Three Sullivan Foundation Schools Partner to Produce More Teachers With Ed.D Degrees

Three Sullivan Foundation partner schools in South Carolina—Clemson University, The Citadel and Winthrop University—are working together to help more teachers earn their Doctorate of Education (Ed.D).

The three universities, along with Coastal Carolina University, partnered in 2018 to establish the Consortium for Innovative Educational Practice. The consortium aims to improve student outcomes by addressing ongoing, critical educational issues in the state through research initiatives.

The program’s first group of students (pictured above) started class in the summer of 2018.

Related: Honors student who fed thousands and rape survivor advocate receive Algernon Sydney Sullivan Awards at The Citadel

Students completing Ed.S. programs at any of the four institutions will graduate with prerequisite courses for Clemson’s Ed.D., which speeds up their time of completion. Clemson delivers the Ed.D. program in several formats—including online and hybrid—at off-campus sites across the state. The consortium has geared the program to part-time students and full-time employees who wish to remain in the school or practice setting.

“Earning a doctorate in education is the pinnacle of professional development for teachers,” said Lee Westberry, a professor and the program coordinator for education leadership at The Citadel. “In addition to personal growth, earning an Ed.D. creates many new and practical opportunities in a variety of educational career paths.”

The consortium will benefit teachers and schools across the state, said George J. Petersen, founding dean of Clemson’s College of Education, when the program was announced. “Together we will work to solve real and persistent issues in districts, schools and classrooms,” he said. “South Carolina’s children and communities will be the ultimate beneficiaries of this dynamic, collaborative and innovative program.”

In each of the three years since the partnership was formed, Citadel graduates have made up much, if not most, of the students in the group. In fact, more than half of the newest Ed.D. students are from The Citadel.

“I have found myself reflecting on how the Ed.S. program has flowed seamlessly into Clemson’s Ed.D. to continue my own growth as I pursue my goals,” said Kevin Smith, an Ed.S. graduate from The Citadel. “I highly recommend those who are interested in making an impact to invest their time with the committed faculty of The Citadel’s Ed.S. program. I believe it is the right choice for those who desire, like me, to be an educational leader of consequence.”

Related: Shepherd Hotel in Clemson, S.C. to employ special-needs adults in 2021

According to Westberry, an Ed.S. is required to work as a superintendent, the highest-ranking education official. But an Ed.D. is for something more.

The Citadel’s Ed.S. in Educational Leadership offers teachers an advanced graduate degree, between a master’s and a doctoral, that prepares them as candidates for certification at the superintendent level. Clemson’s Ed.D. program offers teachers the theoretical and practical knowledge and research skills they need to be educational leaders.

According to Jennie F. Rakestraw, dean of Winthrop University’s College of Education, every new dissertation in the program brings the chance for a new, innovative solution to a problem of education practice. She said the partnership provides a structure to address educational issues witnessed in the state through jointly-designed graduate programs, research and advocacy initiatives.

“My hope is that all of South Carolina’s schools, districts and communities acquire the educational leaders they need to bring about change and that young people around the state experience the educational opportunities and success they deserve,” Rakestraw said. “We hope to reach historically underserved areas of the state and bring a new collaborative approach to solving educational problems.”

This article has been edited from two stories appearing here and here on The Citadel’s website.

Bellarmine University Offers STEM Scholarships for Low-Income, High-Achieving Students

With a grant of nearly $1 million from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Bellarmine University, a Sullivan Foundation partner school in Louisville, Kentucky, is creating a scholarship program to recruit low-income, high-achieving students into the STEM disciplines of computer engineering, computer science, mathematics and data science.

The STEM Career Pathways Scholarship program will award annual scholarships of $7,200 each to two groups of 11 low-income, academically talented students for four years—one beginning in Fall 2021 and the second in Fall 2022. When combined with other financial-aid sources, Bellarmine expects the scholarship will cover nearly all direct tuition costs for most of the 22 recipients.

The program will provide career-related experiential learning through internships or research with industry partners in the community. It will help all scholars attain STEM employment or enter a graduate program within six months of graduation.

Related: Bellarmine University recognizes two graduating seniors with prestigious Algernon Sydney Sullivan Awards

Career Pathways will also help meet the local, regional and national need for well-educated scientists, mathematicians, engineers and technicians and will help grant investigators better understand the relationships between the program’s elements and student outcomes.

“Thanks to the expertise and dedication of our faculty, Bellarmine has made tremendous progress in our effort to secure more federal dollars,” said President Susan M. Donovan. “This grant from the National Science Foundation—one of the largest federal grants Bellarmine has received—will help academically talented low-income and first-generation students envision and achieve rewarding careers in the STEM fields. It will also strengthen our community by producing ethically minded scientists and engineers trained in the liberal arts tradition.”

“This project is an excellent example of Bellarmine University’s commitment to integrating student learning and success, community impact and scientific discovery,” added Dr. Paul Gore, Bellarmine’s vice president for Academic Affairs and provost.

Career Pathways aligns with Bellarmine’s strategic plan, which calls for academic innovation, transformative student experiences, expansion and diversification of enrollment, accessibility and affordability, and mutually beneficial partnerships in Louisville and the region.

Bellarmine will work with the Jefferson County Public Schools’ career and technical academies to recruit students. A STEM (Tech/Analytics) Employer Advisory Board will facilitate new partnerships between students and regional employers and will keep faculty members apprised of the skills in greatest demand in STEM industries.

The eight community partners that have formally agreed to collaborate with Bellarmine on the Career Pathways program so far are Appriss, Inc., edjAnalytics, El Toro, Humana, LG&E, Masonic Home Kentucky, GE Appliances and the Microsoft Future of Work Initiative.


“We are so excited that this NSF grant will support Bellarmine in their efforts around increasing diversity, equity and inclusion in innovative technology fields,” said Alisia McClain, director of community innovation and workforce development at the Microsoft Future of Work Initiative. “Bellarmine is a trailblazer in the field of education, and we are proud to continue to partner with them in their work.”

Increasing graduates in STEM fields will help to fill significant local industry needs in the ever-expanding technology economy. Louisville Forward, the city’s economic development agency, has also formed a partnership with Bellarmine and aims to add 6,000 local technology jobs by 2023. By recruiting and training traditionally underrepresented students, the STEM Career Pathways Scholarship program will also add much-needed diversity to the STEM workforce.

Related: Special education major Morgan Crowe receives Sullivan Scholarship at Lees-McRae College

“I’m thrilled to see this important federal funding being awarded to Bellarmine to help students meet future STEM industry needs in the careers of tomorrow,” said U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, a Democrat who represents Kentucky’s 3rd District.

Louisville will reap the benefits of the grant for years to come, Yarmuth said. “This is a much-deserved investment in some of the brightest young minds around and will help level the playing field and increase diversity in key fields. By investing in education, we invest in our workforce, in innovation, and truly in our entire community.”

The NSF Career Pathways grant of $988,470 builds upon a successful $600,000 STEM grant awarded to Bellarmine by the NSF for a 2012-2018 program in which 70% of the enrolled students graduated with a bachelor’s degree in the target STEM majors. Based on lessons learned from that program, the Career Pathways program will significantly enhance its Eureka Learning Community, a holistic living-learning community in which non-health- and medical science-related STEM majors share peer, faculty and alumni mentoring and career-related extracurricular experiences. Notably, the university will add a shared curricular component and a stronger focus on career development and industry internship experiences.

Bellarmine will investigate and evaluate the relationship between the Career Pathways students’ demographics and internship/research experiences and their retention and post-graduate success and will compare those factors to other STEM student outcomes. The goal of the program is to achieve a first-year retention rate of 75% and a four-year graduation rate of 70% for the Career Pathways students. These results will help to identify best practices for including underrepresented groups in STEM programs as well as for creating experiential learning in STEM higher education.

This article has been edited from the original version appearing on the Bellarmine University website.

Students, Faculty Rank Sullivan Foundation’s Ignite Masterclass as Best Virtual Event They Have Ever Attended

As the pandemic continues to rage across the country, it has gotten harder to network and collaborate with fellow changemakers and share new solutions to social issues. Now the Sullivan Foundation is making it easy again, thanks to a new online program called Ignite Masterclass.

With its popular Ignite Retreats, usually held twice a year in North Carolina, currently on hold, the Sullivan Foundation is bringing social-change leaders, college students and faculty/staff together through the weekly Ignite Masterclass sessions—and all classes are free. Even better, many participants say it’s the best online event they have ever attended.

Click here to learn more about Ignite Masterclass, sign up and view the 2020 schedule.

Spud Marshall, the Sullivan Foundation’s director of student engagement, leads the sessions. Each one features a mini-lecture from a social innovator about a specific initiative, followed by a chance to network with peers, Sullivan coaches and other leaders in the field.

“The Ignite Masterclass introduces you to leaders around the world engaged in social change and helps open doors so you can take the next step on your changemaking journey,” Marshall said. “With more than 50 coaches and speakers joining the sessions every week throughout the fall, bring your curiosity, because you never know who you might meet each week!”

With the Sullivan Foundation’s Ignite Retreats on hold due to the pandemic, retreat leader Spud Marshall has found a new way to bring changemakers together through the Ignite Masterclass program.

The pandemic brought a screeching halt to live events like the Ignite Retreats, but virtual programming has filled the gap. In fact, holding Ignite Masterclasses online once a week allows Marshall to recruit dozens of thought leaders to share their ideas and time with participants. “One of the biggest values of the Ignite Retreat is the ability for people to connect with others who can help you take the next step on your changemaking journey,” Marshall said. “With the Ignite Masterclass series, we are creating the same networking experience and offering it weekly throughout the fall. We have more than 50 coaches and speakers for participants to connect with during the sessions.”

Marshall said he conducted a survey of participants to get their feedback on the sessions. “The majority of participants rank the Ignite Masterclass as the best virtual event they’ve ever attended,” he said.

“We’ve designed the sessions so that everyone walks away with content and connection,” he added. “Our featured speakers share stories about their work and helpful tips and frameworks they use to advance social change in their field. And then we end the sessions with a networking lounge for participants to connect with coaches who can help you figure out how to apply that content to your personal life, problems in your home community, and through projects you want to get involved in.”

Ignite Masterclasses offer benefits to college students and faculty/staff members who are passionate about creating positive social change. All classes are aimed at both audiences, who can collaborate to launch their own initiatives both in and beyond the classroom.

For students, the benefits include:

  • Building relationships with peers and fellow students throughout the country
  • Access to national leaders in the social innovation and changemaking space
  • An inspiring alternative to Zoom webinars—these sessions are fully interactive and motivate participants to start taking action now.

For college faculty and staff members, the benefits include:

  • Access to new topics and national speakers each week for nine weeks
  • Interacting with up to 70 Sullivan partner schools and their students in real time from classrooms throughout the country
  • Creating assignments around topical workshops and sessions each week
  • Workshops are relevant to students as well as faculty
  • All faculty and students are welcome to participate at no charge

Recent Ignite Masterclass sessions have covered topics such as sustainable design and how to apply the principles of sustainability to product design and development; storytelling for racial and social justice and the media’s role in perpetuating social injustice; and pushing through adversity and navigating the discomfort of change and uncertainty.

Tessa Zimmerman, founder and executive director of Asset Education, will lead an upcoming Ignite Masterclass session on Tuesday, Sept. 29.

The next Ignite Masterclass will be held in two sessions, from 12:30-1:45 p.m. and 2:00-3:15 p.m. (ET), on Tuesday, Sept. 29. It features Tessa Zimmerman, founder and executive director of Asset Education, and focuses on maintaining health and well-being in a chaotic and conflict-ridden era. The session will explore a variety of stress-reducing, resilience-boosting tools and strategies that will help you be well and stay well.

Here’s a preview of sessions scheduled for October 2020:

  • 11 a.m-12:15 p.m. and 3:00-4:15 p.m. (ET), Tuesday, Oct. 6: Developing Empathy as a Tool for Social Justice, with Reagan Pugh of Assemble. The session will guide participants through a dialogue on default mindsets, examine how fear prevents us from growth and provide strategies for developing empathy to advance social causes you care about.
  • 9:30-10:45 a.m. and 10:50 a.m.-12:05 p.m. (ET), Thursday, Oct. 15: Design Thinking for Personal Growth and Social Innovation, with Kaveh Sadeghian of the Center for Social Impact Strategy. Sadeghian will introduce participants to the core principles of design thinking, creativity and social innovation and explore how to create meaningful work that matches your personal values.
  • 2:30-3:45 p.m. (ET), Monday, Oct. 19: Nature-Inspired Solutions for a Healthier, More Sustainable World, with Jared Yarnall-Schane of the Biomimicry Institute. This session will introduce participants to biomimicry, a practice that learns from and mimics the strategies found in nature to solve human design challenges. It will also highlight case studies on businesses that learn from and support the natural world.
  • 1:00-2:15 p.m. and 2:30-3:45 p.m. (ET), Wednesday, Oct. 28: Reimagining Education With Rappers and Corporate America, with Jarren Small of Reading With a Rapper. Small will discuss creative ways to pursue change within the education system through unlikely partnerships, such as bringing rap artists into the classroom to teach language and arts skills.

Auburn’s University Outreach Delivers Leadership Training to Find Common Ground in Difficult Times

The Office of University Outreach at Sullivan Foundation partner school Auburn University has begun implementing a leadership training guide titled “Culture Bump: 8 Steps to Common Ground” as a tool to teach the Culture Bump Approach to individuals and educational leaders throughout Alabama.

The 149-page book, available on, was written by Carol Archer, originator of the Culture Bump theory and a former staff member at the University of Houston Language and Culture Center, and Stacey Nickson, director of Auburn’s Center for Educational Outreach and Engagement (CEOE). University Outreach has provided training for 55 staff members responsible for Head Start education at six locations in Alabama’s Black Belt.

“Auburn University’s Culture Bump training takes a different approach by helping our staff provide an educational environment that respects the values of every family whose child attends Head Start by finding common ground, even if we personally have an opposite point of view,” said Felecia Lucky, president of the Black Belt Community Foundation that oversees Head Start.

The Culture Bump Approach is an engaging and interactive process that teaches transformation of “culture bumps”—or differences with others—into authentic relationships. It includes a method that teaches negotiation of new insights into one’s own character or culture and leads to an exploration of “why” humans are different while affirming “how” we are the same.

University Outreach’s Culture Bump training makes this possible not only for individuals, but also for businesses, governments, schools, universities, hospitals, religious institutions, the military, political parties and neighborhood groups or for anyone faced with a circumstance in which people are confronted with “others.”

Earlier this summer, Outreach began training leaders from the Birmingham City Schools Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) as part of its School Climate Transformation Initiative Grant.

“Culture Bump diffuses a reactionary mindset of actively displaying biases against another,” said Stephanie Turner, director of PBIS. “Culture Bump teaches an individual to explore and understand differences through a process of being open-minded, communicative, honest and accepting. Simply stated, Culture Bump teaches individuals to become proactive and not reactive toward understanding differences among others.”

Culture Bump philosophy states that having bias is a human trait that will never go away and, in fact, that bias is necessary. It is a collection of biased thoughts that lead people to respond differently than one another, the concept presents.

“Naming the experience as a ‘culture bump’ rather than an intentional, personal act reveals the possibility of something beyond culture, something that is more universal,” Archer and Nickson state in the book, which was published in December.

The Culture Bump theory is predicated on the reality that people cannot escape the fact that interactions in every arena are influenced by individual responses to differences. Positive, negative or neutral reactions reveal themselves in the conflicts and violence that result from decisions made in response to differences in politics, education, religion, socioeconomics, race, gender, nationality or ethnicity.

“When we think of common ground, we generally understand it to be mutual understanding, and we assume that this includes agreement … Culture Bump points out that common ground and commonalities do not imply acceptance or even agreement; they simply imply a mutually understood category in which the individuals can hold opposite points of view,” Archer and Nickson write in the guide.

Culture Bump Approach tools and training can be accessed through the Auburn University Outreach’s CEOE. The Culture Bump online courses, virtual and hybrid trainings are administered through University Outreach.

This article has been edited slightly from the original version appearing on the Auburn University website.

Furman University’s Erica Daly Hopes to Get 50% of Students to Vote on Election Day

By Ron Wagner, Furman University

Erica Daly, the incoming student leader of Furman University’s campuswide voter registration and mobilization effort—called Dins Vote—is on a mission to get more than half of the university’s students to vote in the upcoming election.

The good news is that she’s inheriting a campus culture that has increasingly embraced election participation. The bad news is Furman, a Sullivan Foundation partner school, still has a ways to go to match the percentage of college students who cast votes nationally, which provides plenty of motivation for the weeks leading up to Election Day on Nov. 3.

“(We) want to get over 50% of students voting this year,” Daly, a politics and international affairs major from Tega Cay, South Carolina, said. “It’s a general election, and we’re putting all of our best moves forward. We think that’s accomplishable. We’re just going to have to put in the work.”

That work begins in earnest on National Voter Registration Day, which is Tuesday, Sept. 22. Dins Vote will be offering registration assistance from 12:30 to 3 p.m. in front of the Trone Student Center to students who, in many cases, will be old enough to vote for the first time in 2020.

Helping them navigate deadlines, processes and requirements that vary from state to state represents the start of a push over the next few weeks to significantly improve a 30% Furman student voting rate in the last presidential election. Dins Vote has reached out to athletic teams, Greek life organizations and residence halls to organize voter registration question-and-answer sessions and has asked professors to schedule class visits. Daly, a member of the Riley Institute Advance Team, also worked with the Riley Institute at Furman to produce an educational video.

David Fleming, an associate professor of politics and international affairs and Dins Vote’s faculty advisor, notes 30% was a 6% increase over 2012 but still far short of the national average of about 60% turnout for presidential elections since 1900. Young voters in general have a well-earned reputation for being the least likely Americans to actually vote, but if the 2018 midterm is any indication that could be changing.

Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

According to Census Bureau data, 2014 to 2018 saw an extraordinary 16% jump in the number of citizens ages 18-29 who reported casting ballots, the biggest increase of any age demographic and by far the highest midterm participation by Americans under 30 since at least 1986. Furman nearly tripled the percentage of students who voted compared to 2014.

Even so, the 36% of young people who voted in 2018 still lagged far behind ages 30-44 (49%), 45-59 (60%) and 60-over (66%), and Furman’s 21.7% participation rate was barely half of the 40.3% of college students overall who cast ballots that year, according to the Institute for Democracy & Higher Education at Tufts University.

Daly theorizes young people aren’t educated about the voting process, which is one of the reasons she decided to get involved with Dins Vote. “I had a general civics class in high school, and we learned about how the institutions in American society work. But no one ever taught me (how to vote),” she said. “We see all of our friends posting about all of these issues that we’re passionate about on social media, but still consistently, we are the lowest voting block of any age group … I think that’s because we’re not really given the information about voting and encouraged to register.”

The amount of information is not insignificant. Furman students are eligible to vote either in Greenville, S.C. or in their hometowns but must choose, and they must also decide how they want to cast their ballot—in-person on election day, in-person during an early voting period, or absentee, which can mean mail or simply dropping off an absentee ballot. They must also know whether identification will be required and what kind is acceptable, with those particulars also varying from state to state.

In South Carolina, for example, voters must be registered no later than 30 days prior to the election, which in 2020 is Oct. 2. The state also requires a photo ID to vote but will not accept out-of-state driver’s licenses or college IDs.

David Fleming

Adding yet another layer of complication is the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. “Our biggest challenge this year is going to be COVID-19,” Fleming said. “Typically, what’s been the strongest way to motivate students to vote has been peer-to-peer interaction and having a friend or a fellow student helping you register to vote. That type of close community is a lot harder online or in a socially distanced manner.”

The unique demands Greenville County, S.C., made of Furman students before they could register to vote were the impetus for the creation of the Dins Vote student group in 2016. Katherine West, Sulaimon Ahmad and Benjamin Longnecker, Furman students at the time, were plaintiffs in a successful lawsuit challenging the county election commission’s requirement that they complete an 11-question form if they tried to register with a Furman University campus address.

The questionnaire was thrown out, and Fleming said the ruling, combined with the formation of Dins Vote by West, Sulaimon and Longnecker, had an immediate impact on increasing Furman student registration. But, with 70% of those students hailing from out of state, South Carolina’s picture ID law still presents challenges.

Furman was ranked No. 2 for “Most Politically Active Students” in The Princeton Review’s 2021 “The Best 386 Colleges” guide, and Fleming hopes that means students are willing to overcome those hurdles and vote.

“A lot of the students follow the news and are interested in the current debates and politics, but we’ll have to see, when the rubber meets the road, if they are they willing to show up in November,” he said. “I think that they will be, but that’s been kind of a disconnect.”

What isn’t a question is whether or not greater participation would influence election outcomes. In 2016, for example, if ages 18-29 had voted at the same 66.6% rate as the 45-64 demographic, Michigan, Florida and Pennsylvania would have flipped and Hillary Clinton would have defeated Donald Trump.

“Historically, parties target the groups that vote the most, and that traditionally hasn’t been college students,” Fleming said. “So it’s kind of a self-perpetuating system [in which] students are less likely to be targeted and therefore, they’re less likely to vote … We’re trying to push against that. The research in political science shows that voting is a habit, and if you can get students to be politically active in voting soon after they turn 18, that’s something that continues with them throughout their lives.”

This story has been edited slightly from the original version appearing on the Furman University website.


U.S. News Ranks University of Virginia as No. 4 Best Public University in the U.S.

By Jane Kelly

In its 2021 report, U.S. News has ranked the University of Virginia (UVA) the fourth-best public school in the United States. UVA also moved up two spots in the overall rankings to No. 26.

UVA, a Sullivan Foundation partner school, posts the top graduation rate of any public university in the country at 95%. The average first-year retention rate at UVA is 97%. Combined, these findings put the University tenth among all schools ranked nationally by graduation rate.

The rankings also show that UVA graduates the highest percentage of Pell Grant recipients of any public school in the U.S. at a rate of 93%. Recipients of Pell Grants typically come from households whose family incomes are less than $50,000 annually.

U.S News uses six main factors to determine a school’s overall rank. One, “outcomes,” includes things like graduation and retention rates and how well schools graduate students who received federal Pell Grants. This factor receives the most weight in the ranking. Another factor, known as “faculty resources,” assesses a school’s commitment to instruction by looking at things such as class size and faculty salary. In this category, UVA is ranked the third-best public school in the country.

UVA’s standing as the fourth-best public school in the country remains unchanged from 2020. For this ranking cycle, UVA’s overall score improved seven points, going from 72 to 79.

The top four public schools ranked by U.S. News are, in this order: the University of California, Los Angeles; the University of California, Berkeley; the University of Michigan; and UVA.

All the data used to determine the 2021 rankings are based on information schools provided U.S. News in the Fall of 2019 or prior years, meaning that the new findings do not consider the impact of COVID-19.

Last month, Money Magazine ranked UVA the nation’s second-best-value public university, leaping five spots from No. 7, where the university stayed previously for three years in a row.

This article has been edited slightly from the original version appearing on the UVA website.

Mercer University Medical School Professors Publish Groundbreaking Text on Health Equity

Two professors at Sullivan Foundation partner school Mercer University’s medical school—Dr. Bryan Smalley and Dr. Jacob Warren—have authored a textbook that’s the first of its kind in academic lecture: “Health Equity: A Solutions-Focused Approach.”

Published by by Springer Publishing, the book covers the systemic issues impacting pursuit of health equity as a nation and the needs of a wide range of population groups. Rather than simply describing the existence of health disparities, the text focuses on how to develop innovative approaches to achieve health equity through evidence-based approaches, promising practices and a series of case studies.

Related: How a “nerd club on Twitter” developed a saliva-based test for COVID-19

“The factors driving health equity are numerous and wide-ranging,” said Dr. Smalley, associate dean for research at Mercer University School of Medicine (MUSM). “As a result, solutions come from diverse fields such as public health, sociology, political science and psychology. We wanted to bring all of those fields together in a single text for students and practitioners alike.”

Health equity is the field of study focused on ensuring that all individuals have equal opportunity to achieve and maintain health. A number of groups across the United States—ranging from African-American populations to rural populations—face stark disparities in a number of health outcomes. The field of health equity seeks not only to understand why these disparities exist, but also to develop ways to end them.

“It is time for action to achieve health equity for all populations,” said Dr. Warren, associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion and the director of MUSM’s Center for Rural Health and Health Disparities, a National Institutes of Health Center of Excellence. “Our hope is that this book will help provide options and solutions for those engaged in this line of work.”

Dr. Smalley and Dr. Warren maintain an active line of health equity research focused on maternal and infant mortality, opioid overdose and chronic disease self-management, with nearly $7 million in active federal funding. They have worked extensively with communities to develop, implement and research the impact of health equity initiatives, including active work in 12 rural Georgia counties.

Mercer University’s School of Medicine was established in 1982 to educate physicians and health professionals to meet the primary care and health care needs of rural and medically underserved areas of Georgia. Today, more than 60 percent of graduates practice in the state of Georgia, and of those, more than 80 percent are practicing in rural or medically underserved areas of Georgia.

This story is an edited version of the original article appearing on the Mercer University website.

Wofford College Student Entrepreneurs Complete Summer Accelerator Program

Five students at Sullivan Foundation partner school Wofford College participated in the Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation’s Summer Accelerator program this year and plan to be in business before fall starts.

For eight weeks, students in the program participated in weekly advising meetings, tracked progress and prioritized tasks using global startup accelerator tools, and honed entrepreneurial and critical business skills through workshops, while also gaining industry insight from weekly fireside chats with successful entrepreneurs.

“The program is a phenomenal alternative or even a supplement to a job or internship because it provides a different set of opportunities, experiences and skill development,” said Tyler Senecal, director of entrepreneurial programs at Wofford. “The Summer Accelerator is designed to aid students in expediting the process of launching their companies or business ventures by providing them with key resources, support and structure.”

The cohort for Wofford College’s Summer Accelerator program confer online with program leader Tyler Senecal and Wofford alumnus Matt Kilmartin, CEO of Habu and founder of SummerHub.

This year’s program looked a bit different because of COVID-19, with the five participants taking part remotely. Initially viewed as a disadvantage, virtual engagement allowed students to connect with entrepreneurs across the country, including Joseph McMillin, a 2013 Wofford graduate and CEO of Atlas Organics; Bradley Smith, CEO of AVO Insights; and Meggie Williams, CEO of Skipper.

“The Summer Accelerator program brings together a community of like-minded, driven entrepreneurs on Wofford’s campus and beyond,” said Hannah Brown, an English and Spanish double major from Winston-Salem, N.C. Brown is filling a void in the yoga apparel industry with her start-up Form, a company that produces specialized shoes for going to and from the yoga studio.

Most recently, students logged on for a discussion with Matt Kilmartin, a 1997 Wofford graduate, CEO of Habu and founder of SummerHub, a program that connects college students to “flexternships” at companies. With 15 years in the technology and entrepreneurship space, Kilmartin shared lessons learned and imparted useful advice that student-entrepreneurs could apply to their own start-ups.

“Through our weekly meetings and fireside chats, I’ve learned that being an entrepreneur is more about pursuing a mindset than a strict set of skills,” says Campbell Harmening, a junior finance major from Orlando. “In order to have a meaningful company, you have to identify problems in your community and create solutions.” That’s exactly what Harmening is doing with his start-up, Graduates Garage, a platform for students to exchange goods and services securely on their respective campuses.

Harmening and Brown are working alongside three other student-entrepreneurs in the Summer Accelerator program.

Grace Gehlken, cofounder of SEED., and her mother pose wearing a pair of the social enterprise’s handcrafted Bloom Bracelets.

Grace Gehlken is a junior Spanish and finance double major from Charleston, South Carolina. She is cofounder of a start-up called SEED., a social enterprise venture that sells local and global artisans’ work with a percentage of the profits distributed to nonprofit organizations and community leaders to fund key tools and resources. SEED. was featured in the Fall 2020 issue of the Sullivan Foundation’s Engage magazine, and cofounder Mackenzie Syiem was an attendee of the foundation’s 2019 Social Entrepreneurship Field Trip.

Grace Cromer, a senior business economics major from Anderson, S.C., is developing Grace upon Grace, an adaptive clothing line for special-needs newborns and infants. The line is intended to help parents navigate the complications of caring for children with special needs.

Finance major Zander Dale, a junior from Athens, Ga., is working toward the launch of TripShare. TripShare is a platform that connects like-minded travelers so they can build trips and experiences like never before.

University of South Carolina Alumnus Rethinks the Way Columbia Looks at Its History

Born into a Columbia, S.C. family steeped in social justice, Robin Waites left her hometown for college, earning an undergraduate degree in art history and Russian from Middlebury College in Vermont. But she returned to the University of South Carolina, a Sullivan Foundation partner school, to pursue a master’s degree in art history.

“I wanted to do something that could impact community in some positive ways. I ended up going the art history route because that was a way I felt I could do something at some level that was important but still cultivate something that I really love, which is the arts,” Waites says.

Related: Guilford College art professor’s paintings capture plight of racism

“The way that I come to the arts is with a social lens,” Waites added. “I love to look at work and figure out what the artist was doing, why they painted it, what was going on in the world at the time, and how it’s a commentary on life.”

After earning her master’s in 1996, she worked in a variety of jobs at the S.C. State Museum, eventually becoming the chief curator of art. In 2002, she moved to Historic Columbia, and in 2004 she became executive director of the nonprofit dedicated to preserving Columbia and Richland County’s historic and cultural heritage.

Waites has made her mark by rethinking the way the city looks at its history, renovating and transforming the organization’s house museums and grounds, creating partnerships with a wide spectrum of communities, and advocating for preservation of historic structures.

In December, she was honored by One Columbia for Arts and Culture, the city’s arts advocacy organization, with its Stephen G. Morrison Visionary Award. The award is given to a Columbian who reflects the values and qualities of the late Morrison, an attorney, arts patron and former One Columbia board chairman. Waites was specifically honored for accomplishments such as the renovations at the Mann-Simons site, the Woodrow Wilson Family Home and the Hampton Preston mansion and gardens.

Related: Duke University’s Bella Almeida turns trash into stunning sustainable art

“All of these property transformations opened spaces that are much more than just historic homes,” reads the One Columbia press release for the award. “They present and elevate the roles enslaved persons and post-emancipated people of color played in shaping Columbia. They are now centers for connected thinking and dialogue that challenge visitors to make broader connections and appreciate people different from themselves—key ingredients for social awareness and community involvement.”

The description illustrates Waites’ commitment to expanding the conversation to tell a full story of Columbia’s past.

“It’s what we do,” she says. “We’re helping people find ways to establish a sense of place for themselves and to find that through different mediums and different ways.”

This article was edited slightly from the original version appearing on the University of South Carolina website.

Girl Scout Creates Sustainable Shopping Maps to Combat Fast Fashion

Sarah Kessler is a Girl Scout on a mission: to educate consumers in Grand Rapids, Michigan, about the problems posed by “fast fashion” and the need to shop sustainably.

According to the West Central Tribune, Kessler, 16, has been working on her Gold Award, the highest achievement for a Girl Scout (similar to the rank of Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America). To earn the award, she had to develop and execute a project that would have a lasting positive effect in the community.

After learning about the environmental impact of fast fashion and the plight of low-paid factory employees working in the industry, Kessler decided to help local shoppers make better buying decisions. She created two shopping maps covering a large swath of northern Minnesota. One map highlights stores that carry responsibly made, locally made and/or Fair Trade Certified products. The second map focuses on those stores that offer second-hand goods.

“When I kind of learned about how badly we need sustainable fashion, I was just really shocked, because I’d been into fashion my whole life, and I’d never heard this before,” Kessler, a member of Girl Scout Troop 1483, told the West Central Tribune. “I was just really amazed, and I wanted to give people the opportunity to know how their actions affect so much more than they think it does.”

For her Gold Award project, Kessler contacted more than 80 stores within a 300-mile radius to gauge their commitment to sustainability. She took into account whether the stores were paperless or offered single-use plastic bags. “It was really inspiring to see how many stores did have responsibly and locally made stuff,” she said. “The more we know, the more we can make informed, ethical decisions.”

Kessler also created a YouTube video that succinctly and effectively explains the problems with fast fashion and how to shop sustainably. “We like these clothes because we can buy a lot of them for really low prices,” she explains in the video. “But they’re such poor quality that they wear out and fall apart really quickly and become garbage. It’s disposable clothing.”

She also notes that the fast-fashion industry “is a major contributor” to global warming. It releases 1.2 billion tons of carbon every year, Kessler says, and generates 20 percent of the planet’s waste water (fresh water that is rendered unusable).

Additionally, 40 percent of purchased clothing is never even worn, Kessler says in the video. “One garbage truck full of clothing—that’s 530 garbage bags—is being burned or dumped into a landfill every second.”

Kessler’s video also touches on the issue of worker exploitation in developing countries where fast fashion clothing is usually made. “People are dying at work from making our clothes. Most of the people making our clothes are being exploited and physically, verbally and/or sexually abused. They work in awful conditions every day and are not even paid enough to live. This is not OK.”

The video, titled “Fast Fashion & How to Fix It,” was posted on June 20 and has garnered 270 views and 20 likes. On August 10, Kessler posted a second video, titled, “Sustainable Fashion: A Beginner’s Guide.” (See below.)

Meanwhile, Kessler plans to distribute her sustainable shopping maps at visitor centers and chambers of commerce throughout northern Minnesota. The map can also be viewed at, while her project is featured on her Instagram account, @fashion_or_planet_choose_both.

“When we buy from a brand, we directly support everything they do, including environmental and social crimes,” Kessler notes in the YouTube video.

“We can’t survive without clean water and air,” she adds. “And fast fashion is wasting it.”