“Navigating the Unknown”: How Can Social Entrepreneurs Make a Difference During the Coronavirus Pandemic?

The Sullivan Foundation continues its innovative series of webinars, called “Navigating the Unknown,” on Friday, April 3, with guests Reagan Pugh of Assemble and Dustin Betz of Founder Institute.

The fourth installment in the series, the Friday webinar takes place via Zoom and Facebook Live from 5-6 p.m. (ET). Hosted by Spud Marshall, the Sullivan Foundation’s director of student engagement, it will focus on the role that social enterprises and social leaders can play in helping communities survive and emerge from the coronavirus crisis.

Pugh is a past presenter at the biannual Ignite Retreats hosted by the Sullivan Foundation each spring and fall in North Carolina. This spring’s event had to be canceled due to health concerns.

Here’s more information about the Friday webinar’s guests:

photo of Reagan Pugh at the Three Circle Summit

Reagan Pugh, co-founder of Assemble, has guided initiatives on storytelling, culture and leadership development at companies like Nike, Pepsico and Kimberly Clark.

Reagan Pugh, Assemble: As co-founder of Assemble, Reagan delivers workshops and keynote speeches on personal effectiveness and leadership development around the country. Assemble designs workshops to help teams better collaborate, from strategy meetings and yearly reviews to weekend retreats or brainstorming sessions. Pugh was formerly chief storyteller for the innovation consulting firm Kalypso and guided initiatives on storytelling, culture and leadership at companies like Nike, Pepsico and Kimberly Clark.

Dustin Betz of Founder Institute

Dustin Betz, Founder Institute: Dustin manages community and content for the Founder Institute, the world’s largest pre-seed startup accelerator. Founder Institute has helped launch more than 4,000 companies in 180-plus cities, and its portfolio companies exceed $20 billion in estimated value. Founder Institute helps pre-seed entrepreneurs and teams get traction and funding by establishing a critical support network of local startup experts that are invested in their success.

You can learn more about how to take part in the “Navigating the Unknown” webinars at our Facebook Event Page or simply join the Zoom call at https://zoom.us/j/399894174 at the appropriate time. Anyone is welcome to participate or to simply listen in!

Additionally, all webinars are recorded and can be viewed at any time at sullivanfdn.org/webinar.

“Navigating the Unknown” Webinar: Addressing Poverty and Hunger in the Coronavirus Era

The Sullivan Foundation returns with two new episodes of its innovative webinar series, “Navigating the Unknown,” during the week of March 30-April 3, 2020. Hosted by Spud Marshall, the Sullivan Foundation’s director of student engagement, each episode features two social entrepreneurs discussing how the coronavirus pandemic has impacted their work and how we can all help guide our communities through this challenging health crisis. Participants are invited to join in on the conversation via Zoom or follow the discussion on Facebook Live.

Episode 3 focuses on the theme of poverty and hunger in the midst of the coronavirus crisis. Episode 4 will explore the role social enterprises and social leaders can play in helping communities survive and emerge stronger from the crisis. Here’s a closer look at each episode:

Episode 3: 12-1 p.m. (ET), Wednesday, April 1
Poverty and Hunger in the Coronavirus Era

Josh Nadzam leads an On the Move Art Studio class. (Photo by Tricia Spaulding, Next Step Multimedia)

Josh Nadzam, On the Move Art Studio: Josh knows poverty and hunger first-hand. Raised by a single mother who worked tough jobs and terrible hours to eke out a meager living, he grew up coping with his father’s alcoholism and suicidal tendencies and the tragic death of his best friend in a car wreck. But the scholar-athlete overcame it all to win a full track and field scholarship—and the prestigious Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award—at the University of Kentucky. Today, as co-founder and director of On the Move Art Studio, Josh leads free art classes for at-risk youth in underserved neighborhoods, hoping to show them a path to success through the power of their own creativity.

Related: How Josh Nadzam outran poverty and uses art to change kids’ lives

Abhinav Khanal works to help female coffee producers around the world make more money and improve the quality of their product.

Abhinav Khanal, Bean Voyage: Abhinav is co-founder and executive director of Bean Voyage, a nonprofit social enterprise that provides training and market access to smallholder women coffee producers in Costa Rica. Women own 25 percent of the world’s coffee farms and form 70 percent of the coffee supply chain workforce, yet they earn 39 percent less than their male counterparts and tend to produce lower-quality yields. Khanal and Bean Voyage works with these women to dramatically increase their income by cutting middlemen from the supply chain, improving product quality, providing e-commerce opportunities and connecting them to markets in the U.S.

Episode 4, 5-6 p.m. (ET), Friday, April 3
Social Entrepreneurship, Leadership and the Coronavirus Pandemic

photo of Reagan Pugh at the Three Circle Summit

Reagan Pugh, co-founder of Assemble, has guided initiatives on storytelling, culture and leadership development at companies like Nike, Pepsico and Kimberly Clark.

Reagan Pugh, Assemble: As co-founder of Assemble, Reagan delivers workshops and keynote speeches on personal effectiveness and leadership development around the country. Assemble designs workshops to help teams better collaborate, from strategy meetings and yearly reviews to weekend retreats or brainstorming sessions. Pugh was formerly chief storyteller for the innovation consulting firm Kalypso and guided initiatives on storytelling, culture and leadership at companies like Nike, Pepsico and Kimberly Clark.

Related: Reagan Pugh builds connections through storytelling

Dustin Betz of Founder Institute

Dustin Betz, Founder Institute: Dustin manages community and content for the Founder Institute, the world’s largest pre-seed startup accelerator. Founder Institute has helped launch more than 4,000 companies in 180-plus cities, and its portfolio companies exceed $20 billion in estimated value. Founder Institute helps pre-seed entrepreneurs and teams get traction and funding by establishing a critical support network of local startup experts that are invested in their success.

You can learn more about how to take part in the “Navigating the Unknown” webinars at our Facebook Event Page or simply join the Zoom call at https://zoom.us/j/399894174 at the appropriate time. Anyone is welcome to participate or to simply listen in!

 

“Navigating the Unknown”: Ajax Jackson, Tessa Zimmerman Discuss Social Innovation in the Age of the Coronavirus

Social innovators Tessa Zimmerman of ASSET Education and Ajax Jackson of Magnolia Yoga Studio will be the next guests on the Sullivan Foundation’s new live-streamed webinar series, “Navigating the Unknown.” Zimmerman and Jackson will speak with Spud Marshall, the Sullivan Foundation’s director of student engagement, from 5-6 p.m. (ET), Friday, March 27. The webinar will be hosted on Zoom and streamed on Facebook Live.

Details for joining the call can be found on the Sullivan Foundation’s Facebook Event Page.  You can join the Zoom call at https://zoom.us/j/399894174 at the appropriate time.

The Sullivan Foundation launched the “Navigating the Unknown” series in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The series addresses the challenges faced by social entrepreneurs, innovators and nonprofits as they guide their communities and clientele through the health crisis. Each call features two social entrepreneurs or innovators from the Sullivan Foundation’s Speakers Bureau, who share how they are responding to the pandemic in their communities and through their work. They also discuss the challenges they’ve faced and the challenges they’ve overcome as social innovators and changemakers.

photo of Tess Zimmerman, founder of ASSET Education

Tessa Zimmerman, founder of ASSET Education

Tessa Zimmerman, who suffered extreme anxiety in the classroom as a youth, founded ASSET Education in 2016. ASSET equips teachers with a curriculum of concrete tools to help their students reduce stress and build resilience. Composed of three modules—Mindfulness, Positive Psychology and Positive Self-Talk—the program ensures that all students walk away by the end of the academic year with at least one new stress-reducing tool that works for them.

Ajax Jackson (pictured at top) founded Magnolia Yoga Studio as New Orleans’ first black-owned yoga studio. The studio’s mission is to support growth, healing and empowerment through the art and science of hot yoga and community. Jackson works with her clients to develop and strengthen life skills such as courage, patience and intuition through yoga.

The first webinar in the “Navigating the Unknown” series was held on Wednesday, March 25. It featured Tony Weaver, Jr., founder of Weird Enough Productions, and Jasmine Babers, founder of Love Girls Magazine.

Featured entrepreneurs and schedules for upcoming webinars are listed below. Many of the guests were scheduled to speak or lead workshops at the Sullivan Foundation’s Spring 2020 Ignite Retreat—a twice-yearly event for college students with a passion for social entrepreneurship and community service—until the event had to be canceled due to the rapid spread of the coronavirus.

Through the “Navigating the Unknown” webinar series, college students, faculty/staff members and other members of the social enterprise sector will have the opportunity to connect with and learn from these leading social innovators. No previous affiliation with the Sullivan Foundation or its programming is required to view or participate in the call.

All webinars will be recorded and uploaded to the Sullivan Foundation’s website at www.sullivanfdn.org/webinar for later reference.

Additional dates and speakers will be announced over the next few weeks, Marshall said. The schedule thus far is as follows:

Fri, March 27, from 5-6 p.m. ET
Tessa Zimmerman of ASSET 
Ajax Jackson of Magnolia Yoga

Wed, April 1, from 12-1 p.m. ET
Josh Nadzam of On the Move Art Studio
Abhinav Khanal of Bean Voyage

Fri, April 3, from 5-6 p.m. ET
Reagan Pugh of Assemble
Dustin Betz of Founders Institute

Sullivan Foundation Webinar Series Focuses on Social Entrepreneurs Responding to the Coronavirus Pandemic

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the Sullivan Foundation will host a series of interactive webinars called Navigating the Unknown beginning this week. All are welcome and encouraged to join.

Each call will feature two social entrepreneurs from the Sullivan Foundation’s Speakers Bureau, who will share how they are responding to the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic in their communities and through their work.

The first webinar is scheduled for 12-1 p.m.(ET), Wednesday, March 25. It will feature Tony Weaver, Jr., founder of Weird Enough Productions, and Jasmine Babers, founder of Love Girls Magazine.

Tony Weaver, Jr., founder of Weird Enough Productions

Named to Forbes 30 Under 30 list in 2018, Weaver creates digital comics to improve social emotional learning, combat misrepresentation in the media and tell stories that inspire people to embrace their quirks.

Babers (pictured at top of screen) is a publishing prodigy who created Love Girls when she was 15, with a mission to “build self-esteem by providing young women leadership opportunities and a safe place to tell their stories.”

Related: Love Girls Magazine founder Jasmine Babers shines spotlight on everyday girls

Featured entrepreneurs for other upcoming webinars are listed below. Many of the webinar guests were scheduled to present or lead workshops at the Sullivan Foundation’s Spring 2020 Ignite Retreat until the event had to be canceled due to the rapid spread of the coronavirus. Others are past Ignite Retreat speakers and workshop leaders. Through the “Navigating the Unknown” webinar series, college students with a strong interest in social innovation and social entrepreneurship will still have the opportunity to connect with and learn from these leading social innovators.

“We will start each webinar by inviting participants into small breakout rooms to meet others from across the Sullivan network and to share their personal experiences,” said Spud Marshall, who will lead the webinars. “We’ll then close by letting participants ask questions directly to our featured speakers and learn what tips and tricks they have to share.”

The webinars will be hosted over Zoom and will be broadcast live to Facebook. All calls will be recorded and uploaded to the Sullivan Foundation’s website at www.sullivanfdn.org/webinar for later reference.

Details for joining the call can be found on the Sullivan Foundation’s Facebook Event Page or by joining the Zoom call at https://zoom.us/j/399894174 at the appropriate time.

Additional dates and speakers will be announced over the next few weeks, Marshall said. The schedule thus far is as follows:

Wed, March 25, from 12-1 p.m. ET
Tony Weaver Jr. of Weird Enough Productions 
Jasmine Babers of LOVE Girls Magazine

Fri, March 27, from 5-6 p.m. ET
Tessa Zimmerman of ASSET 
Ajax Jackson of Magnolia Yoga

Wed, April 1, from 12-1 p.m. ET
Josh Nadzam of On the Move Art Studio
Abhinav Khanal of Bean Voyage

Fri, April 3, from 5-6 p.m. ET
Reagan Pugh of Assemble
Dustin Betz of Founders Institute

Wheelchair Tennis Introduced as Clemson’s First Adaptive Sports Team

By Michael Staton, Clemson University College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences

If the typical, everyday wheelchair is built for comfort, those designed for adaptive sports athletes are built for speed. They’re less bulky and the wheels slant inward. They have a lower back and maneuver like a dream. They can also be a real pain to deal with in an airport.

Adaptive sports athletes have to bring an everyday and sport chair when traveling, so the latter becomes equipment storage that the athlete pushes in front of them. This one-person, two-chair convoy has to contend with baggage claim, escalators, security and every other hassle inherent to an airport.

For Jeff Townsend, this is just another stop on the way to a wheelchair tennis match or basketball game. Jeff is a longtime adaptive sports athlete and coach who now serves as a lecturer in Sullivan Foundation partner school Clemson University’s parks, recreation and tourism management department. Seamlessly transitioning two chairs at once up and down an escalator is muscle memory for him at this point.

However, this was all new for Clemson student Marsden Miller, who is just now getting the hang of life as an adaptive sports athlete. When he and Jeff ventured down to Orlando, Florida for the National Wheelchair Tennis Collegiate Championship hosted by the United States Tennis Association (USTA), Jeff was there to support his teammate, but also to share travel tips and tricks with Marsden.

Jeff’s wife, Jasmine, is also a faculty member in the department. She describes herself as the “volunteer gear schlepper,” and she never tires of the reactions she sees as she trails behind Jeff in airports. Those reactions took on a whole new meaning with Marsden beside him during the trio’s trip to Orlando.

“I’ll admit I got a little teary-eyed in the airport seeing Jeff and Marsden all decked out in Clemson gear pushing these two wheelchairs in front of me,” Jasmine said. “Marsden wants nothing more than to be a Clemson athlete traveling from match to match, and Jeff’s there giving him all these tips for getting through the airport. Meanwhile everyone we pass wants to know who these guys are, what they’re doing and where they’re going.”

this photo shows tennis wheelchair athletes Jeff Townsend and Marsden Miller of Clemson University trying to navigate an escalator with four wheelchairs

Clemson University professor Jeff Townsend (left) helps fellow wheelchair tennis athlete Marsden Miller figure out the challenge of entering and exiting an escalator with both an everyday and sport chair. (Photo by Jasmine Townsend)

Even at the time, Jasmine knew what everyone in that airport was seeing: the first student from Clemson to play wheelchair tennis in a tournament, and the faculty member that was stepping up to not only round out Clemson’s wheelchair tennis team but serve as a mentor—in more ways than one—to that athlete.

It has always been Jeff and Jasmine’s goal to start a true collegiate adaptive sports team wherever they ended up and starting small—even with a team of two—is still a start. There aren’t many collegiate adaptive sports programs across the country, but Jeff says he wants to help make Clemson one of those standout programs.

“It’s important to implement because where there are opportunities for sports, there should be opportunities for everyone to get involved,” Jeff says. “Clemson leads the way in athletics in many ways, and it could be one of those programs leading the way in collegiate adaptive sports.”

‘Just like that, we had a team’

The trip to Orlando wasn’t just special for Marsden because he was getting his first taste of tournament travel; it was special because he was heading to his first ever singles and doubles matches. Jeff and Chuck McCuen, Clemson’s director of tennis operations, had learned only three weeks beforehand that the Southern USTA would fund a Clemson team’s trip to its late-April tournament.

Collegiate wheelchair tennis teams require at least one student athlete, but the remainder of the team can be comprised of faculty members such as Jeff. The only other requirement is that athletes must have a lower limb disability, so the field is open to amputees as well as people with cerebral palsy and spina bifida.

Jeff and Marsden both have spina bifida, a birth defect that occurs when the spine and spinal cord don’t form properly. Jeff wasn’t just the first wheelchair tennis athlete Marsden ever met; he was also the first person Marsden ever met who also had spina bifida.

“Marsden had been playing intramural wheelchair basketball at Clemson with me, so I asked if he wanted to start playing tennis and travel to this tournament,” Jeff says. “He said ‘sure,’ and just like that we had a team.”

Chuck, who coached 14 years with Clemson’s tennis team and 19 years at Georgia State University, stepped up to become coach for the two-person wheelchair tennis team. Ever modest, Chuck says the team probably could have done better with its selection of coaching staff, but he is literally the most qualified man for the job.

Chuck founded the first collegiate wheelchair tennis team in U.S. history at Georgia State. Despite what Chuck might say about his qualifications, Jeff and Marsden think he’ll do just fine.

“I knew we needed to practice, so we practiced every day for three weeks leading to that tournament, very often as early as 5 a.m.,” Chuck says. “These guys are no joke. They’re both serious competitors and serious athletes.”

Chuck says Jeff and Marsden were both positive and open minded despite the short amount of time they had to prepare. While Jeff brought his experience as an adaptive sports athlete and Paralympian, Marsden brought a real hunger to play and to be a part of the program.

Chuck says he and Jeff concentrated on helping Marsden learn the basics of the game, from what’s counted as in and out to how to best grip the racket and wheels simultaneously. According to Chuck, Jeff spent these first few weeks concentrating a little more on the technical aspects of the game and strategy.

In Orlando, Jeff made it to the semi-finals in his division, ultimately losing in that round. Marsden says he experienced some growing pains, but despite that he ended up winning his first singles match in the tournament. Jeff and Marsden, playing doubles, beat Michigan State in the first round match up but lost to San Diego State in the semi-final round.

“I really couldn’t believe that I was even able to do what I did in Orlando,” Marsden says. “To be able to go and win a singles and doubles match in that first trip was definitely the most memorable thing for me so far on this team.”

When Jeff and Marsden returned from the tournament, practice didn’t slow down. With the exception of some days off during the summer, Jeff and Marsden have met Chuck regularly at the indoor tennis complex for hours of practice multiple days a week.

“They both have the tools to really be great,” Chuck says. “Jeff went from a good player to, at times, an elite player implementing the strategies we had trained on. Marsden proved after only a few weeks of practice that he could hold his own against a high-level player from another school. He really improved in a short period of time.”

Getting a Clemson baseline

For faculty in the parks, recreation and tourism management department, this relationship with adaptive sports is hardly a first. Jasmine and Jeff have worked with students in the department’s recreational therapy program to introduce adaptive sports to global audiences, most notably in Thailand during summer 2018.

Jeff, Jasmine and a host of faculty and students further developed adaptive sport programs across Thailand while promoting inclusion in recreation. In addition to providing coaching skills, the program helped to shape coaches’ perspectives on people with disabilities by expanding awareness of their potential. Jasmine says the lessons learned during the program in Thailand were applicable everywhere, including Clemson’s own backyard.

this photo shows Jasmine Townsend of Clemson University addressing members of the Thai Paralympics Committee on inclusion in recreation

Jasmine Townsend (foreground, turned to her left)) addresses a classroom of physical education campus representatives and members of the Thai Paralympic Committee on inclusion in recreation in Thailand. (Photo: Clemson College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences)

“We learned that you can’t just concentrate on skill building in adaptive sports, you have to also put in the work when it comes to attitudes toward players with disabilities,” Jasmine says. “These two facets were necessary in Thailand, and they’ll also be what the Clemson campus community will need to focus on as well.”

Before starting this work toward building an inclusive environment for current and future student athletes with disabilities, Jasmine wanted to get a baseline. Jasmine, fellow faculty member Brandi Crowe and three recreational therapy graduate students conducted research over spring and summer 2019 in the department’s Adaptive Sport and Recreation Lab housed in Clemson’s College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences.

They surveyed 525 undergraduate and graduate students across a variety of majors and 25 faculty or staff members from various departments with the aim to understand the Clemson climate toward individuals with disabilities. The research explored attitudes about discrimination, inclusion, prospects for the future and perceptions of potential gains in life.

The survey results indicated that Clemson has a slightly negative leaning attitude toward individuals with disabilities. The lowest scores came from questions regarding the prospects respondents think individuals with disabilities should have in their lives. The respondents tended to think they should have low expectations, that they shouldn’t be hopeful about their future and that sex should not be discussed with people with disabilities.

However, Jasmine points out that Clemson respondents had higher than average scores with regards to attitudes about discrimination and potential gains. In other words, the respondents were overwhelmingly opposed to taking advantage of individuals with disabilities or treating them as if they have no feelings. Respondents also had a positive view of the gains an individual can make in wisdom, strength and determination because of their experience having a disability.

“These findings are both encouraging and discouraging at the same time, obviously,” Jasmine said. “I think this makes it clear that there is work to be done in order to improve the climate toward individuals with disabilities on Clemson’s campus.”

Jasmine shared her early findings with Lee Gill, Clemson’s chief inclusion and equity officer, and others in the Clemson’s office of inclusion and equity. According to Gill, the first step in changing attitudes toward students with disabilities is making Clemson more inviting to that population, both in a physical and emotional sense.

As with issues surrounding gender, race or sexual orientation, Gill said the only way to create lasting change is to create opportunities for all students to engage with people with disabilities. That can’t happen if those individuals aren’t on campus or have no reason to be on campus, and he sees the formation of a wheelchair tennis team as the first of many steps in the right direction for Clemson in this regard.

“Real relationships and engagement with people with disabilities are the only ways to change attitudes, and Jasmine’s findings do nothing but confirm that for me,” Gill said. “I applaud Jasmine for taking the initiative to get a team going at Clemson; it’s hard to think of a better avenue to start forging those relationships than through sports, which already do so much to positively develop young people.”

Right place, right time

Jasmine doesn’t deny that there’s a great deal of work ahead to build the sport of wheelchair tennis and then, hopefully, build a team for wheelchair basketball and various adaptive track and field events. Unfortunately, higher education institutions are often forced to recreate the wheel when it comes to introducing and growing adaptive sports programs.

The thesis of a Clemson master’s student working with Jasmine, Breida Hill, is currently exploring the organizational structures of existing intercollegiate adaptive sports programs in the U.S. Hill has interviewed program directors and coaches from established and new programs across the country; she has found that program structure, funding and staffing vary greatly from program to program.

Hill has also found that there is little consistency in how programs form, which would explain the challenge inherent to building an adaptive sports program. Jasmine and Jeff have tackled these challenges one by one, so they hope that the “Clemson way” might become the standard for other programs regionally or nationally.

this photo shows wheelchair tennis athletes in Clemson University's first adaptive sports team

Wheelchair tennis athletes Jeff Townsend and Marsden Miller are the inaugural members of Clemson University’s first adaptive sports team. (Photo by Jasmine Townsend)

Jasmine said Clemson’s wheelchair tennis team has been lucky that there is no shortage of people at Clemson who know how to assemble a team, or at least there is no shortage in motivation. All of the pieces seem to be falling into place, and she can’t help but think that this program was meant to happen in Clemson.

“Jeff and I happen to end up in the same place as the first wheelchair tennis coach in the country, and we have had the support of a very open-minded and positive dean, provost’s office, inclusion and equity office and athletics department. Everyone just wants the best for its student athletes,” Jasmine said. “Things have happened fast, and the attitude toward this team has just been infectious.”

That support has also come in the form of in-state tuition waivers for incoming, out-of-state students who will play on the wheelchair tennis team. This begins to level the playing field for any student interested in the program from across the country because the trick for this team—and for almost any other adaptive sports team across the country—is establishing a pipeline of athletes.

The adaptive sports community is tight knit, so word of Clemson’s team has already started to spread to those athletes engaged in the sport. Some have already expressed interest or committed to attend Clemson because a court, coach and place on the team are waiting for them.

However, having a team exist at all on the college level acts as “the carrot” for young adaptive sports athletes. The benefits of involvement in team sports for youth are numerous, from improved physical fitness and self-esteem to the social aspects of playing and training with teammates. Students with spina bifida or cerebral palsy often have to sit on the sidelines and watch as able-bodied athletes reap those benefits because youth adaptive sport opportunities are limited, especially in South Carolina.

Had wheelchair tennis and a team already existed at Clemson before Miller became a student, he said he certainly would have pursued it from the moment he arrived on campus. Miller works part time at Clemson’s football training complex, and he has always wanted to play sports for all the same reasons that drive the Clemson football players he sees day in and day out.

Jasmine said the success of athletes such as Marsden will motivate young athletes in middle or high school to seek out opportunities to play a sport. She refers to the problem as a “chicken and egg” situation that many higher education institutions are faced with: should it build adaptive sports programs before it has athletes or should it find athletes first?

Jasmine said the solution should be both at once, because young people and their parents won’t seek out opportunities they don’t know about. She said opportunities need to exist in communities so that students are ready when they come to Clemson.

“Clemson introducing an adaptive sports team is a great first step toward including athletes of all ability levels, but it’s bigger than that,” Jasmine said. “It doesn’t just open opportunities for adaptive sports athletes on the college level; partnering with community parks and recreation organizations and tennis clubs around the state can create a path for those young people who don’t even know the option is there in the first place.”

This story was edited slightly from the original article appearing on the Clemson University website.

Sullivan Foundation Cancels Spring 2020 Ignite Retreat and Faculty/Staff Summit

Due to concerns about the coronavirus, the Sullivan Foundation has canceled the Spring 2020 Ignite Retreat and the Faculty/Staff Summit scheduled for March 27-29.

“At the Sullivan Foundation, we prioritize the health and safety of our students and faculty members above all else,” said Sullivan Foundation President Steve McDavid. “Our staff and several board members have met several times to discuss our worst-case scenario plans. In light of recent events and the uncertainty of the coronavirus, my board is advising me to suspend all student and faculty programming for the spring semester.”

“It is with great sadness that we cancel these events, but all of us at the Sullivan Foundation feel it is best to protect our students and faculty first,” McDavid added. “We will be refunding all payments made to attend the Retreat and Summit.”

The Fall 2020 Ignite Retreat is scheduled for October 16-18 in Asheville, N.C. Click here to learn more.

Spring 2020 Ignite Retreat: Inspiring a New Generation of Changemakers

A hip-hop educator who teaches language arts through rap lyrics. A publishing prodigy who launched a successful girl-power magazine at 15. A master storyteller who has taught leadership development at companies like Nike and PepsiCo. The Sullivan Foundation’s upcoming Spring 2020 Ignite Retreat has some heavy hitters in the lineup, and they’ve got a plan to inspire a new generation of college-student changemakers at the weekend-long event, taking place March 27-29 in Wake Forest, N.C.

The deadline to register for the Spring 2020 Ignite Retreat is Wednesday, March 11. Click here to learn more and to sign up.

Designed for college students with a passion for social change, the twice-yearly Ignite Retreats features exciting workshops, activities and opportunities to connect with a tribe of like-minded individuals who want to make a real difference in their communities, their country and their world. Over three days, a team of facilitators, coaches and conspirators lead the students on a journey to discover how they can change the world in a positive way—through social entrepreneurship, founding a nonprofit, launching a social-change project, or by simply cultivating their own leadership skills and creative talents.

photo of India Larry, a student attendee of the Sullivan Foundation Ignite Retreat

India Larry, a past student attendee of the Sullivan Foundation Ignite Retreat

Meet the Ignite Retreat facilitators: Jarren Small of Reading With a Rapper teaches ELA skills through hip-hop

The Ignite Retreat offers three workshop tracks:

Personal: For students who are still uncovering their calling and want to better understand their skills and passions, build self-confidence and explore the mindset of a social entrepreneur.

Problems: For those students who have a social issue or a set of problems they want to work on but don’t know how to get involved, this workshop track helps them develop concrete and practical skills.

Project:
This track is designed for students who want to dive deeply into a concrete solution, campus initiative, project or venture they’re trying to bring to life.

Building a Leadership Team

This year’s workshop leaders and presenters include Spud Marshall, founder of the co.space and innovation director of 3 Dots in State College, Penn.; Jasmine Babers, founder and CEO of Love Girls Magazine; Reagan Pugh, founding partner of Assemble; Jarren Small, cofounder of the Reading With a Rapper educational program based in Houston; Nicole Kelner, cofounder and COO of Coding Space and founder of Lemonaid; Josh Nadzam, cofounder and director of On the Move Art Studio in Lexington, Ky.; Adrienne Wright, executive director and CEO of U-Turn Sports in Richmond, Va.; Jason Reed, founder of Reach USA; Danielle Espiritu, learning success director of WeThrive; and Abu Fofanah, founder of Power Your Launch Marketing Accelerator.

photo of Spud Marshall at the Sullivan Foundation Ignite Retreat

Spud Marshall

Marshall puts together the roster of Ignite Retreat facilitators and coaches for each event. “We look for emerging leaders across the country pioneering novel solutions to a wide array of problems,” Marshall said. “Our hope is that the leadership team that the students get to meet during the retreat will give them an exciting array of possible career paths and approaches they may apply to their own journeys.”

Meet the Ignite Retreat Facilitators: Love Girls Magazine founder Jasmine Babers shines spotlight on “everyday girls”

“Some of our coaches have started million dollar companies, some are working on grassroots and small-scale nonprofits,” Marshall added. “Others tackle challenges through public policy, while still others work through school systems or private enterprise. I’m particularly excited about the team we’ve assembled for the Spring 2020 Ignite Retreat. This group represents some of the folks I most respect and admire in the social change space, and it will be a humbling opportunity to spend a weekend together with nearly 100 college students.”

The Ignite Retreat: A Life-Changing Experience for College Students
College students who have attended past Ignite Retreats often describe them as life-changing experiences. “The Ignite Retreat demonstrated unapologetic and honest empowerment of youth by unlocking the passions and curiosities of both extroverts and introverts alike,” said Jonathan Molai, a 2019 graduate of Campbell University and attendee of multiple Ignite Retreats and social entrepreneurship field trips sponsored by the Sullivan Foundation. “It was truly amazing to see how much each individual had grown by the end of the retreat.”

Related: Jonathan Molai: “My life was forever changed” by the Sullivan Foundation Ignite Retreats

Jonathan Molai

Many of the student attendees arrive with ideas for personal changemaking projects that need some fleshing out. For example, Haleh Ghaffari, a student at Randolph Macon College, wants to use journaling to help promote mental health at her old high school. She has been keeping a personal journal for years that includes quotes for people suffering from depression, anxiety or self-harm. “When I was in high school, I had a really bad living situation, and I felt just so alone in the world,” she recalled. “The journal was a way to not feel so alone, to feel there was something good in the world [and to inspire] self-love. As I just kept going throughout the years, it kept getting bigger and bigger.”

Ghaffari plans to work with her high school counselor to create a journaling project that starts with her own journal. “The counselor will give it to other people who have gone through the same thing, and then they will make their own journal and give it to the counselor,” she said. Over time, future students will have access to these journals of former students who went through depression, anxiety and other mental-health issues. “To me, it’s so important … to let other people know they’re not alone,” Ghaffari said. “I know what it’s like, and I don’t want other people to feel what I felt if they don’t have to.”

Blaise Gourley of North Carolina Wesleyan College already had a project underway before coming to the Fall 2019 retreat. He launched the IMPACT Wesleyan Business Society, a program for business school majors and minors, especially international students. “It focuses on practical skills that you might not learn in class as well as networking. We have guest speakers [from the business sector], peer-to-peer collaboration where you can present business ideas and get feedback, and practical projects that get you engaged in different activities that can be added to your portfolio.”

Related: Ole Miss changemaker Cecilia Trotter learns to say yes to risks and new life experiences

Gourley said he liked the mix of people and perspectives that he encountered at the last Ignite Retreat. “Having an environment where people can collaborate without judging or comparing each other—that’s one of the important keys,” he said. “You can take other people’s ideas as encouragement and inspiration rather than making [negative] comparisons and feeling bad because maybe you’re not as far along as some others. Everyone’s journey is different.”

What’s the best thing a newcomer will get out of the Ignite Retreat? “Looking at yourself and saying, ‘I can make a difference,’” Gourley said. “From the Ignite Retreats, I’ve learned that the Sullivan Foundation is an organization that’s making a difference in our youth, encouraging people to pursue their passions in a way that’s going to contribute to a greater society. That’s something I’m totally for.”

Meet the Ignite Retreat facilitators: Reagan Pugh builds connections through storytelling

 

 

 

Water-Use Efficiency: Auburn Researcher Works to Help Farmers With Irrigation Management

By Paul Hollis, Auburn University College of Agriculture

After the hottest, driest fall in Alabama’s history, researchers at Sullivan Foundation partner school Auburn University are working to find ways to improve water-use efficiency for farmers.

Growers throughout the U.S. are finding themselves in the middle of a national water crisis, with agriculture constituting approximately 80 percent of consumptive water use, largely in the form of irrigation. At the same time, drought has been increasing in intensity and frequency.

“Agricultural production increasingly requires water inputs to sustain high crop productivity in a changing climate,” said Di Tian, assistant professor in the College of Agriculture’s Department of Crops, Soil and Environmental Sciences and the lead researcher in a $500,000 three-year interdisciplinary project funded by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

The aim of the project, Tian said, is to build a fundamental framework of climate smart analytics, or CSA, for irrigation management. This CSA framework is driven by state-of-the-art, open-source numerical weather predictions, satellite earth observations, crop simulation models, digital soil database and artificial intelligence techniques.

Related: Duke University proposes solution for breaking political stalemate over reducing carbon emissions

“This project will develop novel methods for estimating water demands from crops, accounting for past present and forecasted meteorological conditions, and tracking previous irrigation decisions and crop progress during developmental growth stages,” Tian said.

Current agricultural water use is simply not sustainable in many parts of the United States, and there is an urgent need to improve water-use efficiency, he said.

“In the Central High Plain regions alone, about 30 percent of the water stored in Ogallala Aquifer already has been consumed,” Tian said. At current use rates, as much as 80 percent of the stored aquifer water will be consumed by 2060. And, the Southeast has experienced several large droughts since 2000, including the most recent one during this past fall.”

The California drought in 2012-2014 was the most severe drought in the last 1,200 years and was intensified by irrigation use, he said. The most recent California drought—ending in 2016—cost the state’s agricultural industry more than $1.5 billion.

The frequency and intensity of droughts is driving an increase in irrigation, Tian said. Since 1998, irrigation has increased by 60 percent in Alabama and 56 percent in Georgia, the largest increases among the 31 Eastern states.

“Climate-smart agriculture is an approach for transforming and reorienting agricultural systems to support food security under the new realities of climate change,” Tian said. “Farmers need to know how much water the crop needs, how much water is in the soil, and how much water is lost due to evapotranspiration.”

Recent advances in data science, numerical weather forecasts, satellite observations, crop modeling and digital soil mapping can be exploited to develop an evidence-based, easy-to-use and low-cost solution for managing irrigation, he said.

Related: The pivotal role of youth fighting climate change

“The central hypothesis of the project is that the CSA enabled by the novel technologies will improve site-specific forecasts for crop and soil water conditions and irrigation scheduling,” Tian said.

The framework will be validated with information gathered from farmer fields in California and Alabama, including cotton, corn and peanut fields in Athens, Tanner and Town Creek, Alabama, and a tomato field in Davis, California.

The framework will be no cost, since it is driven by open-source, publically available numerical weather prediction model forecasts, Sentinel-2 satellite images and crop simulation models, Tian said.

“The proposed CSA framework will serve as a foundation for any irrigation decision support tool or software and will provide efficient, low-cost and usable information for farmers, landowners and decision makers to improve their irrigation management and maximize water-use efficiency.

“Outcomes from our project are expected to lead to intelligent irrigation decision making aimed at reducing the water footprint in agroecosystems as well as minimizing soil nutrient loss and environmental impact due to over-irrigation,” he said.

The final product of the research will be new methods for accurately and efficiently monitoring and forecasting crop water requirements and soil water content at high resolution and new technologies for evidence-based irrigation scheduling, Tian said. The project’s extension personnel will provide supporting instruction on how to use this information as part of a precision-irrigation management program.

In addition to Tian, other members of the research team include Brenda Ortiz, professor and extension specialist for the Department of Crop, Soils and Environmental Sciences; Peter He, associate professor, Department of Chemical Engineering; William Batchelor, professor, Department of Biosystems Engineering; and Isaya Kisekka, assistant professor, University of California, Davis.

This story was adapted slightly from the original article appearing on the Auburn University website.

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 Money.com’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.

Money.com 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