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Our Stories

Governance and Social Responsibility : Business Students Inspired by Social Entrepreneurship

Students at Playability
Maria Billis (front left) and Ernesto Carrizoza (back center) join other social entrepreneurship course students Jayne Turner, Nicholas Ufford, and Karen Flores
at Tucson's PlayAbility Toys.
Photo courtesy Maria Billis.

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May 2011

By Liz Warren-Pederson

Maria Billias and Ernesto Carrizoza, both seniors at the Eller College, got their first exposure to Tucson-based special needs toy company PlayAbility Toys in a social entrepreneurship class taught by Stephen Gilliland, professor of management and organizations and department head.

In a visit to the class, the company’s CEO, Marty Fox, explained that seven to 12 million kids in the U.S. have some form of special needs – but toys in the mainstream market have not been designed with them in mind. PlayAbility Toys partners with families and therapists to design and manufacture high-quality toys aimed at engaging children with visual or auditory impairments, autism, physical limitations, developmental delays, or cognitive disabilities.

The company’s senior managers believe so strongly in the mission that they do not take salaries.

When Gilliland later sent his students information about internship opportunities with PlayAbility Toys, both Billias and Carrizoza jumped at the chance. They have spent the spring semester working for Fox, who is also an adjunct lecturer at the Eller College, and Sara Larson, sales and marketing director for PlayAbility Toys.

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