Ben Herbertz Receives Prestigious Sullivan Foundation Scholarship at Lees-McRae College

Ben Herbertz, an Emergency Medical Services and Management (EMSM) major and cyclist at Lees-McRae College, is the school’s next recipient of the prestigious Sullivan Foundation Scholarship.

A freshman from Indianapolis, Indiana, Herbertz was named the newest beneficiary of the Sullivan Foundation Scholarship totaling $10,000 in funding each year.

A recent graduate of Herron High School in downtown Indianapolis, Herbertz pursued Lees-McRae as a means to continue his athletic career as a cyclist while earning his EMSM degree. He said the EMSM program’s small class sizes, state-of-the-art simulators and enthusiastic professors supported his life-long involvement with Boy Scouts of America.

“[In Boy Scouts of America] I had the opportunity to learn lifesaving skills and get hands-on in emergency situations,” Herbertz said. “This is important to me because if I’m going to be a paramedic I want to have the best training possible, and I believe that I have found that at Lees-McRae.”

The Algernon Sydney Sullivan Foundation presents scholarships to students at 25 private colleges and universities across the American South. First established at Lees-McRae in 1936, the Sullivan Scholarship is awarded to one incoming freshman who demonstrates exemplary personal character and a commitment to service above self. Additionally, the selected student must exhibit noble character as the aggregate of features and traits related to ethical and moral values, including honesty, morality, ethics, integrity, responsibility, determination, courage, and compassion as evidenced by service in the community.

Amy Anderson, the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Foundation campus liaison at Lees-McRae College and dean of business and management, will work with Herbertz and fellow scholarship recipients over the coming years. They will attend retreats and field trips to further develop their community leadership skills.

Mercer University Students Make Reading Fun for Kids in Freedom School Program

By Jennifer Borage

It’s 9 a.m., and there’s a lot of excitement in the Parish House of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in downtown Macon, Georgia. Children are standing up in front of pews, stomping their feet and chanting. A college student beats a red bucket like a drum.

“It’s Tuesday at Harambee, and Freedom School’s in the house!”

For six weeks in the summer, the church is home to Freedom School, a program dedicated to helping 50 rising first- through third-graders improve their reading skills and learn self-empowerment.

Each day starts with Harambee, which means “to pull together” in Swahili. Here, it’s basically a giant pep rally, getting the children pumped up and ready for reading. College students — four of whom are from Sullivan Foundation partner school Mercer University — lead the charge.

“A lot of kids have a negative view about going to school every day during the school year,” said NaShaya Bartolo, a junior double-majoring in law and public policy and English. She’s one of the Freedom School teachers, known as servant leader interns. “So we’re really trying to reinforce the fun and to show them that reading is also fun.”

Creating Better Readers
Reading is embedded in everything the children do at Freedom School. During Harambee, a guest reads a story aloud and discusses the book. Then, the children break up into groups, going to classrooms for three hours of reading and related exercises. After lunch, they participate in enrichment activities, such as gardening, ceramics, dance, writing and field trips — all with a tie back to reading.

“We read to them, they read to us, and we find ways to increase their reading abilities,” said Ashanti Griggs, a senior majoring in neuroscience who is also a servant leader intern.

Mercer University students (from left) Ibrahim Aslam, Charlie Marrs and NaShaya Bartolo interact with children during Harambee at Freedom School. (Photo by Bekah Howard)

Charlie Marrs, a senior double-majoring in creative writing and religion, is site coordinator at Freedom School, overseeing the teachers and making sure they have the needed supplies. Last year, she worked as a servant leader intern, teaching creative writing in the afternoons, something she’s continuing to do.

“We run a newspaper every week that the kids write up all of the columns for, and then I put it together,” Marrs said.

The children also write poetry. “We’ll go outside and pick up sticks or different things in nature and bring them back inside and use our five senses to write a poem about them,” Marrs said.

The children at Freedom School primarily come from Ingram-Pye, Riley and Southfield elementary schools. Those schools were chosen because they have among the lowest reading scores in Bibb County, said Julie Groce, missioner for Appleton Episcopal Ministries, which started Macon’s Freedom School in 2017.

Servant leader interns are trained by and use a curriculum from the Children’s Defense Fund, which opened its first Freedom School in 1995 and now has 183 sites in 87 cities nationwide. Freedom School provides breakfast and lunch and is run at no cost to the students who attend.

“One thing that I think makes this program important is that a lot of these kids come from pretty poor home situations, and so they’re fine when they’re at school because they can get away from that for a whole school day,” said teacher Ibrahim Aslam, a senior double-majoring in biology and Spanish.

“But … over the summer it’s hard to avoid that. They can’t really escape it. Freedom School offers a respite from what may be going on at home. They can get fed, they can be cared for and nurtured, and they can have positive role models.”

Mercer University junior NaShaya Bartolo works with children at Freedom School. (Photo by Bekah Howard)

Positive Outcomes

Children come out of Freedom School more motivated. Even when they have a hard time learning, they now have the perseverance to keep going, Groce said. “Several of our children have been with our program for all three years,” she said. “And there are three or four of our kids who are actually now accelerated readers after going through this program.”

Dr. Danielle Howard, principal of Ingram-Pye Elementary, said Freedom School’s smaller setting allows the servant leader interns to connect with children on a more personal level, “so some of our high-needs students get that individual attention.”

One student made such an impression on the servant leader interns that they started coming to school the next year to check on him. “That made his year so much better,” Howard said.

Freedom School is another way Mercer students are living out the University’s commitment to equity and social justice, said Dr. Mary Alice Morgan, senior vice provost for service-learning at Mercer. “Students don’t just happen to go to college in Macon; they feel invested in Macon and its future,” she said. “As we say around campus, ‘Changing the world starts at home.’ ”

Marrs has seen the impact of her community involvement firsthand. “I have seen just in the two years I’ve been doing this that kids who come back do have higher reading levels and are doing better in school,” she said. “But even more than that, their personalities really blossom because they know that they’re loved, and they know that they’re cared for here.

“This is much more than just a teaching job or a camp or hanging out with kids during the summer. It is really life-changing.”

This article originally appeared here on the Mercer University website.


Berea College, Alice Lloyd College Recognized as Tuition-Free Work Colleges

Two Sullivan Foundation partner schools—Berea College and Alice Lloyd College—were recognized recently by USA Today and Fox Business for their efforts to help students work their way to a degree instead of paying high tuition.

USA Today singled out Berea and ALC as two of the country’s nine official four-year “work colleges,” where students must work as part of their learning experience. Berea and ALC are two of only three such schools that offer free tuition.

For the story, USA Today interviewed Collis Robinson, who cleaned restrooms and set up events at Berea College before becoming comptroller and, later, director of the school’s campus activities board. “I led 22 people and had a $70,000 budget to manage,” Robinson, now Berea’s director of student labor, told USA Today. “I got to gain a lot of transferable skills.”

Students from ALC’s 108-county service are guaranteed that the full cost of their tuition will be covered. They have to work a minimum of 10 hours a week on campus, serving as janitors, resident advisors, teacher assistants, postal workers and other positions.

Students at Berea College have to work at on-campus departments 10-20 hours a week. They typically earn $2,000 for the academic year, USA Today reports.

Free tuition doesn’t necessarily mean a free education, of course. Depending on the school, other expenses, such as room, board, books and supplies might have to be covered by the student in other ways, whether out-of-pocket or through scholarships, loans or Pell Grants. Still, working for your degree is a big money-saver, as USA Today notes: “The average undergraduate annual tuition and fees across all undergraduate institutions is $12,600, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics. Students at private nonprofit schools pay the most: $33,800 annually on average.”

Rollins Named No. 1 College in the South

Sullivan Foundation partner school Rollins College was named the No. 1 college in the South by College Consensus, a school rankings and student review aggregator, last month.

College Consensus combines the results of the top college ranking publishers like U.S. News & World Report and Forbes with real student reviews from top student-review sites like Niche and Unigo to produce a comprehensive ranking of a school’s reputation and quality.

In its rankings of the best colleges in the South, College Consensus recognized Rollins for its prolific and varied study abroad experiences through the Office of International Programs as well as its emphasis on service, community engagement and civic initiatives.

Other standout offerings include the College’s Accelerated Management Program, which combines a BA and MBA into a five-year program; the honors program; and the dual-degree program, where students concurrently earn a BA in international business from Rollins and a BS in international management from Reutlingen University in Germany.

College Consensus also recently ranked Rollins 2019’s best college in Florida for the third consecutive year.

Protecting the Florida Everglades Has Become Tori Linder’s Mission in Life

Story by Adrienne Egolf

Tori Linder ’14 never imagined she’d find her dream job in Florida. After graduating from Sullivan Foundation partner school Rollins College with a degree in political science, she found herself working on human sustainability issues in Africa alongside giants of the conservation sector. It was her dream job.

“But every time I came home to Florida,” she says, “a new chunk of what I loved and what I considered wilderness would be gone and turned into another shopping center. I loved everything I was doing in Kenya, but my own backyard was disappearing just as quickly.”

So in 2017, Linder returned to her home state to take on a leadership role with Path of the Panther. The multimedia storytelling effort is aimed at safeguarding the Florida Wildlife Corridor, a stretch of wilderness that links Florida’s Everglades to the rest of North America, and preserving the region’s wetlands. Besides providing habitat for the Florida panther, the massive wetland also supports an astounding diversity of life—including drinking water for 17.3 million Floridians.

As project director and producer, Linder spends much of her time wading through chest-deep swamps with alligators swimming past and venomous snakes hanging from the limbs above her head. “I average 150 mosquito bites a day,” she quips, then adds quickly, “but it’s beautiful, in its own way. There’s nowhere else like it in the world.”

Tori Linder trudges through alligator-infested swamps as project director of Path of the Panther. Photo by Carlton Ward Jr.

Linder is uniquely qualified to appreciate Florida’s wild beauty. Born into a fifth-generation cattle ranching family, she grew up riding horses through her family’s ranchlands, surrounded by the upper reaches of the Everglades. Even then, she was disturbed by the furious pace of development she saw around her. “I wrote my admissions essay about how I wanted to go to Rollins so that I could better understand the conservation issues in my own backyard,” she remembers.

Linder says she went into college knowing she wanted to make a difference in the world, and at Rollins, she found her niche. As a student of environmental studies professor Barry Allen, she participated in a two-week field study focused on sustainable development in Costa Rica. Seeing firsthand the country’s success in developing an economy around environmental sustainability and sustainable tourism was a turning point. “That’s where the dots connected for me,” she says. “I saw that a healthy environment underpins a healthy society.”

Back on campus, Linder began pursuing environmental studies in earnest. Along with Allen, then-Director of Social Innovation Chrissy Garton, and a small group of peers, she helped launch the Social Enterprise and Sustainability Initiative (SESI), which eventually took root at Rollins as the Social Innovation & Entrepreneurship Hub. She took the lead on developing the group’s changemaker speaker series, recruiting environmental thought leaders to share the details of their winding careers so that students like her could better understand the zigzags that a path in environmental work often entailed.

For Linder, the next step in her journey came in the form of a lecture by conservationist Carlton Ward Jr., an eighth-generation Florida rancher and National Geographic photographer who’d spent years working in Africa. Linder left the talk inspired and even chatted with Ward after the presentation, but she never imagined the zigzags in her own path that would eventually lead her back to this moment.

Linder studied sustainable development in Costa Rica and learned that “a healthy environment underpins a healthy society.” Photo by Carlton Ward Jr.

Later that spring, her senior year at Rollins, Linder finally found herself in sub-Saharan Africa working on a development project as a social enterprise fellow for ThinkImpact. The three months she spent in Rwanda would provide the foundation for her postgraduate career, which included a stint as an impact investment associate at the firm Madeira, a position working with the Africa Resource Centre through the Gates Foundation and serving as a manager of Conservation International’s Africa field program.

Through colleagues, she wound up meeting Ward again and picked up right where she’d left off at Rollins. “It was like sitting down with a long-lost brother,” she says. “You don’t have too many of those moments in life.” Ward told her about his work protecting the Florida Wildlife Corridor and recruited her to help lead the Path of the Panther project. Today, Linder is a passionate advocate for the landscape that’s defined her since childhood.

“My favorite part of this job is working with people,” she says. “Particularly working with these cowboys because they are the most unlikely conservation heroes in the world. We can’t save the environment without people. And to hear someone like that talk about how they’re going to do everything in their power to save the land that they work on—that’s pretty remarkable and special.”

Campbellsville University Honors Ashli Watts with 2019 Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award

By Ian McAninch

Ashli Watts, the senior vice president of public affairs for the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, wasn’t just the guest speaker for the commencement ceremony at Campbellsville University (CU) this May. She was also the recipient of the 2019 Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award.

CU president Dr. Michael V. Carter, along with Board of Trustees Chairman Henry Lee and Dr. Donna Hedgepath, provost and vice president for academic affairs, presented the award to Watts.

Watts joined the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce in November of 2012.  She had previously worked at the Kentucky Bar Association and the Legislative Research Commission.

Watts graduated from CU with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and History in 2004 and holds a master’s degree in Public Policy and Administration from the University of Louisville.

“During her time at Campbellsville University, Ashli was very active in campus life, served as Student Government Association president, was an academic honors graduate, and participated in a number of student activities and organizations,” Dr. Carter said.

“Ashli is very active in a number of organizations and serves as a member of the Board of Directors of Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky, a statewide nonprofit organization through which she works with others in raising awareness on issues related to preventing child abuse and neglect. Ashli and her family are active members of First United Methodist Church in Frankfort. She currently resides in Frankfort with her husband Ryan and their two children, Emma and Carter, who join us today for the ceremony, along with other family and friends.”

CU has presented the Sullivan Award since 2002, Carter noted. “Mr. Sullivan was a lawyer, devout Christian, mediator, powerful and appealing orator, a courageous citizen during perilous times, a noted philanthropist and a devoted family man. In the words of a friend, Sullivan ‘reached out both hands in constant helpfulness to others.’”

Campbellsville University is a widely-acclaimed Kentucky-based Christian university with more than 13,000 students offering over 90 programs of study including Ph.D., master, baccalaureate, associate, pre-professional and certification programs. The university has off-campus centers in Kentucky cities Louisville, Harrodsburg, Somerset, Hodgenville, and Liberty, with instructional sites in Elizabethtown, Owensboro and Summersville, all in Kentucky, and one in Costa Mesa, Calif., and a full complement of online programs. The website for complete information is


Elon Buddies Program Receives Governor’s Award for Volunteer Service

The Elon Buddies program, a partnership between Elon University and Alamance Community College (ACC), recently received the Governor’s Medallion Award for Volunteer Service.

Elon Buddies gives undergraduate students the opportunity to pair with special-needs students enrolled in ACC’s Career College program twice a month. Career College is a two-year integrative certificate program for adults with intellectual or developmental and physical disabilities. It provides a foundation for transitioning into a career. Along with on-hands practicum experience, the students learn to develop their math, reading and computer skills.

About 50 Elon and ACC students participate in Elon Buddies, which will celebrate its eighth year this fall.

Read the full version of this article on the Elon University website.


Davidson College Alumnus Runs Nonprofit Tech Helping Families Apply for SNAP Benefits

By Danielle Strickland

Genevieve Nielsen graduated from Sullivan Foundation partner school Davidson College just five years ago and already has made a difference in the lives of more than 425,000 families—and counting.

Nielsen co-founded mRelief, a non-profit tech company that helps families find out if they qualify for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, formerly known as food stamps. Families can answer 10 quick questions online instead of spending hours on the phone or in a waiting room.

“Our goal was to put something into the world that would be useful, and that turned out to be a tech nonprofit,” said Nielsen. “We want to make it so anybody can access a social safety net, and that’s where we’re headed.”

To date, mRelief has unlocked more than $91 million in SNAP benefits. There are currently nine million people in the United States who are eligible for but not receiving the benefit, simply because they don’t know they can.

“About three million of the nine million live in California, so we’ve been doing a lot of work out there,” explained Nielsen. “We focus on where we can make the most impact and where there are the most people to serve.”


mRelief began while Nielsen attended a coding bootcamp the summer after graduating from Davidson, and she was inspired by a presentation about the inefficiencies related to social services in Chicago. Chicago is also Nielsen’s home, where she and her family moved after leaving New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. She learned that, every year, 10,000 people apply for assistance in paying their rent but only 400-600 qualify, resulting in a huge waste of time for applicants and staff.

Nielsen’s work focuses on SNAP benefits, but she sees real potential for expanding to other programs.

“We had some luck,” Nielsen said. “By the end of that first summer, the city wanted case workers to use our program. That gave us the wind at our backs to keep going.”

It costs approximately $13 to enroll a family and, on average, the family receives $1,000 in benefits within the first six months.

Creating something new has always been of interest to Nielsen, but it was at Davidson where she learned about her strengths and the areas where she needed more work.

“There is only so much you can learn by reading or getting advice; there’s nothing like trying something and feeling it for yourself,” she said. “During college, a friend and I tried to make a website that would benefit student organizations on campus. The main problem was that neither of us knew how to code. That really set me on the path I’m on now. Even though our project didn’t work out, there’s a lot to be said for giving it a shot, especially in college when you have the security to do it.”

Nielsen’s involvement with the Chidsey Leadership Program, as well as relationships with a few key professors, helped give her the confidence that she could learn new things and take on new challenges.

“I was always introverted, so I never saw myself as a leader,” she said. “The Chidsey program helped me see that anybody can be a leader. It’s not just one type of personality. It’s really about mobilizing people to effect positive change – and any personality can do that.”

This article was edited slightly from the original version appearing on the Davidson College website.

Student Developing Sensors for Spider Robots at Randolph-Macon College

A student at Sullivan Foundation partner school Randolph-Macon College is helping robots develop “spidey sense”—well, sort of.

Max Spivey, a computer science and cybersecurity major, is conducting robotics research at R-MC’s Schapiro Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program, working under the guidance of computer science professor John McManus.

Spivey’s research involves developing different gaits (the way/order the legs move) and postures (looking scared, looking aggressive) for six-legged robotic spiders. In a lab in the Copley Science Center, Spivey is developing a set of sensors that allow the spiders to perceive the environment and a set of stimulus-response behaviors for the spiders to respond to what they sense.

“In other words, I am making three large, six-legged robots that will respond to the world like real spiders do,” Spivey says. “For example, I want to program the robots to communicate about what obstacles to avoid—say, an object that is one meter away. I’m also working toward programming the spiders to react with specific behavior (such as twitching) in order to appear aggressive if they perceive a threat. If aggressive, the robots may walk faster and/or puff up to look bigger.”

Part of Max Spivey’s research involves programming robots to communicate with each other about which obstacles to avoid in their environment.

Sensors, Coding, Behavior 
The spiders are made of acrylic plastic, with micro-controller boards for the “brain,” servos (an automatic device that uses error-sensing negative feedback to correct the performance of a mechanism), and ultrasonic sensors to detect movement. Each spider, connected to a central server called a blackboard, will relay information to the blackboard, determine what to do with it, and allow the other robots to pull the information if needed. This information will most likely be about the surrounding environment and what behaviors (aggression, passivity, curiosity) the spiders will display as they respond to their environment.

Each day, Spivey adds sensors to the robots, alters code, or creates new code for the robots to use. His research goals change day by day and follow a longer-range plan that he developed for his project. He works towards those goals in the morning, and he tests the hardware and software in the afternoon and evening.

Great Ideas + Alumni Connections 
The idea behind Spivey’s research came about when McManus met with Scot Tanner, founder and producer of Stormcatcher Films in Petersburg, Virginia. Tanner was interested in finding students with robotics experience to design and program a robot spider that can move and interact with its surroundings.

“One of the big benefits of working at R-MC is that we have highly engaged alumni and staff who help faculty make connections to support our current students,” says McManus, who later met with R-MC alum Pat Filoteo, architect & principal project manager for Microsoft, Inc. – Windows Azure. “Pat and I talked about opportunities for him to engage with our students, and he generously offered to fund Max’s SURF project.”  Thanks to Filoteo, Spivey is known as the 2019 Filoteo Fellow.

Spivey’s spider robots are being programmed to learn certain behaviors, including aggression, passivity and curiosity.

“The equipment we are using in Max’s research—including the three robot spiders, sensors, and specialized batteries, isn’t something we can cover,” says McManus. “Thanks to Pat, we were able to purchase the items Max needed to get his research underway. Alumni-student connections are part of what makes R-MC unique.”

This article was adapted from the original story appearing on the Randolph-Macon College website.


It’s Official: Coker College Changes Its Name to Coker University

It’s official: Sullivan Foundation partner school Coker College began operating as Coker University on July 1, reflecting the institution’s recent growth and increased diversity of degree offerings.

Coker currently has five online master’s degree programs and grants bachelor’s degrees in over 40 subject areas, including four undergraduate degrees that can be earned entirely online. As Coker University, the value of a Coker degree is more clearly indicated to both international and domestic audiences, and the breadth of opportunities available to Coker students is now implied in the institutional name, the university stated.

“In my 10 years as president of Coker, I’ve seen this institution respond with passion and purpose to the changing needs of our students and higher education in general,” says Dr. Robert Wyatt, president of Coker University. “Transitioning to Coker University is a natural next step as we continue to implement innovative ways of helping our students achieve their personal best.”

Coker University’s newly shifted academic structure includes Coker College of Humanities and Sciences with Dr. Andrea Coldwell as dean; the School of Business with Dr. Andrew Burkemper as dean; the School of Visual and Performing Arts with Professor Angela Gallo as dean; and the Wiggins School of Education, which was founded in 2012, with Dr. Karen Carpenter continuing as dean.

The school also announced that graduates can get their diplomas reprinted with the name “Coker University” instead of “Coker College.”

In 1894, Major James Lide Coker and the Welsh Neck Baptist Association opened Welsh Neck High School, a coeducational boarding school, on what would become Coker’s campus. The grounds transitioned in 1908 to become Coker College for Women. It officially became a coeducational institution in 1969 and dropped “for Women” from its title.

In the fall of 2018, the Coker College Board of Trustees voted unanimously to change the institution’s name to Coker University, effective July 1, 2019. Following that decision, the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education reclassified Coker from its “Baccalaureate Colleges, Diverse Fields” category to the category of “Masters Universities, Smaller Programs.”

The crux of a Coker education still centers around personalized, discussion-based learning and the values of the university’s student covenant: integrity, respect, scholarship, sustainability, service, and contribution.

Coker’s May 2019 commencement ceremony was the last for Coker College. December 2019 graduates will be the first to receive degrees from Coker University.

This article was adapted slightly from the original story on the Coker College website.