We believe students can change the world. optiMize unleashes that potential by creating inspiring environments for students to take action.
Jeff Sorensen and Tim Pituch co-founded optiMize in 2012 while they were students at Michigan. Since then, optiMize has become a supportive community where students from all backgrounds come together to work collaboratively toward a just and sustainable future. The community is led by a full-time team, a student-led core team, and volunteer FOOs (we’ll explain… keep reading).
Our main program is the optiMize Social Innovation Challenge—a co-curricular program that provides workshops, mentorship, and funding to grow an idea into real impact. So far, our community has helped 1200 students launch 300 social impact projects. Students choose their own projects, and we welcome everything from urban farming to financial coaching to virtual reality gaming.
Early on, we started inviting non-students to be mentors and helpers! They give us feedback on our work, share resources, and use their wide range of experiences and backgrounds to make our community more inclusive. We’ve also gotten awesome support from partners like The Honest Company, Menlo Innovations, The United Way and Zingerman’s.
Pretty soon, impact-minded donors started supporting student projects with grants to work full-time for the summer. As of now we support 15 projects with a total of $170,000 every summer to become optiMize Fellows. Some optiMize Fellows have gone on to raise up to 100x in follow on funding.
After two years, the University of Michigan asked us to create a new full-time division that collaborates with the student-led optiMize community. Our founders lead that department now. In addition to our co-curricular work, we’ve been developing innovative courses for Michigan’s curriculum. So far we’ve launched seven!
We hope you’ll join us and start optimizing!