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Ted Buchanan

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Carnegie professor doing real good in and out of Africa

Laura Murphy, the Carnegie Corporation of New York Social Entrepreneurship Professor, is part of a new cohort of scholars hand-picked to inform the next generation of thinking on social innovation. 

September 16, 2011Laura Murphy

Maureen King
mking2@tulane.edu

When President Scott Cowen received the Carnegie Corporation of New York Leadership Award in 2009, a $500,000 grant accompanied the honor. Last year, Cowen dedicated a portion of the gift to five social entrepreneurship professorships that would stimulate Tulane's culture of creativity and engagement.

On July 1, Laura Murphy, clinical associate professor in the Department of Global Health Systems and Development at the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, became the inaugural Carnegie Corporation of New York Social Entrepreneurship Professor.

Since then, she and her colleagues have taken on the task of developing an undergraduate coordinate major in social entrepreneurship along with a set of new courses and collaborations that embrace Andrew Carnegie's vision of doing "real and permanent good in this world."

Murphy's excitement about the new major is palpable, and she is keen on including students in the process. "When you talk about social entrepreneurship with public health students, it isn't about the market or making money," she says. "Their primary interest is change-making."

Murphy received the President's Award for Excellence in Professional and Graduate Teaching in 2008. Her courses are infused with themes of technology, health and well-being – enriched by her research on social change in rural areas and Africa's HIV/AIDS epidemic. In 2010, Murphy and a colleague with the nonprofit Trust for Indigenous Culture and Health met with President Barack Obama's grandmother, Sarah Obama, in the remote village of Kogelo, Kenya.

Murphy and "Mama Obama," as she is affectionately known, discussed their mutual interest in kitchen gardens and using good nutrition and herbal medicine to treat infection – just one of the many challenges facing AIDS-affected families and children in the region.

Murphy also is examining how mobile phones are used in rural Africa, where electricity and landlines are scarce, and building an applied research agenda with nonprofits in New Orleans and Kenya such as UniqueEco, a social venture that repurposes flip-flops to clean waterways and create jobs.

Murphy's office door is propped open with a doorstop crafted from the old sandals. "It was trash. Now it has a function," she says. "Small things matter."

Maureen King is a writer in the Office of Development.

 

 

 

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