“Social Entrepreneur” Visits with Strategy Students

HICAAlthough she has never described herself as one, Isabel Rubio is a “social entrepreneur.” Rubio is the founder and CEO of the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama, and she recently discussed her organization and its strategy with students in the combined undergraduate capstone and MBA class, “Strategic Leadership Through the Eyes of the C-Suite”.

Social entrepreneurs recognize social problems in a community and then provide innovative solutions. Business entrepreneurs recognize an unmet need in the marketplace and then provide innovative solutions.

Rubio, who holds a bachelor of science degree in social work from UAB, described to students how she came up with the idea of an organization designed to integrate Hispanic individuals into the Birmingham community while working as a social worker at UAB. She incorporated the organization as a tax-exempt, non-profit corporation in 1999, and started its operations as its first and only employee two years later. Today, the organization has over 20 employees and a budget of over $1.2 million. Most importantly, it annually provides services to thousands of Latinos who are seeking to thrive as citizens of Alabama.

HICA works to keep Hispanic families strong by ensuring that victims of domestic abuse know how to use the judicial system. The organization also helps its clients build strong financial lives. One example of this work is its income tax return assistance. HICA advocates for fair immigration reform and advocated against Alabama’s H.B. 56 immigration law, most of which was recently invalidated. 

A group of students who had researched HICA made a presentation to Ms. Rubio. The students encouraged her to update the organization’s website. Rubio reported that a new site is set to launch shortly.

Students in “Strategic Leadership Through the Eyes of the C-Suite” focus on the strategies of for-profit businesses. However, students are also given the opportunity to compare the strategic planning process of businesses with the process for non-profit organizations that support the community, such as HICA. This semester, students also studied Callahan Eye Hospital, a tax-exempt eye hospital affiliated with UAB.

“Strategic Leadership Through the Eyes of the C-Suite” is taught by School of Business professor Stephen Yoder, and features visits from members of the executive suites of public or other organizations who discuss their organizations’ strategies and how they are developed and implemented.