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 www.elon.edu/innovationchallenge 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.



Discover Your Inner Jon Snow or Daenerys in Sullivan’s Study Abroad in Scotland 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 admin@sullivanfdn.org.


Hanover College Team Named Finalist in DOE-Sponsored Solar Energy Competition

A team of engineering students at Sullivan Foundation partner school Hanover College was named a finalist in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar District Cup in December. The collegiate design competition started with more than 50 teams from colleges and universities across the U.S.

The Solar District Cup challenges student teams to design and model optimized distributed solar energy systems for a campus or urban area served by a common electrical distribution feeder. The competition engages students in engineering, urban planning, finance and related disciplines to reimagine how energy is generated, managed and used. The goal is to design, model and present a system that provides the highest offset of annual energy and greatest financial savings.

Related: Wofford College’s Environmental Studies Department celebrates a “decade of ruggedness”

Hanover’s team, the Solar Panthers, was tasked with designing a solar photovoltaic system for Crystal Parks Block, a group of office buildings in Arlington, Va. The Solar Panthers include Oliver Hollaert, Marissa Childs, Jordan Dailey, Kornell Dash, Taylor Bleistein and Christian Reed.

Hollaert represented the team at the Solar District Cup’s Sept. 23 kick-off meeting in Salt Lake City. Preliminary designs were submitted in late November. Finalists were announced Dec. 12. Final projects will be presented April 19 at Solar Power Southeast in Atlanta, and the winners will be announced at the conference April 20.

This story was edited slightly from the original article appearing on the Hanover College website.

This Sullivan Award Winner Beat Breast Cancer and Helps Other Black Women Do the Same

Although breast cancer is less common in black women, they are 40 percent more likely to die from it than white women. Niasha Fray, a researcher at Sullivan Foundation partner school Duke University, understands that worrisome statistic better than most: After spending part of her career counseling women with breast cancer to stick with their treatment, she was diagnosed with the disease herself in 2017.

But Fray, now the program director for the Duke Center for Community & Population Health Improvement, didn’t let breast cancer get in the way of serving others. She was one of three recipients of the 2019 Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award at Duke, and her experience as a breast cancer survivor and her work in promoting health and behavior change for at-risk populations also earned coverage by NPR in 2018.

Each year Duke University recognizes a graduating senior and a member of the faculty, staff or graduate student body with the Sullivan Award. In addition to Fray, Duke presented the award to two students in 2019—Idalis French, a psychology major, and Moreen Njoroge, an evolutionary anthropology major.

Niasha Fray: Helping Women Survive Breast Cancer

Fray’s selflessness inspired her colleagues to nominate her for the award. “Every time I have known her to make a commitment to help others, I have seen her follow through in a way that surpasses the expectations of those she is serving,” wrote nominator Helene Milve, a medical instructor in the Duke Department of Population Health Sciences.

Related: Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award winner shares untold stories of African-Americans at Washington and Lee University

Fray works on health promotion, behavior change and counseling for at-risk populations affected by HIV/AIDS, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress and breast cancer. She also is a guest lecturer in the course, ”AIDS: Principles and Policy,” at the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health. She is a member of Healthy Durham 20/20, an organization working to improve the health and quality of life for the Durham community.

this photo shows Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award winner Niasha Fray

Niasha Fray (right) accepts the 2019 Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award from Duke Provost Sally Kornbluth. (Photo by Les Todd)

As a counselor researching disparities in cancer outcomes at UNC-Chapel Hill, she used a type of therapy called motivational interviewing to help women overcome obstacles that deterred them from taking their medications, which often have unpleasant side effects. “They had just given up so much of their lives, so much of their bodies, so much of their family,” Fray told NPR in October 2018. “They wanted to get back to life as usual.”

As NPR reported, studies have found that black women are less likely to have health insurance or to get screened for breast cancer, which means their cancer is often advanced by the time they get into treatment. They’re also less likely to stick with the prolonged daily endocrine therapy treatment prescribed for certain common types of breast cancer, often because they can’t afford it and the medications are so unpleasant. One study noted that 14 percent of black women didn’t take their medications every day as prescribed, compared to about 5 percent of white women.

Fray told NPR the disparity might also have something to do with the fact that so many black women identify strongly as caregivers. As a counselor, she found that black women were often more accustomed to looking after others than themselves. “There was a lot of conversation about the stress of being a caregiver,” Fray told NPR. She said she had many discussions with patients about “the stress of being a black person in America and having doctors not listen to you, having employers that don’t care about you.”

Fray underwent surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatment for breast cancer during the summer of 2018, and her prognosis is good, according to NPR. But the battle continues as she faces 10 long years of endocrine therapy. “You gotta get your mind right,” she said in the interview. “You can’t change the scenario or the situation. How do I change my mind?”

Related: Rollins College remembers Mister Rogers, a 2001 winner of the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award

Fray continues to help other black women “put on the armor of self-care” while conducting her research at Duke, making her a strong choice for the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award. “This award is for the people making sure our world, our community, our families and ourselves are healthy,” Fray said in accepting the award last April. “I’m so lucky to serve a community I care for so much.”

Idalis French: A Passion for Uplifting Others
Idalis French was selected for the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award for her work mentoring young girls in the Durham, N.C. community.

Since her first year on campus, French devoted time and energy to The Girls’ Club, a mentorship organization at the Emily K Center for middle school girls attending Durham Public Schools. French served as a mentor, vice president of recruitment and president for the organization. She led weekly sessions about mental health, female empowerment and confidence.

this photo shows Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award winner Idalis French

Duke Provost Sally Kornbluth (left) presents the 2019 Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award to Idalis French. (Photo by Les Todd)

“She shows a natural inclination toward selflessness, empathy and understanding with mentees and mentors alike,” wrote nominator Madeline Farber, a Duke clinical psychology Ph.D. student. “To see a woman of her age with such fervent passion for uplifting others is quite remarkable.”

French also volunteered with the Durham Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, where she kept residents company in their rooms, played bingo with them and facilitated arts and crafts.

“There are not enough words to express my gratitude,” French said. “To know that I’m leaving Duke with the impact I intended to leave it with freshman year is so inspiring and such a great blessing.”

Moreen Njoroge: From Carolina to Kenya

Duke’s Sullivan Award committee chose senior Moreen Njoroge for her work across disciplines and continents.

Njoroge majored in evolutionary anthropology major with minors in chemistry and global health. She has studied in Spain, India and Kenya. In Kenya, Njoroge worked with village chiefs, community health workers and hospital administrators to analyze what causes women to not receive treatment for cervical cancer.

Related: Sullivan Award winner overcame poverty, racism to earn National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship

this photo shows Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award winner Moreen Njoroge

Duke Provost Sally Kornbluth (left) presents the university’s Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award to Moreen Njoroge. (Photo by Les Todd)

“Moreen is experienced, focused, determined and self-directed. She sets high standards for her work and constantly meets them,” wrote nominator Colleen Scott, director of Duke’s Baldwin Scholars Program. “She is eager to have a better understanding of health needs in underserved regions and populations and will not be satisfied with simply possessing this knowledge.”

For two years Njoroge worked as an English and mathematics tutor for refugee students in the America Reads/America Counts program. She was also an Alice M. Baldwin Scholar, a program that supports undergraduate women at Duke to become engaged, confident and connected leaders to the community.

“This award may have my name on it, but it belongs to everybody who has been guiding me on this journey,” Njoroge said. “I’m so grateful for the education I’ve received and the confidence I have gained at Duke.”

This story was adapted from Jonathan Black’s article appearing on the Duke University website and from an October 9, 2019 NPR report.

Editor of Rhodes College’s Street Newspaper Hopes to Drive Social Change through Economics

Campus leader Jacob Fontaine knew he had a passion for Memphis before he even attended his first class at Sullivan Foundation partner school Rhodes College.

Fontaine, an economics and international studies bridge major from Flower Mound, Texas, serves as editor-in-chief for The Bridge, a nonprofit Memphis street newspaper founded and run by Rhodes students that seeks to provide a self-generated income for its vendors: Memphians experiencing homelessness. They sell the paper on the street, keeping the full profit from each sale.

Related: Sullivan Foundation invites college students to help serve the needy in three-week summer program in Selma, Alabama

The Bridge was founded in 2013 and, as of March 2018, vendors collectively had earned $35,000 to $45,000 in earnings annually in sales of the Memphis street newspaper. Vendors can also submit their own articles to the publication, giving voice to the homeless and lending a human face to the homelessness experience. After becoming certified vendors, they receive 20 free copies of the month’s edition and can purchase additional copies for 25 cents each. The street newspaper sells for $1 per copy.

this photo shows Jacob Fontaine, editor of a Rhodes College street newspaper

Jacob Fontaine, editor of Rhodes College’s street newspaper, The Bridge, thumbs through the latest edition.

“I first heard about The Bridge on my campus visit to Rhodes when I was a prospective student,” Fontaine said. “It was something that I immediately got very excited about and hoped to become a part of when I came to Memphis. As my dad and I traveled around the city, we met a lot of vendors and got to hear about the real impact that the paper was making.”

Once at Rhodes, Fontaine began as a staff writer on The Bridge and was promoted to section editor by the end of his first year, and then editor-in-chief by the spring of his sophomore year. Now, after spending a summer in England at the London School of Economics and working with vendors of London’s street newspaper, The Big Issue, Fontaine has ideas to make The Bridge even more meaningful to vendors and Memphis.

Related: Study Abroad in Scotland program explores principles of social entrepreneurship during summer of 2020

Fontaine first heard about the London School of Economics while doing research in the Study Abroad Office and applied with the help of Dr. Erin Hillis, the director of international programs. Marshall Gramm, a professor in Rhodes’ economics department, was also helpful in ensuring the credits he gained abroad would transfer back to Rhodes. While in London, he juggled taking courses with assisting The Big Issue’s vendors.

this photo shows a street newspaper vendor named Michael Tyler

Michael Tyler, a vendor of Rhodes College’s The Bridge, was also profiled in a recent issue of the street newspaper.

“I originally reached out to the opinion editor of The Big Issue just to begin a relationship between The Bridge and an international street newspaper organization. The opinion editor was excited to hear from me—he was looking for stories about people experiencing homelessness from around the world, so one of our vendors got the opportunity to be published in a newspaper with a readership of thousands.”

Fontaine says his time in London helped him to see the overlaps between economics and questions about poverty. “Homelessness, in general, can be analyzed using economic principles, and I think that these principles can be used as tools to gauge homelessness in upcoming years. There are several new movements in economics that really focus on maximizing welfare versus just financial gain.”

this is a photo of street newspaper editor Jacob Fontaine

Jacob Fontaine

This year, Fontaine is working to incorporate what he learned from The Big Issue into The Bridge. “Their style of storytelling really resonated with me. Another thing that I liked was the design and the way that their organization is structured. I did a lot of restructuring when I came in as editor. I created a lot of new editing positions, a managing editor and a copy editor, and really focused more on training our writers. We’ve brought in Dr. Kelly Weeks of the business department to work with us on our business model to help us continue to maintain our core values as we expand while strengthening our relationships with vendors and the Memphis community.”

Learn how to spark social change in 3 days at the Sullivan Foundation’s Spring 2020 Ignite Retreat

Fontaine credits Rhodes with providing a network of dedicated volunteers who feel passionately about spurring growth and change in their community. “It’s really challenging to produce an entire publication on a volunteer basis,” Fontaine said. “I think it is unique to be surrounded by such a large number of people who dedicate such a great amount of time to [the street newspaper] every month. It is really illustrative of Rhodes students in general, who are consistently trying to find a way to get involved in meaningful ways.”

Fontaine hopes to use economic principles to drive human change in the future. After graduating, he seeks to further his work within the community using the lessons he learned while in London. “Examining case studies of countries in a comparative way helped me understand the impact fiscal policy can have on alleviating, or causing, domestic poverty. The next generation will need to approach global and domestic inequalities with a human-centered approach to economic policy. I hope I can be a part of that policy making.”

This story was adapted from the original article by Samuel Brown appearing on the Rhodes College website and a press release by Meg Jerit from March 2018.


Scottish Government Commits Millions to Funding Social Enterprises in 2020

As the Sullivan Foundation gears up for its first study abroad program in Scotland next summer, social entrepreneurs in that country have begun tapping into new revenue sources: flexible loans and repayable grants from the Scottish government.

As part of Scotland’s Social Entrepreneurs Programme, the €500,000 Boost It fund will provide grants between €30,000 and €50,000 to social enterprises focused on climate change and environmental issues. Announced in October by Aileen Campbell, Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government, the fund started accepting proposals in December, according to Industry Global News 24.

The Sullivan Foundation will take a cohort of students to Edinburgh for a study abroad program based at the University of Edinburgh. The program, which will focus on social entrepreneurship throughout Scotland, takes place June 4-July 4, and applications are due no later than Feb. 1. Click here to learn more about the costs and course offerings.

Administered by social enterprise agency Firstport, Boost It follows up on the success of earlier programs, called Start It and Build It, funded by the Social Entrepreneurs Fund (SEF). Those programs offer grants of up to €25,000. Social enterprises focused on the environment typically have higher start-up costs, however, creating the need for larger government subsidies.

this is a photo of Aileen Campbell, a leading proponent of Scottish social entrepreneurship

Aileen Campbell, a cabinet member in First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s administration, has shown a firm commitment to Scottish social entrepreneurship.

Selected Boost It businesses will be asked to repay a portion of the grant from a percentage of their profits after the first year—if they turn a profit. They will be expected to repay the full amount of the grant within three years. However, a spokeswoman for Firstport told Industry Global News 24 that these rules are “not set in stone” and that decisions would be made “on a case-by-case basis to decide a realistic and achievable amount” required as repayment.

Social entrepreneurs got another boost last year when the Scottish Social Growth Fund (SSGF) launched with €17 million in its coffers. The SSGF provides affordable and flexible loans of between €100,000 and €1.7 million to social enterprises, charities and volunteer organizations.

The Scottish government has invested €8 million into the SSGF, while the University of Edinburgh chipped in an additional €1 million and Big Society Capital, a UK social investment company, also pledged €8 million.

In August 2019, the Scottish government, led by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, announced the creation of a rural social enterprise hub, funded by a €27,000 grant, to be based in Campbeltown in Argyll, Western Scotland. The funding will establish a network for rural social enterprises to share their experiences while building on knowledge from other European countries, such as Finland, Estonia, Romania and Germany. Some of that money will go to helping leading social enterprises develop and grow their brands and customer bases. The fund will also create LaunchMe, an accelerator program to help social entrepreneurs attract private investment.

“Social enterprises play an important role in our economy and have a positive impact in our communities,” Campbell said when she announced the SSGF launch last May. “They contribute €2 billion to the economy every year and employ more than 80,000 people, and that’s why we’re taking action to grow this sector.”

Volunteerism for College Students: Turn Your New Year’s Resolution into a Lifelong Passion

According to research from the University of Scranton, only about 8 percent of Americans manage to keep their new year’s resolutions. That’s probably not the most encouraging (or surprising) statistic you’ll come across in 2020, but take heart: If you’ve added “serving others” to your list, there are plenty of ways you can keep that resolution as a college student in the Sullivan Foundation network. There’s a real demand for your talents, skills and energy, and it’s likely that your school can help you get started.

America’s young people are more interested in “doing good” than ever, according to a 2018 report by the Do Good Institute at the University of Maryland School of Policy. Unfortunately, volunteerism for college students and high school students remains stagnant nationwide.

Related: Sullivan Foundation offers opportunity to serve those in need in Selma, Alabama

On average, 26 percent of college students provided volunteer service to community organizations between 2013 and 2015, while 28.5 percent of high schoolers took part in service activities. Those figures are “significantly lower” than statistics recorded for the years right after 9/11 (2002-2005), the Do Good Institute report states. Even so, nearly 2.8 million high school students (age 15 and over) and 3.1 million college students volunteered in their communities between 2013 and 2015. Not too shabby!

this photo illustrates the possibilities of volunteerism for college students at Warren-Wilson College

Warren-Wilson College puts a strong emphasis on volunteerism for college students through programs like Bounty & Soul, which increases access to healthy foods in food-insecure communities.

As Fast Company has reported, more than three quarters of entering college students feel a duty to help others in need—and that number has been steadily growing. “We’re at an all-time high of entering college students’ desire to do good, but we are far from an all-time high in college students actually doing good,” Robert Grimm, the Do Good Institute’s director, told Fast Company.

So why the disconnect? One problem, as Fast Company points out, is that many college students are in financial need themselves. College and university expenses have soared for the past 20 years, according to U.S. News and World Report. The average in-state tuition and fees at public national universities (defined as research-oriented schools that offer bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees) has climbed by 221 percent. For private national colleges and universities, tuition and fees have jumped 154 percent, and out-of-state tuition and fees at public national schools have gone up 181 percent.

Related: University of the Cumberlands collects 21,764 pounds of food for local pantries

But Grimm suspects there’s more to it than that. “Youth’s historically high interest in doing good will not automatically translate into action without the right opportunities,” he states in the Do Good Institute report. “We need more innovative, educational experiences that offer youth the opportunity to make an impact today and spark a lifetime of community engagement.”

Fortunately, volunteerism for college students is strongly encouraged at many of the Sullivan Foundation’s partner schools. Judson College, for example, kicks off every new school year with Marion Matters, a community-wide day of service for the local schools, nursing homes, churches and a nature preserve. At Mercer University, students are encouraged to volunteer for nonprofits like Loaves & Fishes, which provides food, clothing and furniture for local residents coping with homelessness and food insecurity;  Meals on Wheels of Macon & Bibb County, an organization that delivers nutritious meals to elderly and disabled individuals; and the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Georgia.

this picture depicts volunteerism for college students at Campbell University

Campbell University’s Campus Kitchen encourages volunteerism for college students by transforming unused dining-services foods into meals for people in need.

At Warren-Wilson College, community engagement isn’t just recommended—it’s required. WWC treats volunteerism for college students as a “fierce obligation” and a must in order to earn their degree. WWC focuses on five issue areas: the environment, food security, housing and homelessness, race and immigration, and youth and education. Among its service opportunities are Bounty & Soul, an initiative that increases access to healthy foods for low-income communities; volunteering at an AHOPE day shelter or with Habitat for Humanity; and mentoring Latino youth in the public schools through the college’s MANOS (Mentoring and Nurturing Our Students) program.

Campbell University, meanwhile, offers a range of opportunities for students to help others, including the Campus Kitchen, which transforms unused foods from dining services into meals for families in need around Western Harnett County; the Mustard Seed Community Garden, which grows and provides foods for the Harnett Food Pantry; and the annual Spiritual Life Spring Fling, in which students take part in fun activities with Harnett County-area adults who have developmental disabilities.

Berry College also invites its students to volunteer with numerous local nonprofits, from the Boys and Girls Club and Habitat for Humanity to the Ruth and Naomi House, a local women’s shelter, and the North Broad Youth Center. And Carson-Newman University encourages students to give back through Appalachian Outreach, a poverty-relief ministry, as well as the Samaritan House Family Ministries and the Baptist Collegiate Ministries Outreach team.

Related: Carson-Newman University mobiles 500 volunteers for Operation Inasmuch


Carson-Newman University encourages students to volunteer with Appalachian Outreach, a poverty-relief ministry.

Volunteerism for college students can include individual activities as well, including:

  • Organizing a campus-wide blood drive
  • Tutoring at-risk youths in the community
  • Teaching English as a second language
  • Coaching a local kids’ sports team
  • Volunteering at an animal shelter
  • Participating in clean-up programs in local nature areas

Volunteering isn’t just good for the community. It provides benefits for the body, the soul and even your career, according to Reward Volunteers. Volunteerism for college students leads to “reduced stress, a greater degree of happiness, and development of social and professional skills.” Ninety-four percent of volunteers say volunteering improves their mood, while 96 percent say it gives them a greater sense of purpose.

So start out the spring semester by checking out your college or university’s community-engagement programs. Once you get started, volunteering is one new year’s resolution that you’ll want to keep for many years to come.

Wofford College’s Environmental Studies Department Celebrates a “Decade of Ruggedness”

Stewardship of the earth’s resources will take a significant leap forward when Sullivan Foundation partner school Wofford College opens the Chandler Center for Environmental Studies in late 2020. Wofford broke ground on the facility October 18, 2019, and the Center will open next fall.

The 20,000-square-foot facility will be Green Globe Certified for its sustainable and environmentally conscious features, such as a partial green roof and solar roof panels. The building will feature advanced laboratory space, a seminar room, outdoor patio and garden spaces, and classroom and office space for Wofford’s Department of Environmental Studies as well as other sciences.

The building will also include a system for capturing rainwater for irrigation and will use cross-laminated timbers made of sustainable, all-wood construction.

Wofford celebrated three of its Environmental Studies scholars—Ireland McGaughey, Casey Harcourt and Reeves Goettee—on the cover of school publication Wofford Today. The three women are all members of the 10th anniversary class of environmental studies majors at Wofford. “They’re products of everything the program was designed to be,” according to a Wofford press release, “and they’re going to make a difference wherever they go—no question!”

Related: Wofford College’s Launch Program puts student entrepreneurs on fast track to success.

“The students who major in environmental studies usually come from one of two pathways,” said Dr. Kaye Savage, professor and chair of the department. “Some have grown up hunting and fishing and spending time in the woods with their families. They love that culture and love being outside. Then we have the students who come because they feel like the world is falling apart, and they need to make a difference.”

Savage speaks from experience when she says those differences make for interesting class discussions. Add the interdisciplinary nature of the curriculum to the mix, and it’s not uncommon for a topic such as climate change to start with science but jump to politics, the economy, demographics, denial and even religion or science fiction.

“In environmental studies, we emphasize the importance of the natural sciences, the social sciences and the humanities in understanding the world. They’re the legs of the three-legged stool on which environmental studies students must metaphorically sit,” said Dr. Peter Brewitt, assistant professor of environmental studies.

“The interdisciplinary nature of the major is what sets Wofford apart from other colleges and universities,” says John Lane, a 1977 Wofford graduate whose team taught the class and learning community that became the model for the major. Lane became the first director of the environmental studies program, which was designed to be broad with a rigorous fieldwork component. Interdisciplinary courses—an introduction and a senior seminar—bookend required courses and electives that highlight environmental issues in the context of different disciplines.

“You can connect environmental studies to anything,” Harcourt said. “That and the hands-on nature of the subject drew me into the major.”

this photo shows a groundbreaking ceremony at a new environmental studies facility at Wofford College

Wofford College broke ground on its new environmental studies facility in October 2019.

Savage explained that breadth is important because environmental problems cross boundaries. “If we’re going to tackle those problems, we have to have an understanding of complex systems,” she says.

Students gain depth through the major’s capstone experience. “The capstones are time-consuming but rewarding,” said Dr. Terry Ferguson, a 1975 Wofford alumnus, associate professor and senior researcher for the Goodall Environmental Studies Center. “Working with students on projects of their own choosing and advising them as they ask questions and work through problems has turned out to be one of the more critical aspects of the program.”

Related: Wofford College student brings power of art to a Spartanburg, South Carolina jail.

Harcourt chose to do a capstone project on the practicality of green roofs. It builds on knowledge in sustainability, physics, botany, data analysis and even aesthetics.

Goettee combined photography and environmental studies for her capstone, which explores how humans interact with the landscape. She took most of the photos while she was in New Zealand. “I call the photos anti-selfies,” Goettee says. “My project is a commentary on place and how people should be present in the landscape, instead of making it all about them.”

McGaughey’s capstone delves into the world of hydroponic farming. “This major speaks to my soul,” she says.

Natural resource depletion, overpopulation, deforestation, genetic engineering, global warming … Goettee still remembers the waves of environmental gloom and depressing statistics she and other students discussed for weeks in one of her first environmental studies courses.

“On one hand, I was compelled to act, but on the other, I felt like I was losing hope,” she said. “To lift our spirits, Dr. Savage had each of us bring in a positive article about the environment. It was really uplifting.”

The exercise wasn’t on the syllabus, but it’s what her students needed, so she adapted. That’s something Savage says she’s gotten better at since coming to Wofford.

Savage’s background was in environmental science, specifically geology and geochemistry. She’s also an artist, and her art—handmade paper and mixed media sculptures that explore geologic and hydrologic data—was her way into a department shared by Lane, a poet, environmental writer and professor of English, and Ferguson, a geoarchaeologist and photographer.

“This was new to me,” said Savage, whose team taught several introductory classes with Lane in the beginning to get the hang of the “studies” part of the major.

In the fall of 2020, Savage will be the department’s veteran and will become director of the Goodall Environmental Studies Center in Lane’s stead. Lane and Ferguson both will retire at the end of the spring semester. Brewitt will take over as chair of the department.

Ferguson, who has been at the college for 40 years, was just published in Nature Scientific Reports. He will continue that research on platinum levels in sediments in the Midlands of South Carolina that supports an extraterrestrial impact event that occurred nearly 13,000 years ago. He’s also working with several other research teams, including one that’s studying the Glendale area near the Goodall Environmental Studies Center.

Lane will be promoting another book, Seven Days on the Santee Delta, with two more on the way: a second novel and a nonfiction work combining autobiographical experiences growing up in Spartanburg County with Ferguson’s research on buried organic deposits. Lane also is working on another poetry manuscript.

The department’s faculty also includes Dr. Amy Telligman, assistant professor, who came to the college as part of the Milliken Sustainability Initiative at Wofford College. Dr. Jennifer Bradham and another tenure-track faculty member will join the department next year.

“Now we have a food systems lab in the works that Amy is starting, and our students will get hands-on experience—from garden to stove. That’s a direction that we didn’t anticipate 10 years ago,” Savage said. “Who knows what our other new faculty will bring to the department? It will be amazing.”

Goettee said the conversations she has had with the environmental studies faculty after class or during their labs make the department special. “They’ve guided me toward opportunities that I never would have considered for myself, and they all foster a culture of ruggedness,” she says.

“They’re right there with you,” McGaughey said. “Getting in the water. Carrying kayaks. Doing the labs. We’ve been out there in the rain, and still, somehow it’s fun.”

According to Savage, Lane was rallying a class before a particularly wet, cold lab at the Goodall Environmental Studies Center when he first used the “culture of ruggedness” phrase. It’s been the department’s motto — and a point of pride — ever since.

This story was adapted from a press release and Wofford Today article appearing on the Wofford College website.



High Student Voter Turnout Earns Award for Winthrop University

Winthrop University, a Sullivan Foundation partner school, recently earned a Gold Seal from the All In Democracy Challenge for its high student voter turnout in the 2018 mid-term elections.

Winthrop students’ turnout was at 40.1 percent, thus qualifying the university as a Gold Seal winner with a turnout of between 40 and 49 percent. Overall turnout for college students was 40.3 percent in the 2018 midterm elections, a more than two-fold increase over 2014. Winthrop more than doubled the number of its students voting from 2014, going from 19.8 percent to 40.1 percent.

Related: Winthrop University is a national leader in student voter engagement

Katarina Moyon, director of the John C. West Forum on Politics and Policy, said Winthrop’s inclusion in the Gold Seal category put the university in with many other highly regarded, politically active campuses. “Our goal now is to achieve Platinum Seal recognition where more than half of our student body is voting by 2028,” Moyon said.

Winthrop typically trains Student Voting Ambassadors to help register students, to hand out “check your voter registration” cards and to distribute absentee voting procedures. Campus clubs, organizations and academic departments hold dozens of election-related events and will continue to do so during the 2020 primaries and presidential election.

The full list of campuses receiving seals of recognition can be found here.

More than 550 campuses participated in the challenge to develop a more inclusive democracy so that the electorate mirrors the country’s makeup. The idea also is that college students will democratically engage on an ongoing basis, during and between elections, and in elections.

Related: The pivotal role of youth fighting climate change

The All In Challenge does not support or oppose candidates for public office or take a stand for or against any political party.

Winthrop’s voter efforts over the past few years has resulted in the university being designated in 2017 and 2019 as a Voter Friendly Campus by the national nonpartisan organizations Campus Vote Project and NASP-Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education. Its student voter turnout earned the university a Bronze Shield from the All In Campus Democracy Challenge for the 2016 election.

Winthrop is recognized among the Top 80 in the Student Voting category of the 2019 Washington Monthly College Rankings and is one of three institutions listed from South Carolina.

For more information, contact Moyon at moyonk@winthrop.edu.

This story was modified slightly from the original version appearing on the Winthrop University website.

Sullivan Award Winner Shares Untold Stories of African-Americans at Washington and Lee University

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, an English major who is minoring in creative writing, 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.

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.

Related: Rollins College Remembers Alumnus and Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award winner Fred Rogers

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.”

Related: Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award winner Joey Jennings overcame racism and poverty to become a top scholar/athlete at Winthrop University

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.