Rollins College Named One of the Nation’s Best Colleges for Merit Aid

In one of a string of recent honors during the Spring 2019 semester, Sullivan Foundation partner school Rollins College was recently named to’s list of the nation’s best colleges for merit aid, ranking in the top 50 for access to merit-based financial aid.

The 50 colleges on the list award merit aid to at least one in four students, and their average award covers at least 25 percent of the tuition price.

“We extend merit-based financial aid to enable bright and promising students to join our community of learners,” says President Grant Cornwell, “and it is deeply gratifying to see these students develop and thrive at Rollins.”

Rollins offers a multitude of partial merit scholarships that range from $10,000 to $30,000, and since 2005, the College has awarded more than $16 million through the Alfond Scholars Program. ranked the colleges by a combination of overall quality, average merit grant, and share of students who receive merit grants.

Earlier this spring, Phi Theta Kappa, the premier honor society recognizing academic achievement at associate-degree-granting institutions, ranked Rollins among the nation’s best colleges for transfer students. Prior to that, Rollins’ MBA program at the Crummer Graduate School of Business was named the country’s No. 1 masters program for leadership and organization development. And College Choice in February ranked Rollins’ undergraduate business program among the best in Florida.

Photo by Scott Cook

Lees-McRae College Students Sew Pouches for Baby Marsupials in Australia

Students at Sullivan Foundation partner school Lees-McRae College, located in Banner Elk, N.C., took matters into their own hands this week to bring relief to those affected by Australian wildfires.

On Tuesday, Jan. 14, and Thursday, Jan. 16, 25 students, led by Director of Library Services Jess Bellemer, sewed 21 pouches for baby marsupials.

Related: 12-year-old social entrepreneur Darius Brown sews bowties to help shelter animals get adopted

Held in the Dotti M. Shelton Learning Commons Makerspace—a dedicated space where students can design, craft, sew, podcast, and more—Bellemer guided students of all skill levels through the process.

“The goal of the makerspace is to connect students with making skills that they’ll take with them beyond their Lees-McRae experience,” Bellemer said. “The pouch-making workshops showed them how they can use a skill such as sewing to support victims in a terrible crisis on the other side of the world. I think learning to sew and making usable materials for animals in need really clicked with the students.”

Image by Angelo Giordano from Pixabay

With pouches now at the ready, the college will ship them to the Animal Rescue Collective Craft Guild (ARCCG), an organization dedicated to “creating, sewing, building, and designing for animal rescue.” The ARCCG Facebook group has over 230,000 members sewing pouches, knitting blankets, and crafting stuffed animals.

As of now, the ARCCG has placed a hold on accepting pouches due to the massive influx of those being made. Those interested in creating pouches or any other craft are encouraged to check the Animal Rescue Crafts Guild Facebook group for updates before shipping.

Related: Hotel for dogs lets guests foster or adopt stray pups

Elon Innovation Challenge Brings Together College Students to Solve Complex Social Issues

The Sullivan Foundation will sponsor up to seven teams of students from Sullivan partner schools looking to participate in Elon University’s 2020 Elon Innovation Challenge, with a grand prize of $1,500 awarded to the first-place team.

The Elon Innovation Challenge takes place at Elon University, located in Elon, North Carolina, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 29. In addition to the $1,500 grand prize, the second-place team will win $1,000, while third place earns $600. Slots are limited, and teams will be accepted on a first-come/first-serve basis. To register as a Sullivan-sponsored team, visit and list your school as a Sullivan Foundation partner school in the registration form.

Elon University students can register here.

Non-Elon students can register here.

The deadline to register is February 12.

Hosted by Elon’s Doherty Center for Creativity, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the Elon Innovation Challenge is a competition that challenges students to problem-solve and think through big, wicked, compelling issues. The primary goal is to sharpen students’ ability to solve problems, innovate and address large social issues with an eye on creating sustainable solutions, according to Alyssa Martina, the Doherty Center’s director.

this photo depicts a team of students at the Elon Innovation Challenge

A team of students works on solving a “big, wicked, compelling” issue in the Elon Innovation Challenge.

Students from various universities will have the opportunity to explore a complex issue they likely encounter every day. Over a period of a day, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., the teams will work to develop a real solution to a real problem.  Student teams will present their solution in a “Shark Tank” type of forum to a team of judges.

Related: Elon University students learn how to “make a mark in the world” at Sullivan Ignite Retreat

“The problem is revealed at the beginning of the day when students gather to hear a guest speaker talk about the social issue,” Martina said. “Students are given packets of information with more specifics about the problem and should use the next couple of hours to understand the problem and define it in a way that can lead to a solution. The afternoon is spent ideating and brainstorming to winnow down ideas to a specific solution that is sustainable. By the end of the day, students should have a prototype developed and a slide deck prepared to present to a panel of judges.”

The solution can be a service, a product (digital, physical or both) or a campaign, or a combination of any of the above. Students will answer key questions, such as:

* How will your solution work in the real world?

* What connections are created through your solution that do not exist today?

* How will your key user/customer and the community benefit from the solution?

Students will also take part in a series of workshops centered around topics such as Human-Centered Design Thinking; Value Proposition and Customer Validation; Triple Impact Solutions; Spontaneous Innovation; Sustainability Issues; Protecting Intellectual Property; Prototyping; and Creating a Pitch Deck and Pitching Your Solution.

This photo shows judges at the Elon Innovation Challenge

Student teams compete, “Shark Tank” style, to win a grand prize of $1,500 for the best solution to a vexing social issue.

After the first round of competition, the winners will present their ideas in the Grand Finals later that same evening.

Related: Elon University’s Buddies Program receives Governor’s Award for Volunteer Service

“All students are welcome to take part in the Challenge, which is very intensive but also a lot of fun,” Martina said. “The only requirements are that teams must be formed prior to the start of the Challenge and must be comprised of between four and six students, with at least two different schools represented on the team—for instance, business and engineering or liberal arts and communications. Individuals who wish to attend and be placed on a team are also welcome.”

Previous competitions were limited to Elon University students, but the Doherty Center expanded the program to include other colleges and universities this year. “We decided to do this because it was such a success and the feedback was so positive that we felt we should include other schools to take part in this ‘wild’ experience,” Martina noted.



Study Abroad in Scotland: A “Game of Thrones” Adventure

If you were a character on Game of Thrones, which one would you be? Jon Snow, the noble, dutiful hero? Daenerys, the fierce, fearless and charismatic breaker of chains? Or are you more like Tyrion, the wily, witty, warm-hearted underdog with a penchant for peacemaking and a taste for the good life?

Students who take part in the Sullivan Foundation’s Study Abroad in Scotland adventure this summer will discover their personal leadership styles in the context of the beloved HBO show, according to Dr. Jody Holland, a University of Mississippi professor who will lead one of the two courses offered in the program.

Doune Castle near Scotland was used to depict Winterfell, the Stark family’s ancestral home, in the early episodes of Game of Thrones. HBO is reportedly planning to shoot scenes for the hit show’s prequel, House of the Dragon, in the Isle of Skye in the Scottish Highlands.

“We’re going to have some fun with it,” said Holland, an assistant professor in Ole Miss’ Department of Public Policy Leadership. “This is a Game of Thrones-oriented program. We’re going to look at some characters from Game of Thrones and identify their leadership traits and apply those [to the coursework]. We’re expecting this program to be a highly engaging, active learning process that individuals will glean a lot of information from.”

this photo shows edinburgh, home base for the Sullivan Study Abroad in Scotland program

Edinburgh will be the home base for this summer’s Study Abroad in Scotland program. (Image by Ellen26 from Pixabay)

Titled “Leading for Innovation: Study Abroad in Scotland,” the program, offered in partnership with Arcadia University, takes place June 4-July 4. Applications must be submitted by Feb. 1, and candidates who are selected to participate will be notified by Feb. 7.

Click here to learn more about the Study Abroad in Scotland program and fill out the application here.

The program is designed for students interested in social entrepreneurship and innovation. Scotland is one of the world’s leaders in the social-enterprise sector. A 2017 census conducted by the Scottish government found there were 5,600 social enterprises operating in Scotland, an increase of 8 percent over 2015. These social ventures employed more than 81,000 people and generated £3.8 billion (about $5.45 billion) in annual revenues.

Related: This Scottish social entrepreneur is the landlord every tenant deserves

But launching a social enterprise requires unique leadership skills that you can’t learn in a typical college-level business course. Holland will teach the study-abroad program’s “Leadership by Design” class, which focuses on the practice of leadership. The course examines topics such as the nature of leadership, recognizing leadership traits, developing leadership skills, creating a vision, handling conflict and overcoming obstacles, among others.

“We want students to take a self-reflective look so they can identify their own leadership philosophy, strengths and skills and really dive into that ability to self-design their leadership approach and serve as an agent of change on their campus and in their community, region and the world,” Holland said.

this photo depicts characters who inspired the Sullivan Study Abroad in Scotland program

By the end of the Study Abroad in Scotland program, you’ll know something (about social entrepeneurship), Jon Snow. (Photo by HBO)

At the same time, students will venture out of the classroom, exploring the thriving social enterprise scene in Edinburgh and other Scottish cities. “We want the students to immerse themselves in the culture and environment,” Holland said. “We’re going to have a lot of engagement with the community and with community leaders.”

Spud Marshall, the Sullivan Foundation’s Student Engagement Coordinator, said the second course, “Social Change in Action,” offers a “spiral learning dynamic.”

“We’ll start with a clear framework for creative ways to innovate around social and environmental problems,” he said. “Spiraling up from there, the students will create a case study analysis of local groups in the community that are tackling some of these social problems. They’ll be able to apply those frameworks to practical case studies and then scale up to a blueprint for social change. Students will work in teams to create unique social innovation interventions based on local groups they connect with and insights from the community.”

“We’ll bounce a lot back and forth between what social change in action looks like and the inner dimension of leading social change, making sure these students have the inner qualities they need to effect change,” Marshall added.

The first week of the program will focus on leadership, while the second week takes students out into the community to learn from social-enterprise leaders and changemakers. “During the third week, we’ll really start to dive into the principles of social entrepreneurship, and the students will start to develop their own blueprints for effective change,” Marshall said. “And in the fourth week, we’ll package it all together with a focus on effective storytelling and communication techniques students can use to properly convey their ideas and pitch the projects they want to bring into the world.”

Related: Scottish government commits millions to funding social enterprises in 2020

Throughout the month-long program, co-curricular events will immerse students in Scottish culture and provide day-trip opportunities. Past excursions have ranged from a Highlands Games day to a Scottish dancing experience and visits to Rosslyn Chapel and the Scottish Borders. Students will be housed in flats at the University of Edinburgh.

The fee for the program is $4,740, which covers six hours of academic credit, housing, site visits and tours, health and accident insurance, 24-hour emergency support and local transportation in Edinburgh. A limited number of Scotland study-abroad scholarships, ranging between $500 and $1,000, are available for students who attend the Sullivan Foundation’s partner schools. For more information on the scholarships, contact Merry Huddleston at


The Comforts of Home: Scottish Social Entrepreneur Is the Landlord Every Tenant Deserves

Susan Aktemel was a social entrepreneur in Scotland before most Scots even knew the word. Now she’s considered a national leader in the social-enterprise sector, thanks especially to her second venture, Homes For Good, which helps people in need find affordable high-quality housing.

Based in Glasgow, Homes For Good, a joint venture with London-based social-impact investors Impact Ventures UK, was Scotland’s first mission-driven letting agent. Letting is a term similar in meaning to leasing—it relates to renting properties to tenants for a limited duration.

Related: Want to get first-hand experience with Scotland’s social-enterprise sector? Join the Sullivan Foundation’s Study Abroad in Scotland trip to Edinburgh this summer.

Homes For Good works with people and families with limited housing choices, including those who are experiencing or are on the verge of homelessness. The company manages a portfolio of around 500 homes and works with 130 landlords and 800 tenants in the Glasgow area and western Scotland. It uses a holistic approach to supporting its tenants, helping them with benefits claims, financial management, cooking meals, education and getting mental health support.

In addition to attracting more than €12 million from investors since its inception, Homes For Good won the Excellence in the Private Rented Sector award at the CIH Scotland Excellence Awards in 2019. “Over half of our staff have personal experience of poor conditions in privately rented homes, while our support model was produced with tenants with direct experience of insecure and low-quality rental housing,” Aktemel said at the time.

this photo shows Susan Aktemel, founder of Homes For Good

Susan Aktemel, founder of Homes For Good in Glasgow, Scotland.

The social venture also received €2.4 million in funding from Scotland’s National Lottery Community Fund (NLCF) last September.

Aktemel entered the social-venture field in 1994 with Impact Arts, a community arts management agency. The business uses the arts and creativity to bring about social change, working with children, young people and the elderly. Prior to founding Impact Arts, she taught adult literacy in poor sections of Glasgow. “I ended up working with people who couldn’t read and write their own names and addresses in one of the most deprived parts of the city,” she said in an interview with the Impact Boom podcast. “That made me take the decision that I was going to focus my professional time on helping people change their lives.”

Related: Scottish government commits millions to funding social enterprises in 2020

In an August 2018 interview with the International Network of Street Papers (INSP), Aktemel said she launched Homes For Good after working with letting agencies during her 10-plus years as a private landlord and seeing firsthand the problems faced by vulnerable renters. She decided to start her own letting agency and use her experience as a social entrepreneur “to run it totally differently.”

“It all stemmed from dissatisfaction with letting agents, both from my position as a landlord and from my tenants,” she told INSP. “We started up on a shoestring, and there was a gradual build-up, so in that sense it started similarly to many social enterprises. What made the logistical beginning of the business different was [that] my track record was more experienced than most start-ups, and so we had more momentum. I saw a need, a gap in the letting agent business model—this massive social need—so I looked to fill it.”

She said she designed the business model “from an aggrieved standpoint: letting agents would always deliver rent late, there was a lack of communication, always issues with repairs, and unpleasant surprises.”

Aktemel’s approach is focused on improving communications among all parties involved in a letting agreement. “We try to build relationships,” she told INSP. “We look for tenants that we’re not setting up to fail, and we’re giving people homes and relating to them as people rather than customers or clients or someone simply to get money from. We are all just human beings.”

Related: Sullivan Foundation announces Study Abroad in Scotland program for 2020

“We work across the whole letting market—not just with marginalized people—as this is what keeps the business model viable,” she added. “But, importantly, no matter what type of home you end up with, no matter the location, no matter the price or rent, everyone is treated the same.”

the Homes For Good building

In the Impact Boom podcast, Aktemel said social enterprise has blossomed in Scotland in part because it’s such a small country. “What that means is that you can get access to who you need to access very quickly,” she explained. “The networks are good. Because we’ve got devolved government, we have access to politicians.”

Scotland’s government “gets social enterprise,” she added. Even with shifts in political winds, “the commitment to social enterprise has strengthened, so when government gets behind something and then puts the resources in place and talks about it, that’s when things can start to happen. So over the last 10 [or] 12 years, there has been this brilliant ecosystem for social enterprise that has been created in Scotland, where, if you have an idea and you need 2,000 pounds, there’s an organization that can help you—right through to if you need to raise a seven-figure investment, there’s an organization that can help you. And lots of different organizations in between.”


Teeniors Helps Teens, Senior Citizens Bond Through Technology

Senior citizens know a lot about life, but digital technology leaves many of them stumped and feeling isolated in a fast-paced, rapidly evolving world. A social enterprise called Teeniors, located in Albuquerque, works to solve that problem by matching elderly adults with tech-savvy young people who can explain the complexities of using a smartphone, computer or tablet.

Founder Trish Lopez first pitched the idea for Teeniors at the inaugural Startup Weekend Women’s event in New Mexico in 2015. After winning first place in the competition, Teeniors was chosen to participate in a local business accelerator and soon acquired its first client. Operating as a small social venture with a nonprofit arm, Teeniors has tutored more than 2,000 older adults in Albuquerque while providing paid, meaningful work to dozens of teenagers and millennials, according to the company’s website.

this photo shows a Teeniors teen with an elderly client

A tutor from Teeniors helps a senior citizen understand how to operate her smartphone.

In a recent story by NPR, Lopez said she started the company after seeing her own mother struggling with her computer. “She’d lose a password, she’d lose a document, and then she didn’t know some simple commands like Control Z that could undo everything she had just done,” Lopez told NPR. “And so she would start all over again.”

Related: Editor of Rhodes College’s street newspaper hopes to drive social change through economics

Teenagers who work in the Teeniors program develop fundamental “people skills,” such as patience, empathy and listening. Their senior-adult pupils learn how to operate their smartphones, navigate their tablets, and create, save and print documents on laptops and desktops. The teenage tutors also teach seniors the ins and outs of everything from Apple TVs to Amazon Echo.

Teeniors offers private individual sessions and group events. Private sessions at the Teeniors office cost $49.95 per hour, while sessions at the client’s home cost $59.95 per hour. Group sessions cost between $300 and $500, depending on the number of attendees.

The young tutors, meanwhile, earn $15 an hour for individual lessons and $10 an hour for group sessions.

Trish Lopez, founder of Teeniors

Teeniors launched a nonprofit arm in 2017, thus qualifying for grants to expand its services to low-income clients who can’t afford to pay. So far, the nonprofit has won $115,000 in grants from Comcast, Facebook, Hewitt Packard, Blue Cross Blue Shield New Mexico, the Albuquerque Community Foundation and the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, the Albuquerque Journal reports. Teeniors uses the grant money to offer free workshops throughout central New Mexico.

According to the Albuquerque Journal, Facebook last year awarded Teeniors a $40,000 grant to provide up to 60 free workshops at five senior centers in Valencia County. The social media giant wants to make sure consumers can use technology to improve their lives, William Marks, Facebook’s Western Region community development manager, told the newspaper.

“Teeniors takes the next generation of students and links them with generations of adults who didn’t grow up with technology,” Marks said. “It helps make the adults’ lives better, and it builds real connections by allowing teens and seniors to share and learn about each other, and the teens are getting paid. Everyone at Facebook just loves the program.”

Related: Students at Berry College help preserve elderly patients’ memories with heirloom books

Camilla Dodson, a 76-year-old who moved to the U.S. from Lesotho in southern Africa in 2000, said her workshop experience with Teeniors has liberated her. “Now I can carry the phone in the car, and I can make a 911 call if I need to or take pictures,” she told the Albuquerque Journal. “Now I’m free like everyone else.”

this photo shows Kaitlyn Akron, a Teeniors tutor

Teeniors tutor Kaitlyn Akron

Kaitlyn Akron, an 18-year-old college freshman, started working for Teeniors when she was just 14. “It’s given me a lot of confidence in myself to talk with people and to realize I can teach others about things that I know,” she told the Albuquerque Journal. “It’s really fulfilling. People would think it’s stressful coaching older people, but I love seeing that ‘a-ha’ moment when they get it.”

“I think that’s why we’ve been so successful,” Lopez told NPR. “The intergenerational learning experience is really remarkable, and that’s why I always say the main service we provide is not tech support. It is human connection.”

Gearing Up for an Exciting 2020

By Steve McDavid, President, Algernon Sydney Sullivan Foundation

Welcome to the Spring 2020 edition of Engage. This issue offers a wide range of feature stories, from student experiences at our Summer 2019 study-abroad program in Prague and Berry College’s first-ever Sullivan Scholar to a look back at one of Rollins College’s most beloved alumni—Fred Rogers of “Mister Rogers” fame.

We’re also excited about upcoming Sullivan events and programs scheduled for the spring and summer of 2020. First up: Our Spring Ignite Retreat, which takes place March 27-29 in Wake Forest, N.C. Once again Spud Marshall will lead our student attendees on a changemaking adventure, and he has recruited an impressive roster of facilitators to guide them on their journey. These include returning favorites like Josh Nadzam of On the Move Art Studio and Reagan Pugh of Assemble as well as several newcomers, such as Jarren Small of Reading With a Rapper and U-Turn’s Adrienne Wright. Additionally, the Sullivan Summit for Faculty and Staff, to be held in conjunction with the Ignite Retreat, will provide a professional development opportunity that will deepen attendees’ understanding of social entrepreneurship. The deadline to register for both the Ignite Retreat and the Sullivan Summit is March 11.

Meanwhile, students with a passion for social change and entrepreneurship will get a chance to put their skills to work in one of the country’s most impoverished cities—Selma, Alabama—during this summer’s inaugural Selma Community Innovation Immersion Program. From May 17 through June 5, participants will work with Edmundite Missions, which has served people in need for more than 80 years. Students will spend this two-week period mentoring youths, improving community food programs and developing a marketing plan for the Edmundites’ social enterprises. Applications for this program are due April 3.

We’ll also offer a once-in-a-lifetime study-abroad opportunity in Edinburgh, Scotland, from June 4 through July 4. Students will meet and learn from leading social entrepreneurs while taking two courses: Leadership by Design, which focuses on the practice of leadership, and Social Change in Action, an introduction to the emerging field of social entrepreneurship and innovation. The deadline for this program, offered in partnership with Arcadia University, is coming up fast—Feb. 7—so sign up now.

We anticipate that 2020 will be an exciting year for the Sullivan Foundation, and we hope it will be equally productive for our partner schools and their faculty, staff and students. We welcome your feedback on this issue of Engage and invite you to suggest story ideas for our Fall 2020 issue as well. As always, thank you for your support.

Hailey McMahon: Meet Berry College’s First Sullivan Scholar

By Faythe Choate, Berry College Public Relations Student Assistant 

Berry College has awarded its first-ever Sullivan Scholarship to a freshman with a passion for animal welfare – animal science major Hailey McMahon. She has been awarded $10,000 annually for her four years of study at Berry, the Sullivan Foundation partner school recently announced.

Sullivan Scholarships are awarded to students who demonstrate model character and a commitment to service above self, aligning with the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Foundation’s ideal traits of character, including honesty, morality, ethics, responsibility, determination, courage and compassion.

Before coming to Berry, McMahon was involved in youth leadership and volunteered in her school’s Biology Club, cleaning animal cages and coordinating events for elementary school students. She also worked with a Marine Science Station to replant eel-grass and assisted with hurricane clean-up in Florida. McMahon cares deeply about animals, specifically felines. She hopes to use her time at Berry as a Sullivan Scholar to explore and promote animal welfare in the community.

“I’m researching organizations in Rome (Ga.) that have trap, neuter and return programs,” McMahon said. “Every cat deserves a chance to thrive. Just because they may not live in your home doesn’t mean they’re not worthy.”

this photo depicts Hailey McMahon, winner of the Sullivan Scholarship at Berry College

Hailey McMahon, who earned the first-ever Sullivan Scholarship at Berry College, majors in animal science. (Photo by Bryan Chamberlain/Berry College)

Students apply for the Sullivan Scholarship with an essay detailing their careers of service, leadership and community outreach. Recipients are asked to remain in good academic standing. Recipients are also expected to actively participate in community engagement such as service, community-based research, or social entrepreneurship.

The Algernon Sydney Sullivan Foundation’s roots date back to the 1880s when U.S. President Grover Cleveland and a group of other influential persons created the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award to honor those that inspire a life of integrity and service. Recipients include First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell, Fred Rogers of “Mister Rogers” fame, and Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, to name a few. In addition to the award, the Foundation has been funding service-based Sullivan Scholarships at colleges across the American South since 1925.

The Sullivan Foundation remains dedicated to alleviating socio-economic issues. Today, the Foundation remains as strong as ever and is expanding the reach of the Sullivan spirit by focusing on social entrepreneurship education, which equips universities, students and community members with the tools necessary to apply business models to social issues.

“I have a strong belief that this program will help me achieve so many wonderful things throughout my years here at Berry and those that follow,” McMahon wrote. “I can’t wait to further develop my leadership skills and social skills and to really dive into how I can help my community.”

Nationally recognized for academic excellence and as an outstanding educational value, Berry College is an independent, coeducational, comprehensive liberal arts college of approximately 2,100 students. For more than a century, the college has offered an exceptional education that balances intellectual exploration, practical learning, and character development. Its 27,000-acre campus is the world’s largest. Visit




A History Overlooked

By Lindsey Nair

MaKayla Lorick, winner of the 2019 Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award at Washington and Lee University (W&L), can trace her love of stories to early childhood, when her grandparents told lively yarns about their younger years. She followed that thread to W&L, where it has afforded her the opportunity to seek and record some of the university’s most important overlooked tales.

Lorick, a senior English major, has been working since the summer of 2018 on a multi-institutional project that aims to incorporate more African-American perspectives into the history of desegregation and integration at private Southern schools. Her role allows her to comb through W&L’s Special Collections and gather oral histories from black alumni, faculty and staff.

MaKayla Lorick received the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award from Washington and Lee University in 2019.

“It’s such an exciting thing to dip your fingers into history and to listen to other people’s stories,” she said. “It betters your life and the lives of others. Just to color in one person’s perspective on history is beautiful.”

The overall project, “Pathway to Diversity: Uncovering Our Collections,” is a collaboration with Centre College and Sullivan Foundation partner schools Furman University and Rollins College, and is funded by a grant from Associated Colleges of the South (ACS). Along with its partner institutions, W&L is working to build a shared digital archive of information regarding the history of desegregation and integration at these schools. At W&L, the project is being led by Mellon Digital Humanities Fellow and Visiting Assistant Professor of English Sydney Bufkin, with support from Tom Camden, head of Special Collections and Archives.

The Slow Pace of Integration

Compared to public colleges and universities in the South, whose public status and reliance on federal funding forced them to integrate in the wake of Brown vs. Board of Education, Bufkin said, “the history of integration at W&L looks very different. It’s quieter, but also less effective and slower. We are grappling with the consequences of a response to integration that really, when you look at the documents and history, appears to be an attempt to do as little as possible… It is a history that we continue to live, so I think recognizing some of the ways the institution has dealt with race—or not dealt with race—historically is really valuable and is something we can address a little more head-on, especially as we try to do things differently.”

Related: Learn more about how students like MaKayla Lorick qualify for the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award.

Washington and Lee’s board of trustees did not take action regarding integration until a full decade after Brown vs. Board, in July 1964, with a statement that was viewed by most as deliberately vague and uninspired. Without using the words “integration,” “desegregation” or “race,” it simply stated that no policy of discrimination existed at W&L. It was accompanied by no effort to recruit students of color or make W&L a more welcoming place for them.

Another eight years passed before Carl Linwood Smothers and Walter Blake became the first African-American graduates of W&L in 1972. The W&L School of Law had awarded its first degree to a black student, Leslie Devan Smith Jr., in 1969.

Initial goals for the ACS project included identifying materials currently in Special Collections that belong in the digital archive; creating an annotated bibliography; collecting oral histories from alumni, faculty and staff; and determining how to incorporate those materials into the curriculum. As Bufkin considered the oral history piece, she said, she immediately thought of Lorick, who had taken her African-American literature class.

photo MaKayla Lorick speaking to an audience

MaKayla Lorick has been combing through W&L’s Special Collections and gathering oral histories from black alumni, faculty and staff.

English professor Lesley Wheeler agreed that Lorick, her advisee, would be a perfect fit, as she has an interest in digital humanities, and spent the summer of 2016 assisting history professor Ted DeLaney on an African-American history project in Special Collections. (Since becoming involved in the project, Lorick was also selected to be a member of the Working Group on the History of African Americans at W&L). Although the ACS grant does not cover student researchers, Bufkin was able to fund Lorick’s role with Mellon Digital Humanities summer research funding and, as the academic year commenced, with a Mellon Digital Humanities Fellowship.

What started as a simple summer job search became something incredibly meaningful, Lorick said. “I thought I was just going to get some random summer job on campus but Professor Wheeler really opened a door with one tiny conversation. Stumbling onto this project is one of the best things that’s happened to me. It’s really serendipity.”

Lorick began by reading sections of Mame Warren’s 1998 history, “Come Cheer for Washington and Lee” and Blaine Brownell’s “Washington and Lee University: 1930-2000.” She also scoured yearbooks, scrapbooks, newspapers, letters and other sources in Special Collections to start a list of people to approach for oral histories.

While the project was initially focused on black men who graduated in 1974, the first year with a noteworthy number of black graduates (17), Lorick and Bufkin soon realized that scope was too narrow. They also knew that Warren had already collected oral histories from those men. Lorick wanted to include the perspectives of black women, who had not been interviewed for Warren’s book, so she began to build a list from the first few years of coeducation at W&L, from 1985-1990. She also wanted to include faculty and staff, not just alumni.

Recording History

Midway through the summer, it was time to start scheduling interviews. Over the next couple of months, she would record conversations with Ted Delaney ’85, associate professor of history at W&L and a Lexington native; Edwin Walker, a retired Print Shop employee; Stephanie Coleman ’89; Willard Dumas III ’91; and Marquita Dunn, who retired from Dining Services. These interviews included questions about the subject’s first impressions of Lexington and W&L, and their experiences connected to integration and/or coeducation.

Some interview subjects recalled negative experiences at Washington and Lee, such as a white boyfriend’s reluctance to escort his black girlfriend on the homecoming court, or white professors taking advantage of a black employee’s intellect and work ethic while denying him the respect and upward mobility he deserved. But Lorick said she was surprised to find that the interviews were, for the most part, positive.

“It ended up being more positive than I expected,” she said. “Interview subjects do not forget about the bad, but they are better able to remember the good.”

Lorick said she also had to work through some disappointment over the lack of detail provided about segregation in Lexington, particularly about the relationships between white and black citizens. “When the first individual told me that there was nothing more to say, I thought, there has to be! But as I began to unravel the project a little bit more, I thought more about what segregation must have looked like, and in the end they were totally right. They didn’t really know their neighbors, and that was just the culture.”

Recording these views and closing even the smallest gaps in W&L’s institutional history has been fulfilling, Lorick said. As a first-year student, she was frustrated by the lack of black perspectives in the archives; now, through her work as an upperclassman, she will be directly responsible for changing other students’ experiences.

“I thought that W&L wasn’t making a big enough effort to cover the staff, faculty, students and alumni. When I came upon this project, I knew that there was a choice that I had to make and it was exciting and thrilling. I get to go through these archives all the time and I see the people who have recorded history. This time, I’ll be the one recording history.”

Digging Deeper
One requirement of the ACS grant was that each of the four colleges incorporate findings into a course. At W&L, that course was “Race, Memory, Nation,” a first-year Fall Term writing seminar taught by Assistant English Professor Ricardo Wilson. Wilson spent considerable time with Bufkin and Lorick in Special Collections over the summer to develop the course, which delved into issues of race, integration and civil rights.

another photo showing MaKayla Lorick at work

MaKayla Lorick gets ready to conduct an interview as Professor Ricardo Wilson and his students look on. (Photo by Kevin Remington)

With guidance from Lorick and Wilson, the students conducted research and selected topics about which they were required to produce video essays as final projects in the course. The four groups decided to focus on integration in athletics, coeducation, and two pivotal moments in W&L history: the 1923 football game against Washington and Jefferson University, and the board of trustees’ 1961 decision to not invite Martin Luther King Jr. to speak at W&L.

The group that focused on integration in athletics secured on-camera interviews with four former W&L athletes, including its first African-American athlete, Dennis Haston ’70. Haston, who ran track and field, and former basketball player Eugene Perry ’75, ‘78L, recounted upsetting incidents both on and off campus. In one example, Perry was invited by a coach to try out for the basketball team, only to find out the team had already been selected and jerseys had been ordered. But the men said they also found allies at W&L, including white fellow athletes.

“At the time when I came to W&L, I didn’t come to W&L to be a pioneer. But now if people look at me, they want to say, ‘You were a pioneer.’” Haston said. “I was one of the first ones to … open the door for other African-Americans to come. Maybe because of me doing that, it has made it easier for other students to come. I’m glad I had the opportunity. If I had to live my life over again, I would still do it. I have no regrets about the decision I made.”

Related: Read MaKayla Lorick’s Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award Biography here.

The hours of raw interview footage collected by Wilson’s students has been sent to Special Collections, where it will bolster Lorick’s contributions and strengthen the university’s overall archive of materials related to desegregation and integration. Wilson is cautiously optimistic about what he sees as positive strides toward confronting some of the university’s most difficult history and smoothing the way for future students of color.

“In general in the U.S., we have a tough time confronting our history, and W&L is certainly at a critical moment where I think there is great possibility,” he said. “It is also something we have to approach carefully because we have a chance to set the tone and make an example, not only in the region but also to other academic institutions.

“How fortunate we are to have someone like MaKayla Lorick, with a blend of extraordinary talent and extraordinary passion,” he said. “To have someone like her involved in this project is a good first step.”

Next Steps
MaKayla Lorick plans to present her findings during Black Alumni Reunion weekend (March 8-9). She also has received a Johnson Opportunity Grant for summer 2019, which will allow her to gather more oral histories and develop a digital exhibit. She has begun to share her findings on her project website. As she prepares to graduate in December 2019, she will hand off the project to other students. One, Rose Hein ’22, has already been awarded a summer research scholar position to contribute to the ACS project.

Tom Camden, head of Special Collections and Archives at W&L, helps students in Professor Ricardo Wilson’s class, “Race, Memory, Nation,” as they begin research for their final projects. (Photo by Kevin Remington)

“Our hope is that this material and some of these questions will continue to be integrated into the classroom so students can be exposed and they can continue to work,” Bufkin said. “I think we are really excited to have this material support student-driven projects…It is a very collaborative effort. Nobody owns it or has a single direction.”

For MaKayla Lorick, what started as a two-month summer gig grew into an experience that she says “has really shaped me, has made me stronger, and has made me think that in a couple of years the university will truly be better.” She hopes that her daughter, Zara, 2, will someday become a General and will see her mother’s name on documents in university archives — a very different experience from her own.

“I can’t even imagine how that would have felt for me to see my mom’s name recording histories,” she said. “I hope that she can have that experience and she can know that anything is possible, that you can touch the stars and that you can be a history maker, and you can be on the right side of history, too.”

This story has been adapted slightly from the original version appearing on the Washington and Lee University website.

A Life-Changing Summer in Prague

Steeped in history and brimming with bohemian allure, Prague has a famously romantic past, but for Sullivan Scholar Lori Kaitlyn Babb, it also offers a glimpse of a dazzling future in which innovative young thinkers like herself take the lead in building a better world.

A senior biology major at Campbell University who also serves as a Sullivan Ambassador, Babb spent the month of July 2019 in the Czech Republic’s capital city in a Sullivan-sponsored study-abroad experience. The program included two courses, Social Entrepreneurship + Global Change and Philosophies of Leadership, plus an excursion to Vienna, where Babb and her fellow students visited one of the four United Nations headquarters, and a weekend getaway to Budapest, Hungary.

The scenery in Prague is nothing short of spectacular—towering Gothic cathedrals, magnificent castles plucked from the pages of fairy tales, an ancient astronomical clock with moving figures of the 12 apostles. But the coursework was equally eye-opening, Babb said, thanks to the tutelage of Sullivan Foundation President Steve McDavid; Dr. Jody Holland, an assistant professor in the University of Mississippi’s Department of Public Policy Leadership; and Heather McDougall, founder and executive director of Leadership exCHANGE.

this photo shows the subject's excitement to visit the John Lennon Wall in Prague

Lori Babb, a Sullivan Ambassador and Sullivan Scholar, poses at the John Lennon Wall during a Sullivan study-abroad experience in Prague.

“On the academic side, I found the two courses to be incredibly formative in my thought-theory approaches to the ‘soft sciences,’” Babb said. “As a science major, a majority of my schoolwork is in the ‘hard sciences,’ but I loved exploring the social sciences, where methodologies have great variety and there isn’t always a concrete ‘right’ way to do something.”

Expecting the Unexpected

While social enterprise and leadership were the key subjects of study, the focus “expanded outside of just the classroom and syllabus,” Babb noted. The program included presentations by active social entrepreneurs who had gone through the study-abroad program in years past. “To be able to see and meet those who experienced the same program and who took those strides to ignite change and create social enterprises was incredibly inspiring,” she said. “It also emphasizes how life-changing this summer abroad can be if you utilize and maximize the skills and resources the program provides.”

Babb learned to expect the unexpected, too—and to embrace challenges to her viewpoint. “The greatest surprise (of the experience) would probably be learning that sometimes you don’t always get quite the answers you expect from the questions you ask,” Babb reflected. “Meaning you have to be expectant of the curveballs that not only business or academia throws at you, but, truly, life as a whole. I thrive in structure and long-term planning, but, realistically, no one can plan for everything.

this photo shows the beauty of Viennese architecture

As part of the Sullivan study-abroad program in Prague, Lori Babb and fellow students made a trip to Vienna, Austria.

“This is a life lesson that I didn’t foresee learning in a traditional classroom setting, but the classrooms were innovative on all fronts. Oftentimes, as we delved into project development or topic brainstorming, Dr. Holland would challenge our ideas with nonconventional ideals or devil’s-advocate perspectives. It helped shift my thought process to anticipate hardships and adapt when those inevitable problems arise.”

Building a Sustainable World

Throughout her study-abroad experience, Babb gained inspiration from many Europeans’ commitment to protecting the environment, practicing sustainability and reducing single-use plastic. “Anyone who knows me knows how passionate I am about sustainability,” she said. “I loved seeing the strides Eastern European countries were making towards a more sustainable community. For example, when grocery shopping, most people either bring a reusable tote/bag or carry their groceries out in-hand because plastic bags must be purchased. They cost just a couple of crowns, the equivalent of about a nickel. But that small price promotes bringing your own means of transport, which lessens the need for single-use plastic.”

Many restaurant customers also do their part for the environment by supplying their reusable own takeout or to-go containers rather than pay an extra fee. They can even order smaller portions to cut back on leftovers. “Not only does this limit plastic usage, but it also helps lessen food waste,” Babb noted. “In similar efforts, within Prague, plastic straws are not readily available or distributed or, in many cases, the straws are eco-friendly. These changes are slight, yet the sum of each person’s efforts will make a difference. I would love to see American entrepreneurs and governmental policy move towards sustainability in a similar manner.”

Babb enjoys a visit to Prague’s famous astronomical clock.

As a biology major, Babb has a particular interest in bioethics as well as social entrepreneurship. She plans to pursue graduate-level studies in bioethics with a focus on science policy. “I would like to steer towards the creation of a venture that can facilitate social change through the intersection of science, art and entrepreneurship,” she said. “During our tour of the United Nations of Vienna, I was overtaken with inspiration from the interdisciplinary work facilitated at an international level within those four walls where I was standing.”

Fired Up at the Ignite Retreat

Prior to her summer in Prague, Babb had attended the Sullivan Foundation’s Spring 2019 Ignite Retreat. That event, coupled with her study-abroad experience, got her fired up to represent the Sullivan Foundation as a Sullivan Ambassador on the Campbell University campus. “I recognized the greatness of what the Sullivan Foundation has to offer through its programming and events, and it feels almost selfish to keep it to myself,” she said. “I truly think these experiences shifted the big-picture trajectory of my life.”

“I learned how to widen my scope when approaching not only academics or business but in all aspects,” Babb continued. “This mindset of igniting change and working towards a common good shifts your perspective on everything. During my year as a Sullivan Ambassador, I hope I’m able to be that pivotal link for other students who yearn to leave a mark on this world and the Sullivan Foundation, which can help teach them the skills to do so.”

So, all in all, what did she take away from her month-long adventure in Prague? “Never underestimate the greatness you hold within you,” Babb concluded. “Hone your skill sets, continually learn from the world around you and harness your internal power. You can change the world.”