need to make sure that it will be there for consumers. Second, the status quo is not working for gig workers. With wage insecurity and no healthcare benefits, paid vacations, sick leave, these workers are among the most vulnerable members of the labor force. And finally, contract work is often used to avoid paying workers full-time benefits. Meanwhile, the “employers” are being subsidized by taxpayers while not compensating their “employees,” who then must rely on social safety net payments and services. Worker ownership may be able to address all three of these issues.

Noushi Rahman Bio Photo

Noushi Rahman, Ph.D., Professor, Management & Management Science, Lubin School of Business

A Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) of the Determinants of Social Incubator Success Factors

While the impact of incubators on for-profit start-ups has received substantial attention in the entrepreneurship literature, accelerator or incubator services for social enterprises are at a relatively nascent stage and consequently have received little scholarly exploration. Deeper understanding of impact accelerator services is an important and timely topic, as such services can be a valuable resource for social entrepreneurs to optimize the impact of their social enterprises. A social incubator is an organization that provides a physical space for training, development, networking, and social interactions among a select group of social enterprises. Social incubators facilitate networking among concerned stakeholders so that social entrepreneurs can become effective in their respective mission’s social change agenda. Social incubators also provide training on social responsibility initiatives and social impact measurement to the social enterprises that seek their incubator services. While the literature affords some information about the role of social incubators on social enterprises, what makes one social enterprise superior to another remains an uncharted area of knowledge. Recently published global rankings of social incubators offer little guidance on operationalization. This is not surprising because scholarly research on social incubators is in its infancy. Thus, the goal of this research is to find answers for why some social incubators are more successful than others. To properly conduct this qualitative analysis, short cases will be developed for 18 social incubators, which will then be content coded and analyzed using the Quantitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) technique.

Past Faculty Fellows