Hollins University Students Inspired by Sullivan’s “Head, Heart, Hustle” Workshop

Students in Hollins University’s first-year seminar “Sustainability and Social Innovation” are focused on finding ways to address the world’s most pressing problems as they present themselves in our local communities. Class members this fall received inspiration and a blueprint on how to start finding their purpose as social entrepreneurs through “Head, Heart, Hustle,” an interactive workshop presented in September by the Sullivan Foundation as part of its Sullivan Roadshow.

“What we do is simply support young people who want to be changemakers,” explained Reagan Pugh, a facilitator with the Sullivan Foundation. Partnering with a network of 70 schools throughout the southeastern United States, the foundation inspires young people to prioritize service to others above self-interest.

Pugh discussed with the students the idea of finding “an intersection” between one’s own beliefs, passions and skills. “We know that we want that, but some of us are not one hundred percent clear what that looks like,” he said. “It’s a work in progress. The most effective young people are the most reflective young people.”

Related: Hollins University uses arts and letters to promote public transportation

Pugh urged the class to “take a minute and pay attention to what’s going on around us and make observations. Then, pick a path forward and do that incrementally over time. Move toward finding something that’s right for [you] and right for the world.”

In the “Head, Heart, Hustle” workshop, Pugh led the students in recognizing potential career pathways that employ one’s head (an individual’s skills and unique gifts) and align with one’s heart (the issues that matter most) in order to develop a hustle (a vocation) that fits the individual and serves others.

“If you leave here today and you have a clear step of something you might try, in real life, to bring you clarity about what you might want to do, that’s our goal,” Pugh noted.

Reagan Pugh at Hollins University

For his whirlwind, one-week Sullivan Roadshow, Pugh visited several other Sullivan Foundation partner schools, including Berry College, Warren Wilson College, Lees-McRae College and Mary Baldwin University.

At Hollins, all first-year students take a first-year seminar. These seminars allow them to participate in collaborative and active learning and to hone their skills in critical thinking, creative problem solving, research, writing and oral communication. Each seminar also has an upper-class student mentor called a Student Success Leader, or SSL. SSLs attend the seminar, help students with advising, and answer academic questions.

“Igniting passion into people and seeing them transform will always be a concept that’s magical to me,” said Hollins student Zahin Mahbuba, a senior who serves as the SSL for “Sustainability and Social Innovation.” From her perspective, the workshop had a profound impact. “It was tremendous to see the students being struck by their own sense of inspiration and to ultimately want to build on their passions.”

this photo shows Hollins University students pay close attention during Reagan Pugh's Head, Heart, Hustle workshop

Hollins University students pay close attention during Reagan Pugh’s Head, Heart, Hustle workshop.

Assistant Professor of Education Teri Wagner co-teaches “Sustainability and Social Innovation” with Assistant Professor of Biology and Environmental Science Mary Jane Carmichael. “At the heart of the concepts of sustainability and social innovation is stewardship—the responsible use and protection of the environment around you through thoughtful and intentional practices that enhance ecosystem resilience and human well-being,” Wagner said.

The concept of stewardship, she added, is applicable not only to the environment and nature, but also to economics, health, information, theology, cultural resources and beyond.

“In this seminar, we challenge students to develop innovative solutions to complex problems by applying design thinking principles while working in multidisciplinary collaborative teams,” Wagner said. “We challenge them to ask not what your community can do for you, but what you can do for your community.”

This article has been edited and expanded from the original version appearing on the Hollins University website.

Rollins College Ranked No. 1 Regional University in the South

Sullivan Foundation partner school Rollins College has once again been named the No. 1 regional university in the South by U.S. News & World Report for the 2021-22 school year.

Rollins College was ranked No. 1 among the 103 colleges and universities in this category, which is composed of schools that provide a full range of undergraduate and master’s-level programs. This is the 26th consecutive year that U.S. News & World Report has ranked Rollins among the top two regional universities in the South and the top-ranked Florida school in the category.

Related: How Rollins College and the Sullivan Foundation are developing the next generation of impact entrepreneurs

In total, the organization assessed more than 1,400 schools across the country on 17 measures of academic quality. Rollins continues to rank high among the competition based on metrics like first-year retention rates, strength of faculty, graduation and retention rates, and a low ratio of student debt among graduates.

“Rollins is proud once again to be recognized so prominently among the nation’s best colleges,” said Rollins College President Grant Cornwell. “The college’s long-standing title as the No. 1 regional university in the South highlights our commitment to providing students with every opportunity to succeed in a global market. Our inclusion in several distinctive subcategories affirms our mission to provide an innovative, interdisciplinary education to the next generation of leaders as they tackle the challenges of the 21st century.”

In addition to the top spot among the best of the best, Rollins earned a place on several other notable lists, including recognitions for its innovative liberal arts curriculum, commitment to undergraduate teaching, and overall value in terms of what graduates get out of their education. The College’s AACSB-accredited undergraduate business program was also rated as one of the country’s best.

Related: How Josephine Balzac-Arroyo inspires young changemakers at Rollins College

Rollins’ high rankings reflect the College’s dedication to providing students with strong mentors and engaging, personalized learning environments. The high level of support that students receive is also instructive as they learn to confront some of the world’s biggest challenges through hands-on learning experiences and the development of future-proof skills like creative problem solving and collaboration.

The print edition of the “Best Colleges 2022” guidebook can be purchased online now or on newsstands November 2.

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

How Josephine Balzac-Arroyo Inspires Young Changemakers at Rollins College

By Stephanie Rizzo, Rollins College

For as long as she can remember, Josephine Balzac-Arroyo enjoyed learning. “My mother never had to get onto me to do my homework when I was a kid,” she said. “I was always very studious and genuinely loved school.”

Now an assistant professor of social entrepreneurship at Sullivan Foundation partner school Rollins College, Balzac-Arroyo still loves school, and she’s also made a career of inspiring young changemakers looking to solve some of the world’s biggest problems.

As the oldest sibling born into a Latinx family—her father is from Puerto Rico and her mother immigrated from Nicaragua seeking political asylum during the civil war—Balzac-Arroyo saw the sacrifices her parents made to give her and her brother a better life growing up. “I saw how hard they worked, and I wanted to work just as hard,” she said.

And work hard she did. After graduating as valedictorian from her high school, she attended the University of Central Florida, where she majored in psychology, and started a part-time position at a law firm. And then she rebelled, maybe for the first time in her life.

“My dad wanted me to apply to law school right out of undergrad, but I pushed back. For as long as I could remember, I’d devoted my life to school. Now I wanted to start my career,” she said.

Related: How Rollins College and the Sullivan Foundation are developing the next generation of impact entrepreneurs

For the next few years, Balzac-Arroyo worked as a paralegal in different law firms around Orlando. Her meticulous attention to detail served her well, and she soon gained a reputation as smart, hardworking and reliable.

“And then I had a mid-20s crisis,” she laughed. “My dad had been right. I wanted more. So I applied to law school, and it completely changed the trajectory of my life. In law school, I became more analytical, more inquisitive. I was inspired by so many things, specifically environmental law, climate change and the connection between our rights as humans and having a clean and healthy environment.”

this photo shows Josie Balzac-Arroyo and her Rollins College class working with Fleet Farming

Balzac-Arroyo and her students worked with Fleet Farming, a program developed by local nonprofit IDEAS For Us, to transform residential lawns into micro-farms that help decrease greenhouse-gas omissions. (Photo by Scott Cook)

After receiving her JD from FAMU College of Law, Balzac-Arroyo attended George Washington University, where she received a Master of Laws (LLM) in international environmental law. Along the way, she developed a love of teaching. What if she could parlay all that she was passionate about—teaching, the environment, effecting change through strategic activism—into one perfect job?

Enter Rollins. Now, six years on, she knows it was the right choice. “I’ve fallen in love with being in the classroom and the opportunity to impact future generations,” she said. “My students give off an energy that keeps me going, and hopefully I can inspire them in similar ways.”

International relations major Josh Willard, a class of 2020 graduate, met Balzac-Arroyo in his first semester at Rollins during his Rollins College Conference (RCC) course, Be the Change, an introduction to social entrepreneurship and the many different ways to use social disruption for good.

“Professor Balzac-Arroyo radiates a sense of optimism that we, as students, can make the world a better place,” he said. “I took one class with her my first year and have kept going back to her office for four years. She became one of my most important mentors, and her support set me on the course I’m on today. She encouraged me to open all the doors I could, and it just so happens that the door I chose to walk through, after graduating from Rollins, was to her alma mater, George Washington University, where I’m getting my master’s in international affairs.”

Related: Rollins College alumnus creates safe haven for families impacted by AIDS

Major Impact
Balzac-Arroyo is always connecting with students—whether it’s turning local lawns into organic farms or through Rollins’ Social Impact Hub, where anyone, regardless of their major, can partner with faculty and peers to tackle global social issues such as poverty, sustainability, education and more. The hub is designed to be a creative space where students can pitch ideas both big and small.

“The Hub is focused on aligning our actions with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals,” Balzac-Arroyo explained. “We introduce students to social innovation and teach them to be changemakers within a global community.”

this photo shows Rollins College professor Josie Balzac-Arroyo working one-on-one with a student

Through Rollins’ Student-Faculty Collaborative Scholarship Program, Josie Balzac-Arroyo and student Joshua Bedoya examined how corporations and businesses are being redefined as society is demanding that companies serve a social purpose and benefit all stakeholders. (Photo by Scott Cook)

One of the ways Balzac-Arroyo introduces her students to social innovation is through the Social Impact Hub’s yearly pitch competition, Ideas for Good. Students in her community engagement course, called Strategies for Changemakers, choose a Sustainable Development Goal and develop a pitch using the concept of human-centered design thinking. This means they engage in research about the needs of a community before they even begin to develop a solution. Past projects include everything from developing a better method for recycling plastics to investing in technology that makes it easier for diabetics to gauge their blood sugar levels. Once they’ve developed a pitch, students can win up to $50,000 in seed funding to make their ideas a reality.

Despite the wide range of subject matter, every project developed by Balzac-Arroyo’s students has one thing in common: Real people are at the heart of each and every idea. “By spending time with a community, it allows you to identify problems more effectively,” she said. “We want to avoid a savior mentality in favor of co-creating solutions to social challenges.”

Creating Pathways for Change
One of the classes Balzac-Arroyo especially loves teaching is Law & Ethics of Social Innovation & Entrepreneurship, which is a requirement of the social entrepreneurship program but doesn’t require prerequisites—meaning any student who is interested in the law can take it. This often results in a mixed bag of majors, everything from political science and international relations students to those pursuing social entrepreneurship. Each of these students brings a unique perspective to the course, which makes for a dynamic, collaborative environment through which to study law and gets at the very heart of Rollins’ interdisciplinary approach to education.

“I want my students to know that the law should not be intimidating,” Balzac-Arroyo said. “We operate in a world of laws every day. So even if you don’t plan on going to law school, there are still plenty of things you need to know if you want to go into business. How do you protect your employees? How do you build a basic contract? What do you need to know about intellectual property when it comes to your name, your logo or any proprietary technology you might develop?”

Photo by Scott Cook

Another major component of the class is mediation and negotiation, skills that are essential for changemaking. Balzac-Arroyo uses them constantly both in and outside of the classroom in her role as a community advocate for social and climate justice. It’s just another way that this lifelong learner continues to embrace new methods of effecting change.

Teaching and inspiring students isn’t Balzac-Arroyo’s only talent. She also loves to sing—she’s so good, she made it to the second round of American Idol. And her commitment to climate change led to an invitation to personally meet Senator Bernie Sanders in his Washington, D.C. office, where they discussed climate justice policy.

But Hannah Jackson, a social entrepreneurship graduate and current Crummer Graduate School of Business student, said Balzac-Arroyo’s main strength comes from her willingness to work alongside her students in the quest for change. She noted that Balzac-Arroyo creates “an enjoyable environment where students actually want to learn.”

“She appreciates students’ input just as much as her own, which makes it feel like she is learning alongside us,” Jackson added. “She’s mastered the skill of making students feel valued, and I look up to her because of her strength and courage to always stand on the right side of justice. As a woman of color, sometimes that boldness comes with a risk, but Professor Balzac always welcomes that risk with confidence.”

This article has been edited from the original version appearing on the Rollins College website.

The Hope Shot: “Be More Intentional With Words” (Video)

It is the fall of 2021. We hoped the pandemic would be defeated by now, but 20 months later, we are still staring it down. From here to the finish line, what should leaders and communicators be saying to our constituents, and how should we do it? Our words and actions must move our organizations forward. This episode of The Hope Shot, titled “Be More Intentional with Words,” delivers much-needed counsel from Jill Strickland Luse, Chief Communications Officer for Atlanta Habitat for Humanity.

Hosted by Sullivan Foundation alumnus Ira Jackson, the Hope Shot video series was launched by Perfect Image in June 2020 in response to personal, professional and organizational challenges imposed by COVID-19 and racial unrest. Get insights from more luminaries at: perfectimageprinting.com/covid-19.

The Hope Shot with Jill Strickland Luse from Perfect Image on Vimeo.


Furman’s SGA Leaders Committed to Empowering the Underrepresented

By Jerry Salley, Furman University

For the first time in its history, Sullivan Foundation partner school Furman University’s current SGA president and vice president are both Black. And both are committed to giving voice to those who often go underrepresented on the campus.

SGA President Asha Marie and Vice President Drew Washington know they’re making history. After all, the university is nearly 200 years old. “Everything worth having takes a while,” Marie said.

Representation—which voices and communities get heard and who has access to power—has been a focus for the two seniors, both in their campaigns and in their campus lives.

“Drew and I are from campus communities that you don’t usually see in positions of power,” Marie said.

Their commitment goes beyond race. Both are working to shine more light on Mosaic, the student organization dedicated to working with the admissions department to recruit multicultural prospective enrollees. Marie wants to make sure marginalized communities, like students of color, low-income students, commuter students and LGBTQIA+ students, have their voices heard. And Washington, a former Paladin football player, would like his fellow athletes, among other groups, to feel empowered.

Related: Furman University student creates company offering free tech support for the seniors set

“Being a student in a leadership position is showing that you can do a lot more things besides playing sports,” Washington said. “Whether you’re in theater, or an athlete, or in Greek life or whatever, you shouldn’t be stuck in one box and confined.”

Marie created her own interdisciplinary major studying advocacy and justice and spent the past summer studying gentrification in her hometown of Greenville, South Carolina. She started her community involvement early. Her high school activism led her to sit on a panel with Michael Jennings, Furman’s chief diversity officer.

“Michael was like, ‘I like this girl,’” Marie recalled. “So he submitted my name for a scholarship, and I won, and it just ended up working.”

At Furman, Marie said she “felt like my voice was valued, but I was also able to represent student concerns that I felt were often not considered or acted on.”

The best way she could further represent those concerns, she decided, was through the SGA. “I thought, ‘Isn’t it funny that the student body president has so much access, but it seems like people aren’t really using that to its full potential,’” she said. “‘Imagine what I could do if I had the access and the intentional relationships with the community and administration.’”

Related: Furman grad’s startup promotes sustainable behavior with refillable containers

Before she could enter the race, however, Marie had a hurdle to clear: SGA’s constitution said that the student body president had to have previous student government experience—which she didn’t have. (Neither did Washington, who faced no such obstacle in his vice-presidential candidacy.) Her petition to amend the constitution got about 300 signatures, enough to trigger a campuswide referendum on Feb. 10, which passed with a significant majority.

The victory “meant that more students can think of themselves as qualified to serve in these positions,” Marie said. “It seemed to me that a lot of students, especially students of marginalized identities, just couldn’t see themselves in that space.”

Washington was similarly inspired by his campus experiences, including serving as a diversity fellow for Mosaic and participating in several panel talks. His columns on diversity matters for The Paladin student newspaper helped him hone his voice.

“I got a lot of traction from different types of people in the student body, not just students of color,” he said. “That made me feel like my voice has the potential to carry a lot of weight, so I could try to impact change from a higher stance.”

He ran to break down barriers, he said—not just barriers between groups, but those that students impose upon themselves. “I wanted to make people feel like more things were accessible. We need to help each other; we’re all on the same playing field trying to reach our goals.”

After celebrating their election victories in March, Marie and Washington began focusing their priorities on community, inclusion and belonging.

“We’re just brainstorming ways to do a culture shift—some actual system-changing among the student body and how the Furman community feels and works,” said Marie, who will also be the first woman of color to serve as SGA president since 2007.

After graduation, Marie wants to continue her research on public history and how communities tell their stories, and eventually teach on the college level. She wants to teach “really interesting experimental classes that get students to get out in the community and engage outside of academia.”

Washington hopes to begin a career in educational public policy. But his specific plans, like his vision for the student community, remain somewhat “laid back.”

“I always like to go with the flow,” he said. “As long as you work hard and know what you’re doing and have your goals in sight, it’s OK to have things kind of malleable, right?”

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

Spud Marshall Releases New Book, “Designing Creative Communities,” for Change Leaders

Creating positive change in your community can seem like a daunting prospect, but a new book authored by Spud Marshall, the Sullivan Foundation’s director of student engagement and leader of the twice-yearly Ignite Retreats, will make it easier for changemakers to get started—and to stay motivated.

Marshall was inspired to write “Designing Creative Communities” by his experiences as an award-winning community builder over the past decade. The book relates many of his adventures in changemaking and leadership development, and focuses on the CANVAS Framework, a process for designing your own creative community.

The book is available for purchase now at Amazon. Click here to buy it.

Additionally, the companion Field Guide will help you take the concepts from the book and apply them to your own community. Click here to buy the Field Guide.

“After working with over 1,000 students at Ignite Retreats and through Sullivan programs, I kept hearing from young, emerging leaders that they were hungry to create change in their community, but weren’t sure how to get started,” Marshall said. “This book was inspired by many of the conversations that took place at Sullivan events – and even features the stories of some past Sullivan facilitators and participants!”

“Designing Creative Communities” introduces the reader to the CANVAS Framework, where you’ll learn how to:

Chart your path (and avoid getting an RV stuck in the mud)

Ask probing questions (by jumping into an inflatable ball pit on the street)

Name early adopters (and create a secret society)

Visualize a prototype (while ensuring that bees don’t escape into your home)

Articulate your story (using a giant blue chameleon car)

Sustain efforts with partners (without harming a single piano)

The book has already garnered enthusiastic reviews from change leaders across the country. Erin Krampetz Boyd, cofounder of Ashoka U, described it as “a brilliant take on how to design your own creative community. This is a must-read for any emerging leader.”

Michael Fortunato, founding partner of Creative Insight Community Development, said “Designing Creative Communities” is “an essential read for anyone in community and economic development professions, or anyone that just wants to make a positive contribution to their community.”

“Spud weaves captivating and highly entertaining stories about success, failure and overcoming adversity from his own creative practice in dozens of communities, providing powerful tools for creative transformation with humor, humility and honest self-reflection,” Fortunato added. “This book is hugely relatable and difficult to put down; it is one influential guide that I will be recommending widely to colleagues and communities alike.”

Spud Marshall leads a session at the Sullivan Foundation’s Ignite Retreat.

Marshall is a serial social entrepreneur, creative community builder and lover of fog machines. In addition to leading the Sullivan Foundation’s Ignite Retreats and virtual Ignite Masterclasses for college student changemakers, he is the founder of My Creative Community, which supports groups in designing engaging experiences for their communities. He serves as a facilitator, coach and consultant alongside organizations ranging from the Sullivan Foundation, Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center, and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts to Teach for America, the American Planning Association, and Johnson & Johnson.

In addition to his community consultation work, he founded 3 Dots Downtown, a community arts and innovation event center, where he served as the Innovation Director. He is also the founder and chief catalyst for the co.space, a 20-person intentional community for young changemakers, which has been listed as one of the top disruptive innovations to emerge in higher education. Prior to those efforts, Spud founded New Leaf Initiative, which currently serves as a dedicated co-working space and innovation incubator.

Marshall has been honored as a Knight Foundation Emerging Cities Champion, listed as one of the top millennial civic leaders in the country, and been featured as one of the Foremost Under 40 Business Leaders in central Pennsylvania. He lives in State College, Pennsylvania, with his wife, loyal dog, and curious cat. To view his most recent projects and to explore ways to partner with Marshall, visit www.mycreative.community or email him at spud@mycreative.community.

Ferrum College Students Donate $5,600 in Labor to Campus Beautification

Seventeen students at Sullivan Foundation partner school Ferrum College donated nearly $5,600 in labor to their school as part of a three-week class focused on campus beautification and renovation this past spring.

Delia Heck, a Ferrum College professor of environmental science, and Bob Pohlad, a professor emeritus of biology and horticulture, led the three-week Environmental Planning and Development (EPD-202) Experiential Term (E-Term). The students built, repaired and beautified three sites on campus.

“This class was an excellent opportunity for our students to participate in experiential learning at its best,” Heck said. “They were able to learn about concepts of sustainability, engage in the work of repairing, building, and creating garden and riparian spaces, and develop a sense of pride in their efforts, their project and the campus.”

Related: Ole Miss students investigate climate change in Mississippi

For the first four days of the E-Term, the students assessed the sites. These included a memorial bench honoring Pohlad’s wife, the late Professor Emerita of Biology and Environmental Science Carolyn Thomas, and the riparian buffer zone and garden, all at Adams Lake on the Ferrum campus; the conifer garden and the Jess Goode memorial garden, both in the campus community arboretum area; and the pond and stream feature as well as the wedding gazebo and garden, also in the arboretum area.

Students started out putting thought into lighting and electricity, hardscapes, soil types and plant design.

The rest of the E-Term was spent in about 200 hours of field work. After the work was complete, they presented to the community their processes, before-and-after photos, maintenance plans, next steps, and donation opportunities. A tour of the sites followed.

“After all these years of teaching, it still amazes me how well the students respond to the opportunities of experiential learning,” Pohlad said. “I saw the same enthusiasm and pride in their work this year as I saw over the last 20 years. By doing these types of projects, each student leaves a legacy for future students to learn from and a place to honor the memories of those who have been an important part of our Ferrum community family. Their efforts and comments on work around Carolyn’s bench were especially touching to me.”

“This E-Term was lots of fun, lots of hard work, sweat and tears, but, overall, it was rewarding,” said rising senior Lauren Ries. “We took a project that had been going on for over 20 years—worked on by many Ferrum students, faculty and staff—and now we get to add our names to that legacy.”

Related: Warren-Wilson recognized as a top sustainable college

“We walked into E-Term not knowing much about the projects, but we walked away knowing more about landscaping, hard work and ourselves,” Ries added. “And we have tons of good memories. Hard work does pay off!”

Heck said the students “discovered and recovered hidden treasures while creating their own. They built memories, skills and connections that will last a lifetime.”

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

University of Alabama Athletes Win Bronze at Tokyo Paralympics

Three students from the University of Alabama, a Sullivan Foundation partner school, represented the U.S. and earned bronze medals at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics earlier this month as members of the Women’s Wheelchair Basketball Team.

The summer games were held Aug. 24-Sept. 5 of this year after being postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. They were still called the 2020 Paralympics.

Team USA members of the wheelchair basketball team from UA included:

  • Lindsey Zurbrugg, a senior from Portland, Ore. Zurbrugg suffered a back injury while attending a basketball camp. The injury exacerbated a medical condition—a tethered spinal cord—that she didn’t know she had at the time and left her paralyzed. It didn’t vanquish her competitive spirit, though. “I have been on Team USA since 2017, and I’ve grown confident in my abilities as an athlete,” she said.
  • Bailey Moody, a sophomore from Johns Creek, Ga. When Moody was 10, she was diagnosed with stage 4 osteosarcoma, an aggressive form of cancer that required the amputation of her leg. Moody said training for the Paralympics is “a fulltime job in and of itself. I am doing something that is furthering my ability to improve. Whether that is eating right, doing mental preparation or watching film, much of my time is spent working towards my sport. This is especially true around the time of the Paralympics.”
  • Abby Bauleke, a sophomore from Savage, Mich. (pictured at top). The first-time Paralympian was also a member of the team that won the 2019 Under-25 World Championship in women’s wheelchair basketball.

Related: Auburn University to lead STEM education initiative for students with disabilities

this photo shows Lindsey Brugg, an athlete who plays on the University of Alabama's women's wheelchair basketball team

Lindsey Brugg

Additionally, Joy Haizelden, an Alabama graduate student from Southampton, England, competed for her home country in women’s wheelchair basketball on Team Great Britain. “There really is no feeling quite like competing at the Paralympics Games,” she said. “It’s the pinnacle of any athlete’s career. It’s always an honor to put the Great Britain vest on, so when the opportunity to represent my country arises, it fills me with pride. It symbolizes all the hard work I have put in to be where I am today.”

Two other UA athletes competed in the Tokyo Paralympics, including Shelby Baron, a Team USA women’s wheelchair tennis athlete from Honolulu, and Ignacio Oretaga, a men’s wheelchair basketball player from Spain who competed for Team Spain. Additionally, Darrell Hargreaves, a 17-year employee of UA, refereed some wheelchair basketball games.

UA’s Alabama Adapted Athletics sponsors competitive college sports in men’s and women’s wheelchair basketball and wheelchair tennis. Emerging sports include adapted rowing and wheelchair track.

this photo shows women's wheelchair basketball athlete Bailey Moody of the University of Alabama

Bailey Moody


This article has been edited and updated from the original version appearing on the University of Alabama website.

UNC Takes Lead in Developing AI Tools for More Equitable Classrooms

The University of North Carolina, a Sullivan Foundation partner school, is a partner in the National Science Foundation’s new Artificial Intelligence Institute for Engaged Learning, which aims to make AI tools more accessible and to foster a more equitable and inclusive classroom experience.

The institute, launched this summer with a five-year, $20 million grant from the NSF, will bring together leading researchers and education experts from Carolina, lead partner North Carolina State University, Indiana University, Vanderbilt University and educational nonprofit Digital Promise.

With a $4.5 million portion of the NSF grant, Carolina researchers will work to develop AI tools such as natural language processing, computer vision and machine learning for use in the classroom. The collaborative teams will also improve those tools through thoughtful design and a focus on diversity, equity and inclusion.

Related: How Clemson’s Coach Dabo Swinney works miracles off the field

The new institute will create a virtual environment with AI characters and analytical tools for educators to help foster a creative and communicative learning environment for students. Researchers will design a story-based environment where students can interact with engaging AI characters that communicate with speech, facial expression, posture and more.

The analytical tools will allow educators to customize scenarios as needed, making a more tailored approach to individual students and their learning style and capability. All these educational AI tools will be informed by ethical considerations of fairness, accountability, transparency, trust and privacy.

Mohit Bansal, the John R. and Louise S. Parker Associate Professor in Computer Science, is the lead co-principal investigator at Carolina. Three additional faculty members from the UNC College of Arts & Sciences computer science department will work in the new institute as senior personnel: Snigda Chaturvedi, Colin Raffel and Shashank Srivastava.

Carolina’s role in the institute is critical, said UNC-Chapel Hill Vice Chancellor of Research Terry Magnuson. They will develop advanced educational and analytical AI tools to move the work from iteration to real-world application. “Mohit Bansal and his team are leading the foundational artificial intelligence work for this NSF-AI institute, which will define and drive the strong impact and usefulness of the diverse educational AI tools,” Magnuson said.

“This partnership is a unique opportunity to develop groundbreaking, foundational AI innovations for improved, inclusive education and human learning,” Bansal said.

This article has been edited and condensed from the original version appearing on the University of North Carolina website.


Meet 100-Year-Old Rose Bowden, Lees-McRae College’s Oldest Living Alumnus

By Emily Webb, Lees-McRae College

When Rose Bisanar Bowden graduated from high school, she didn’t have a plan. It was the tail end of the Great Depression, and as the youngest of five children, she knew her parents couldn’t afford to send her to college. But for a girl who loved learning and loved to read, spending the rest of her life on the family farm in Machpelah, N.C., wasn’t an option either.

Bowden’s cousin came up with a solution. She attended a Presbyterian church in Lenoir, and the minister of the church was on the Board of Trustees at Lees-McRae. The two girls made a pact to attend the college and room together, but Bowden’s cousin got married instead. Bowden was accepted into the medical secretary course with a $50 scholarship. To cover the rest of tuition, she worked two days a week, along with most of the student body.

Rose as a baby

“In those days, nobody had anything, which was why we bonded together so well,” Bowden said. “We knew everybody’s family—mom, daddy, and all the siblings.”

Bowden, who turned 100 years old on June 17, is the oldest living alumna of Lees-McRae College, a Sullivan Foundation partner school. Throughout her life, she has remained a staunch supporter of the college, frequently attending campus events and maintaining relationships with other graduates.

While at Lees-McRae, Bowden studied to be a medical secretary and worked in the medical records department at Grace Memorial Hospital on campus. She was drawn to the medical records program because she loved medical science but wasn’t interested in being a nurse. “I’ve always been curious about the body,” she said. “Anatomy fascinated me.”

Beyond academics, Bowden was heavily involved in campus life. She was part of the Sullivanian Sorority and a member of the debate class. She was also elected the secretary-treasurer of the Student Council. “Student Council was a surprise to me. I have no idea who put my name in,” she said.

Most of Bowden’s fondest memories from Lees-McRae revolve around the friends she made and the people she met. She and the five other female students she shared a suite with in Tennessee Hall referred to themselves as the “Chatterbox Suite,” because “there was a lot of chatter,” according to Bowden. The suitemates took a shirt around to men on campus and asked them to sign their names, then the women embroidered the signatures. The embroidered shirt is currently in the possession of the Lees-McRae alumni office.

The Chatterbox Suite shirt

Another popular campus event was “Rat Week,” where the first-year students had to do anything the second-years told them to do.

“If the second-years told you to bow down when they walked by, you had to do it,” she recalled.

The bonds between Bowden and the friends she made at Lees-McRae lasted long after she graduated in 1941. At Homecoming one year, Bowden reconnected with a friend she hadn’t seen in 40 years, and it was like no time had passed. “Her husband couldn’t believe it,” Bowden said. “He said it was like we talked to each other yesterday.”

Bowden also became close with Margaret Tufts Neal, the daughter of Lees-McRae founder Rev. Edgar Tufts, who taught at the college. She remained close with Neal and her husband Paul throughout their lives.

“I used to bake Paul a rum cake every time I headed to Banner Elk,” Bowden recounted. “He said, ‘Margaret cuts slices you could read a newspaper through.’ He wanted big hunks.”

Although Lees-McRae was a two-year college at the time, medical-records students stayed on an extra year to complete an internship with the college. After graduating, Bowden received what was an uncommon opportunity for the time: She was invited to apply for a position at a small hospital in Alabama.

“You would have thought I was going to a different planet, back in those days,” Bowden said.

The hospital, located in a little mill town, had recently failed to become accredited because it lacked a record organization. The accreditor told them about Lees-McRae, and Bowden was the only recent graduate willing to move so far away.

In an interview with Ninety Over Ninety, a project that records the histories of nonagenarians, Bowden recounts the interview with the surgeon who also owned the hospital. “He asked me two questions,” she remembered. The first question was what religion she practiced. When she said Methodist, the doctor said his wife taught Bowden’s age group in Sunday School and would pick her up in the morning.

“The next question was, ‘Do you smoke?’ as he puffed away,” Bowden continued. “I said ‘No, sir.’ That was my interview.”

Her employer proved to be an excellent boss, and Bowden claims he “ruined” her for other employers. “He treated me like the daughter he never had,” she said.

Eventually, Bowden was joined by fellow Lees-McRae alum Sue Woodside Ruffin, and the two worked together to found the first medical records association in Alabama. During World War II, the hospital received a government contract to manufacture uniforms for soldiers. Employees who participated earned bonuses up to 45% of their regular salary.

In 1945, Bowden married James Thompson Bowden, and in 1952 the couple moved to Gastonia, N.C., where they raised their four children. Bowden found work in the administration office of a local children’s hospital. Once it closed, she worked in mental health for thirty years and finished her career with 10 years at Gaston Memorial Hospital.

Bowden didn’t slow down after retirement. Her oldest daughter’s husband served in the Navy, and Bowden flew out to Guam to visit them on his deployment. During the trip, the family also visited Japan. For her 80th birthday, Bowden’s children booked her a trip to Germany, where she has always wanted to visit, and when her son went to Ireland for work, Bowden knew she had to come along.

Rose Bowden with her great-grandchildren

Bowden also stayed heavily involved in Lees-McRae. She is the class agent for the class of ’41 and has attended Homecoming and Frolic regularly through the years. As time went on, Bowden became close with the “younger ones,” as she calls the alumni from later classes, and they took her in.

Pat Tilley, the agent for the 1955 graduating class, is one of those younger alumni who has developed a connection with Bowden. “I just admire her so much and am thankful that she is so ‘with it’ at 100 years of age,” Tilley said. “She is my guiding star!”

At a time when higher education was out of reach for many, Lees-McRae gave Bowden the training necessary for a long and successful career—and friendships and memories that have lasted a lifetime. The world and campus have changed drastically over the last century, but Bowden’s commitment to her college, and to learning, have remained strong.

“I come from a family that believes in education,” she said. “You can never stop learning.”


This article has been edited slightly from the original version appearing on the Lees-McRae College website.