The College spends money on many things: staff salaries, water bills and giant ice sculptures to pour beverages through in the dining hall. But with last week’s announcement of the 2012 Young Innovator for Social Justice Prize, the College will now also be spending money on disaster relief and infant warmers, at least indirectly.
Each winning entry received $100,000—half for the winners and half to an organization that they designate. Linus Liang, one of the winners, is co-founder of Embrace, which provides low-cost infant warmers around the world. He said that this was a team effort and he is proud of his team and co-founder, Jane Chen, who shared the prize.
“The money will be used by Embrace to help scale our programs in India,” Liang said. “I am really honored to win and, after looking at the winners, it’s an incredible group to be a part of. I am also surprised to have won, given how competitive this must have been.”
Cristi Hegranes, another winner, is the founder of the Global Press Institute, which seeks to empower women by training them as journalists. She said she would like to use the prize money for two goals: the first is to keep the organization sustainable, and the second is to install multi-media initiatives and new desks around the world.
“I was very surprised [to win],” she said. “It’s really an amazing opportunity for us.”
The winners said the prize has made them look at Grinnell in a new light.
“I think this is a great prize and I wish more colleges did this,” Liang said. “Social entrepreneurship is an incredibly tough line of work and it’s great to have people recognize and support it.”
The prize indeed has changed Liang’s impression about Grinnell College.
“I think it is incredible. It is definitely the leader in this space,” he said.
“It’s amazing that what [a] university or a college can do to help further its mission of social justice,” Hegranes said.
Priya Mistry, the Assistance Direction of Embrace, added that Grinnell definitely fostered innovative thinking. She said she was impressed by Grinnell graduates she had met that focused on academia and tried to make positive changes to the world.
The final winners are Jacob Wood and William McNulty from Team Rubicon, which helps veterans reintegrate into civilian life, and could not be reached for interviews. All of the winners will come to Grinnell and share their experiences at the award ceremony and symposium during the week of November 12.