Letter from the president

We are happy to present you with the premiere edition of the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Foundation’s magazine, Engage: Service and Social Entrepreneurship. The publication’s mission is to highlight the great works of Sullivan students, alumni, faculty and schools from across the American South, and hopefully to spread good ideas across the region.

Since 1934, the Sullivan Foundation has taken as its primary mission inspiring young people to lead lives of integrity, characterized by service above self and service to their communities. The Foundation seeks to accomplish this goal in three ways: 1) through awarding service-based scholarships to deserving students, 2) through presenting awards to college students and community members who have distinguished themselves in service to others, and 3) through promoting social entrepreneurship and service.

We hope that Engage will allow us to share the wonderful work of our colleges and universities, and to honor those who have contributed so much to their communities and the lives of those around them.

We welcome your stories and comments on how to improve our magazine and better spread the word. Feel free to submit stories or story ideas to admin@sullivnfdn.org, or by calling the Foundation at 662-236-6335.

Please enjoy the magazine, and pass it on.

Sincerely,

Stephan Land McDavid
President, Sullivan Foundation

Sullivan Flashback: Betty Rosenquest Pratt

Betty Rosenquest Pratt (right) faced Maureen Connelly in the 1954 Wimbledon semifinals

If you’re a young girl who takes for granted her right to go the distance in sports along with the boy next door, tip your cap to Betty Rosenquest Pratt, who almost 60 years ago qualified for the second singles spot on her South Orange, N.J. high school boys’ tennis team, and didn’t give up when she got the boot for winning a match in competition. Girls’ teams didn’t exist, Betty said, but the state athletic association decided it would be mentally harmful to young boys if girls beat them at their own game. She practiced instead at the Berkeley Tennis Club with her tennis buddy, Dick Savitt, who went on to win the 1951 Wimbledon men’s singles title.

Betty, a member of the Sullivan Scholars program while attending Rollins College, made six trips to Wimbledon and considered two of them especially memorable. In 1954 she lost in the semis to Maureen Connolly.

“She killed me,” Betty said, “but I was thrilled to be there. I won the equivalent of $75 and a bronze medal.”

In 1957 she played England’s new hope, Christine Truman, in the quarterfinals.

“When I walked into the stadium I knew I wasn’t just playing one person; this was very special. We had wonderful points in a close three setter. There was an exhilaration; I was playing at the peak of competition in my mind. I felt in a way I had even won the crowd near the end. When Chris boomed the last forehand away and won, I ran up to the net as though I had won. I was very excited for her because England had waited so long for someone to come through.”

Rollins College: Gone to the Dogs

Sequoia is a 6-month-old golden retriever puppy, fluffy and slobbery and exuberant and generally adorable like 6-month-old golden retriever puppies are. If you lean over, he’ll lick your face enthusiastically, his tail wagging the entire backside of his frame, his snout and mouth opening into a sort of toothy smile through which his thick pink tongue hangs out. But right now he’s quiet, napping at Rachel Denton’s feet under a conference room table at Sullivan Foundation partner school Rollins College. If you didn’t know he was there, you wouldn’t even notice him, which is exactly the point.

While Sequoia naps, Denton and Kara Russell are explaining why Sequoia’s presence on campus this year is so important—and the obstacles they had to overcome to get him here. “What I do,” Denton says, “is I train service dogs so that they know all they need to know about turning on lights and opening and closing doors and learning about the world, and from there they go off and [Sequoia’s] going to work for somebody in a wheelchair.”

The problem is that there are more people with disabilities who need service dogs than there are people willing to train the dogs to help them. “[This is] the perfect window of time for people to raise them because [college students] have time to do it,” Denton says.

Denton has been working with dogs—obsessing over dogs, really—for as long as she can remember. Last year, she and Russell—a fellow canine obsessive and science major—became friends. Denton had trained Samson, her personal pup, to be a therapy dog. Since 2009, she and Samson have visited nursing homes, rehab centers, children’s hospitals, and other facilities. On weekends, Denton trained service dogs in conjunction with New Horizons Service Dogs, a Central Florida nonprofit that provides service dogs to clients with disabilities primarily throughout the state of Florida.

The girls had an idea: What if students could train dogs on campus?

“The college environment is really perfect for service dogs because it teaches them about an office environment,” Denton says, “where their handler is most likely to work. It teaches [the dogs] self-control, so they have to sit and be quiet in class, and then they can go into the dining hall and learn about not sniffing food and things like that. Then there are stores on campus and Park Avenue. It really works very well. It’s a great partnership.”

That partnership almost never got off the ground.


Several months ago, Russell typed up a 2,000-word letter to College officials asking for a chance for SIT Rollins, as they’d dubbed their organization (short for Service Independence Training, it was Russell’s Leadership Ally Program), to make a formal presentation on their goal to “promote awareness for people with disabilities, engage in meaningful service projects, and to impact and engage the Rollins campus and community. … The dogs’ presence on campus also benefits Rollins. The [dog] raiser will educate students about individuals with disabilities and about the etiquette regarding service dogs.”

Russell’s proposal was at times legalistic: She cited the Americans with Disabilities Act and Florida law, which grants service dogs in training the same rights and privileges as any other service dog. The College’s disability policy “allows a service dog in training, as, by law, the service dog in training is legally a service dog and the handler is legally a disabled individual.”

They wanted a dog-friendly double room on campus for Denton and her full-time training dog—Sequoia, the dog she’s been working with since May—which she would share with another SIT board member. Denton would be the first trainer on campus, though in time there might be a few others.

They turned in their proposal and waited for a response. For a month, they heard nothing. And then they were told, rather bluntly, “it wouldn’t happen,” Russell says. “That was the most heart-breaking day.” There were concerns about pet waste, about the dogs being disruptive or distracting, about students’ allergies and phobias, about the potential for dozens of students deciding to become dog trainers.

But they kept trying. They scored a meeting with President Lewis Duncan. They made lists of supportive students and faculty. They rehearsed their presentation. In the end, Duncan signed off, and starting this semester, you may well see Denton and Sequoia walking around campus together.

“I think one of our main goals is to make sure that this lasts long after we leave,” Russell says.

“We’d kind of like it to be our legacy on campus,” Denton says.

Mercer On Mission

Prosthetics Program Progressing to Serve Thousands of Vietnamese Amputees

Over the last five years, almost 1,000 Vietnamese have received new prosthetic legs through a Mercer On Mission program led by biomedical engineering professor Dr. Ha Van Vo. That number is about to grow exponentially, thanks to new partnerships and funding.

Just before Christmas 2013, Dr. Vo led a group that included Mercer President William D. Underwood, Dean of Chapel and University Minister Craig McMahan, Chris R. Sheridan, president of Chris R. Sheridan & Co. General Contractors, and four Mercer students to Vietnam to explore opportunities to set up a manufacturing facility in the Southeast Asian country that would greatly expand production of the prosthetics.

During the 10 days they were in Vietnam, they also fitted a total of 135 patients with leg prosthetics – 22 above-knee prosthetics and 113 below-knee prosthetics. They worked in three locations: Ho Chi Minh City, Can Tho and Phung Heip.

 “Along with fitting the prosthetics, we met with our partners in Vietnam: Father Vincent of Caritas in Ho Chi Minh City and Dr. Nguyen Lap, director of the Can Tho Orthopedic and Rehabilitation Center,” said Dr. McMahan, who serves as director of Mercer On Mission. “Both of these partners have offered us space in which to house our prosthetic clinic.”

All told, more than 900 patients have been fitted with the low-cost, high-quality prosthetic since the program began in 2009. Dr. McMahan said that the group has been able to speed up the fitting process because of Dr. Vo’s efforts to revise and refine the prosthetic design to make it more functional, durable and easier to fit.

“Many of the patients we see have lost all hope. Society has shunned them because of their disability. To further their pain, their economic situation prevents them from receiving prosthetic care, which further limits their ability to find a job, provide for their family and live a normal life,” said Gary Wall, a senior global health major from Augusta and president of the Mercer Prosthetics and Orthotics Club, who made his third trip to Vietnam with Mercer On Mission in December 2013.

“Seeing patients, who have not walked for sometimes 10 or more years, walk out of our clinic in as little as two hours is an indescribable experience. This trip was truly a unique opportunity and is a testament to the commitment to service displayed by both the faculty and students of Mercer University, as well as the local community that continues to support our activities.”

Discipline, Determination – and Above All, Compassion

The seeds of this program were planted during the childhood of Dr. Vo, the son of Ngoc Van Vo, a U.S.-trained non-commissioned officer in the army of the Republic of Vietnam. Growing up, Dr. Vo experienced many of the horrors of the Vietnam War, including seeing the ravaging consequences of the landmines that the war left behind throughout the countryside of South Vietnam. An impressionable young boy’s psyche absorbed these images and the daily reality of suffering – physical, social, emotional and economic – they imposed. He determined that one day he would do something to help the hundreds of amputees that he saw growing up.

When the fall of Saigon came in April of 1975, Ngoc Van Vo gathered his wife and children and headed for the evacuation point in Saigon to be airlifted out. In total, 7,000 American and Vietnamese soldiers, administrators and citizens were successfully evacuated from Saigon, but Ngoc Van Vo and his family were not among them. Driving toward the evacuation point, he turned his vehicle around and went toward the home of his parents. He feared for their lives if they were left behind. This selfless act of compassion, putting aside personal advantage for the wellbeing of others, passed from father to son and would emerge in Dr. Vo in the years ahead.

Dr. Ha Van Vo fits a Universal Socket prosthetic to an amputee in Vietnam

Remaining in Vietnam was difficult. Dr. Vo had to learn martial arts to protect his younger brother, Daniel, who was an abandoned G.I. baby that his father and mother took in. Because of Daniel’s obvious American features, the family was ostracized and threatened. In school, Dr. Vo’s teachers would not give him textbooks. In order to prepare his assignments, he had to borrow books at night from his classmates. He was disciplined and determined in his education, devouring every crumb of learning he could get.

He and his family eventually made it out of Vietnam and to America. When he arrived in the U.S. in 1990, Dr. Vo began working as a bus boy in a restaurant. He asked the owner if he could help out in the kitchen after his shift so that he could learn how to cook. A quick learner, Dr. Vo eventually became a cook, though his heart was not in it. He ultimately put himself through college, and then began to pursue a medical education, never forgetting his determination to help his people. He completed his studies and earned degrees in medicine, podiatric medicine and surgery, manufacturing engineering and biomedical engineering. He was academically prepared to help the men, women and children whose legs had been torn off by landmines.

Dr. Vo was hired by Mercer in 2005 as an assistant professor of biomedical engineering. Also joining the faculty that year was Dr. McMahan, the University minister and dean of Chapel. The two men became friends immediately. After President Underwood asked Dr. McMahan in March of 2006 to initiate an international service-learning program for undergraduate students, Dr. McMahan learned of Dr. Vo’s interest in designing and providing prosthetic legs for impoverished amputees in his native Vietnam.

Through many conversations, the two men developed a plan to include a prosthetics program in Vietnam under the umbrella of Mercer On Mission, which had launched in 2007. Dr. Vo produced a prototype that he called the Universal Socket Prosthetic. The uniqueness of this prosthetic was its socket. Traditional prosthetic sockets are made of a hard, carbon-fiber material that is molded into a rigid shell, which usually takes several weeks to produce. Once it is finished, the patient has a durable, custom-fit socket. The problem, however, is that the size and contours of the amputee’s stump change over time because of the atrophication of the muscles and soft tissues in the stump. Dr. Vo designed a socket system that allowed the circumference of the socket to be adjustable. Made out of malleable plastic, the Universal Socket is rigid enough to offer support and durability, yet flexible enough to allow for daily adjustment. Perhaps the greatest advantage of this prosthetic was its price point. Traditional below-the-knee prosthetic legs cost between $8,000 and $10,000, while the Universal Socket Prosthetic, made in Mercer’s on-campus lab, costs about $85 in materials. This allows the University to distribute the prosthetics without any charge.

‘Dream Has Become Reality’

The short-term goal of the program – which received special recognition from the Clinton Global Initiative University in 2009 – is to increase production to 2,000 prosthetics a year. The long-term goal is to get to a point where each of the estimated 100,000 amputees in the country can be fitted. Additionally, discussions have taken place with the United Nations and other international agencies about expanding into other countries.

This past year, Macon philanthropist Sheridan provided funding for production to begin approaching the aforementioned goals. The University is working to establish what is envisioned as a non-profit business entity in Vietnam that will be able to address the widespread need for prosthetics. Once the business template is established, it can be expanded to other regions and countries.

“I am especially delighted that President Underwood and Chris Sheridan, whose family foundation has made a $500,000 commitment to this initiative, were able to join us on this trip. They have each been extraordinary supporters of this program, and they both were quick to pick up the fitting process. Perhaps most importantly, they were able to see first-hand the impact that this program is making on the lives of the amputees that we serve and on the lives of our students. I really couldn’t be more pleased and proud of what Mercer is doing in Vietnam,” Dr. McMahan said.

“My dream has come true,” said Dr. Vo. “That dream has become reality as my closest friend, Dr. McMahan, and I have worked to change the lives of the needy and underprivileged amputees in Vietnam. After five years of fitting, I have seen almost 1,000 disabled Vietnamese amputees have the ability to walk again. ‘You have brought my life back,’ said an amputee in Phung Hiep, who was fitted by a Mercer On Mission prosthetic team in 2009. This was the most rewarding and happiest moment of my life.

“Without support from Mercer University and the Sheridan Family Foundation, it would have been difficult for this dream to ever come true. I am grateful for the wonderful vision and guidance from President Underwood, and the tremendously generous financial support from Mr. Sheridan and the Sheridan Family Foundation.”

Mercer On Mission began in 2007 by sending 38 students to service sites in Brazil, Guatemala and Kenya. Those numbers have steadily increased over the past six years, up to 11 different sites and 144 students in 2013. There is no better measure of Mercer’s commitment to the parallel goals of academic instruction, cultural immersion, meaningful service and spiritual reflection than the proverbial bottom line. The University, through grants and donations, pays for all of the travel expenses for each participating student and faculty member, which totaled over $800,000 last year alone.

Alumnus spotlight: Lucas Hernandez

Life is for service. These simple words are easy to say, but much more difficult to understand. In my own life, I understood service to be a way to give without expecting reward. I operated under this assumption throughout my time as a student at Rollins College. Whether consoling a friend following a challenging life dilemma or serving the homeless in downtown Orlando, I stepped up to the plate to give away parts of my own strength and love to others. For me, at that time, I knew that my life was for service, and I completely understood what that meant. I was wrong.

With every service trip, with every interaction, my gains outpaced my losses. Whether it was revealing a passion I had never before recognized, a smile or a new friend, I never felt like I gave anything away. For the longest time, I spent my days trying to align this newfound understanding with the role service played in my own life. The truth came during my final day as a Rollins College student.

Graduation day was the confirmation of many things. The finality of one chapter of my life, a reflection upon great friendships and memories and the beginning of a new path marked with even greater challenges and opportunities. I needed nothing more than the presence of close friends and family to see this as a beautiful moment. Yet, during the ceremony I was announced as the recipient of the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Medallion which recognizes excellence in character and service to humanity.

Receiving the honor of the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Medallion overwhelmed me with great humility and purpose. Not knowing that I was ever even a candidate for the award, and not being informed that I would receive it made the moment all the more special. To be recognized for my character and service in such a surprising manner meant the world to me. As the long-lasting jitters of disbelief passed, I began reflecting on what the moment signified to me. Though unaware at the time, I became tied to the life and legacy of Algernon Sydney Sullivan.

Hernandez with a fellow Sullivan Medallion recipient.

As a lawyer spending much of his adult life in New York City, Algernon Sydney Sullivan dedicated his life to giving voice to the voiceless, habitual generosity and kindness. Due to his selflessness, people were given the dignity of a fair trial and wise words of guidance and comfort. In addition to his work as a lawyer, Algernon gave to his community through a number of community organizations, most notably serving as the first president of the New York Southern Society, which later established the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award in his honor.

Upon graduation, I found myself even closer to his legacy of service by pure serendipity. After weighing my options for life after college, I accepted a position in New York City government just two months prior to graduation. The program, named the New York City Urban Fellowship, is a competitive nine-month professional development national fellowship combining full-time employment in a NYC city agency with seminars on policy and government. Along with twenty-three other recent college graduates from across the United States and the world, I work for the largest municipal government in the United States to make positive and sustainable community change.

Through a nuanced placement process, I ended up in the Department of Small Business Services, where I help NYC small businesses start, operate and expand. In this role I have learned a great deal about the role government plays in supporting everyday citizens and promoting larger-scale and more equitable economic growth. I have been given great responsibility since day one, helping to manage a $293 million dollar Federal aid plan for the city, supporting new programs for veteran and low-to-moderate income entrepreneurs, developing new system-wide data management policies and procedures and much more. Although initially skeptical of working and living in New York City, let alone in city government, I truly believe it has been a perfect fit. During my time in New York, I have also had the opportunity to more deeply explore and attach meaning to the life and work of Algernon Sydney Sullivan.

Although New York City is a much different place now than it was during the lifetime of Sullivan, the diversity and passion of its citizens has remained steadfast throughout the years. Walking through the many different neighborhoods of the five boroughs as I commute or provide outreach to small businesses I have developed a strong affinity for the unique combination of resiliency and optimism New Yorkers have. I cannot help from imagining that Algernon held similar feelings.

Hernandez receives a Sullivan Medallion during his graduation from Rollins College in 2013

As I began my first day of work in downtown Manhattan and turned onto William Street, where my office is located, I became curious as to where Algernon spent most of his days. Downtown Manhattan remains the city’s financial and professional hub. After searching through the records of the city and the history of Algernon Sydney Sullivan, I realized that it was on the very same street on which I now work where Sullivan first opened his law practice in New York. As I walk down the street, I think of the rich memories and relationship Algernon must have had walking through those same streets, mulling over new cases or his battles with the infamously corrupt Tweed Ring that crippled the municipal government. Early on in my time in New York City I made a relationship with an all-male public school in the Bronx, The Eagle Academy for Young Men. It is the mission of the school to build lifelong leaders within underserved communities. I committed to providing guidance and assistance to a student at the school as he progresses through the college application process. In addition, I have become a certified poll worker through the New York City board of elections. Additionally, like Algernon, I make it a point to continue anonymous acts of kindness to friends and strangers alike every day.

Although the medallion I received is enough reminder for me to remain steadfast in maintaining an aspect of generosity and humility in my life, sharing the same streets and city as Algernon once did provides even greater motivation. It is uncertain what my future holds. This fellowship period officially ends in May and it is unclear whether or not I will find myself continuing in my current role in city government. Regardless, my time in New York City has been extremely transformational, and one I feel blessed to have experienced. As the New Year began, I looked to become more involved in learning about the memory and legacy of Algernon Sydney Sullivan, as well as others leaving a similar mark on the city today. Ultimately, I hope to bring together, and build the network of those who have either received a Sullivan award, or have an interaction with the legacy and memory of Algernon Sydney Sullivan.

I am excited to say that I now feel as though I truly understand what it means to live a life of service. It is important to give selflessly, but equally as important to embrace and appreciate the many beautiful things one receives in doing so. Algernon Sydney Sullivan anonymously gave with great humility and selflessness throughout his life, so it is only fitting that his legacy continues through awards such as the one I received. I am excited to continue playing a part in further honoring that legacy by developing my own life for service; a life of humbly giving and receiving.

Alumna Spotlight: Elizabeth Rebmann

Elizabeth Rebmann receives the 2012 Sullivan Medallion from University of Kentucky president Eli Capilouto

Elizabeth Rebmann is, in the words of a faculty mentor, “not an ordinary student.” A December 2011 graduate in Geography, Elizabeth embodies a truly global perspective on community service.

In 2004, at 17, Elizabeth joined the Kentucky Army National Guard and was stationed in Iraq from June 2007 to May 2008. While there, she urged friends back home to send her candy, which she would distribute to the children near her Army camp.

A few years later, while enrolled at UK, Elizabeth volunteered to be deployed with the Army’s Agribusiness Development Team in Bagram, Afghanistan, working with Afghan women to train them to grow saffron as an alternative cash crop to opium.

Rebmann (right) serving in Afghanistan

While there, Elizabeth enlisted the assistance of one of her former teachers at Sayre School to organize the collection of school supplies for more than 100 Afghan children. Then, when the weather got colder, she coordinated a coat drive to collect coats, warm clothes and stuffed animals. She also developed an intervention that showed Afghan women a simple method to purify contaminated drinking water using plastic bottles she recycled from the base.

Back at home, Elizabeth used her geography skills in the real world to initiate a pilot recycling program with a local convenience store, while working as an intern at the government recycling center. She volunteered as a Big Sister from August 2005 to April 2009. She has also performed extensive volunteer service as a member of the Graduate Theological Union, including working for four months with underprivileged children at the Seventh Street Community Center Kids’ Café.

For her commitment to community service, the University of Kentucky proudly presents the 2012 Sullivan Medallion to Elizabeth Rebmann.

Alumna spotlight: Emmie Henderson Howard

Emmie Henderson Howard shows off some of her clothing line’s signature bowties

She’s southern. And proper. And so much more. While her demeanor has been described as “soft and simple as the cotton she helped harvest during her childhood,” Emilie Claire Henderson Howard (WC’01), known simply as “Emmie” to her Alpha Chi Omega sisters, is also a ball of energy and a saavy entrepreneur.

It was at Brenau and through Alpha Chi Omega that Emmie met her friend, sister and future business partner, Reagan Hardy Howell. Together, drawing upon their southern heritage and love for the preppy look, these two women founded Southern Proper, a unique line of clothing and accessories that combines classic haberdashery and southern-inspired style. Their signature products are neckties and bowties for men, which can be found at traditional men’s clothing stores throughout the South, up and down the East Coast, and beyond. During football season, Emmie and Reagan can be found at tailgate parties and trunk shows on college campuses, as their ties, sweet tees, prep belts, frat hats and other proper products are popular among students and alumni alike.

Howard (right) and business partner Reagan Hardy Howell show off their wares

A business major at Brenau, Emmie was a recipient of the Mary Mildred Sullivan Award and named both Student Volunteer of the Year and Greek Woman of the Year. She was a member of the H.G.H. Senior Honor Society and served as chair justice of Honor Court, president of the Brenau Recreation Association, and president of her sophomore, junior and senior classes. She also served as vice present/fraternity relations, vice president/chapter relations and standards, and vp/pranking for Alpha Chi Omega (although you won’t find that last position in the Bylaws). Her true claim to college fame may be winning $10,000 in a MTV lipsync contest. (We hear she split the prize money with her back up dancers, also members of Tau chapter.)

Emmie has a special knack not only for dressing her favorite beau, but for getting things done. That’s why she chairs the Brenau University Board of Advisors and is a founder of the Brenau Heritage Society. She also knows how to throw a proper southern party, which is just one of many reasons she serves as Tau chapter’s Centennial advisor. Emmie, along with Centennial chair Shelby Bright, promise a full day of fun and classy festivities for Tau’s 100th anniversary celebration!

Curbside Chronicle

HOD student Whitley O’Connor is creating jobs for the homeless

Whitley O’Connor and Professor Jim Schorr pose with the first edition of the Curbside
Chronicle

Whitley O’Connor never imagined his educational experience would include learning expressions like “flying a sign,” slang for a person who is chronically homeless who stands on a corner with a handwritten cardboard sign asking for help. It’s considered in homeless communities a step above panhandling.

Those kinds of terms have become part of the vocabulary of the senior majoring in human and organizational development and sociology.

He is spearheading the launch of the Curbside Chronicle, a magazine sold by the homeless population in Oklahoma City, with a goal of transitioning homeless individuals back into mainstream society.

During Jim Schorr’s social enterprise course, O’Connor mentioned that his hometown might benefit from a publication similar to The Contributor in Nashville. With Schorr’s guidance, O’Connor soon found himself part of a team shaping a business plan for the venture.

O’Connor with a Curbside Chronicle vendor

By summer 2013, O’Connor was using his Ingram Scholarship Summer Program stipend for the launch. Along with co-founder Ranya Forgotson, a University of Oklahoma student, he is working on site to get the business off the ground as part of his fall HOD internship.

Like The Contributor, Curbside Chronicle vendors go through training, sign a code of conduct and purchase copies to sell on street corners. About half the content is about social issues and is written by the homeless.

The remainder of the content includes local interest stories by a variety of writers. An early problem was volume. Even with just 10 initial vendors, the press run of 2,000 quickly ran out and O’Connor was scrambling to get more copies printed affordably.

“I can’t have vendors standing around. This is their job. If I don’t want them out there flying a sign—I’ve got to get a product in their hands,” he said.
O’Connor is committed to getting the program running smoothly by the end of the semester. “I see this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” he said.

Teach twice

HOD students create a way for stories to bridge cultures

Teach Twice’s first two published books are My Precious Name from Uganda and Tall Enough from South Africa

Trevor Burbank, BS’12, who majored in human and organizational development, shares Fenelon’s passion for using business ventures to improve the lives of those in need. He is the founder of Teach Twice, another venture born out of Peabody’s social entrepreneurship efforts. Teach Twice is a social enterprise that works to improve the living conditions of other cultures by sharing their stories and folktales through children’s books. He is just one of many students at Peabody who are turning their passion for social change into practice.

Burbank, along with co-founder Jason Wen, a 2011 Arts and Science graduate, and fellow HOD major Scott Church, BS’12, wrote the business plan for the venture while taking a class with Vicki Davis, assistant professor of the practice of human and organizational development, and director of the HOD internship program. The like-minded students set to work building a team of undergraduate and graduate students to help.

Teach Twice CEO Alyssa Van Camp

Soon Teach Twice was born, a small book publishing business designed to share the stories of people across the world. The books generate income for programs that serve the needy in the countries from which the stories came.

Two years after Burbank and company launched Teach Twice, the enterprise has published two books—one from Uganda called My Precious Name and one from South Africa, Tall Enough. The books are carried at the Teach Twice website and at Parnassus books in Nashville, with Ingram Book Group serving as distributor.

“We want to empower the people we are serving but also have something tangible to give them,” Burbank said. “We came to recognize that stories are the basic building blocks that tie communities together.”

Teach Twice has received recognition from a Dell Social Innovation Challenge Grant and was presented at the New York Stock Exchange by the Kairos Society, an international nonprofit organization of entrepreneurs and innovators from top universities, as a well-run, student-led business. The next milestone on the route is to become self-sustaining. That will include more partnerships and the creation of networks of support.

“We’ve built a nice framework,” Burbank said. “Our challenges are scaleability, distribution and sales.”

Trevor Burbank, founder and president of Teach Twice (left), shows off one of the publisher’s first offerings

The organization recently hired its first paid staff member and CEO, Alyssa Van Camp, BS’10, MEd’13. Van Camp’s role with Teach Twice feeds into her dual passions for international education and domestic public school classrooms. She has spent time in Africa and Uganda and has been a teacher in public schools.

Van Camp acknowledges the publishing business can be challenging. “It’s hard to sell books,” she said. “The best thing to do is to diversify the revenue streams as much as you can and appeal to as many customers as you can.”

As the Teach Twice team looks to the future, it is building content and working hard to procure funding, recruit donors, create more partnerships and build distribution networks, both in schools and retail outlets.

This journey is not unfamiliar to Jim Schorr, an adjunct professor of management at the Owen Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt. Through a partnership with Peabody, he has played an integral role in providing an outlet and sounding board for the students’ social entrepreneurship ideas. As part of his HOD course on social entrepreneurship, he assigns students to develop business plans and conduct feasibility studies.

Schorr has a personal history with social entrepreneurship. He helped launch Net Impact, a management education organization that has inspired MBA students at 200-plus business schools to leverage their roles in the business world to improve the state of the world. He also founded Mekong Blue International, a social enterprise that empowers impoverished Cambodian women by marketing their handmade silk products in America.

“Young people today are inspired by the idea that career and service do not have to be separate pursuits,” Schorr said. “Social entrepreneurship is a path that provides students an opportunity to make a living and make a difference in the world, and the course has proven to be a terrific complement to Peabody’s established excellence in service learning and merging theory and practice.”

The Nashville Mobile Market

Bringing food to Nashville’s ‘food deserts’

Kelley Frances Fenelon, current head of the Nashville Mobile Market, stocks produce on the market’s shelves

Food trucks are all the rage in Nashville, but the Nashville Mobile Market is a food truck of a different sort. It doesn’t serve up gourmet tacos or cupcakes; it’s a portable farmer’s market that makes regular appearances in communities where poverty is high and access to affordable fresh foods is low.

Nonprofit social enterprises such as the Nashville Mobile Market have become a natural and organic outgrowth of the Peabody experience. Leigh Gilchrist and Sharon Shields, who co-teach the Human and Organizational Development service-learning course Health Service Delivery to Diverse Populations, enjoy bearing witness to the birth of these ventures, and providing input and support as the students put those ideas into action.

“We’re an incubator for social entrepreneurship because we don’t stop at theory in our courses,” said Shields, associate dean for professional education and professor of the practice of education and human development. “We invite students to take theory and put it into practice through practicums, classes, internships and field experiences. We cultivate confidence, care and compassion, and by the time the students leave, they are doing phenomenal things.”

Market staffers pose with their trailer, which has become a welcome sight in Nashville’s poorer
neighborhoods

As an Arts and Science major, Ravi Patel took the Health Service Delivery class. While studying food deserts, Patel was inspired to begin the development of what would eventually become the Nashville Mobile Market.

Patel’s family is in the convenience store business, so he originally wrote a proposal on the need for a freestanding grocery store in the Edgehill community. Ultimately he determined the model was not financially sustainable. But he did learn something that sparked an idea. A community member shared with Patel that there once was a vendor the residents called “Market Man” who delivered fresh foods to the community in his pick-up truck.

“That got Ravi’s wheels going, and he refocused his efforts on a mobile version of his idea,” said Gilchrist, an assistant professor of the practice of human and organizational development.

In February 2010, Patel and some fellow students used a $65,000 grant from the Frist Foundation to purchase a trailer. The Center for Health Solutions hosted the Nashville Mobile Market, with the Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the university providing support. Baptist Healing Trust awarded a $51,000 grant to the group to help expand its program. That grant was recently renewed. Patel, now in his residency at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said his introduction to social entrepreneurship at Peabody had a lasting impact on his life.

A customer browses fresh produce offerings

“The Peabody class provided a jump start to create a simple theoretical solution to a complex social and economic problem, but it also had a much broader impact on me,” Patel said. “It changed my paradigm for approaching problems by encouraging me to think out of the box. Now seven years after my first day in that class, I can still say that paradigm shift affects my work today as a surgical resident in molding ways of thinking about patient and community health.”

Now operated under the umbrella of the Vanderbilt School of Nursing and helmed by 2011 Vanderbilt Divinity School alumna Kelley Frances Fenelon, the Nashville Mobile Market continues its mission. It has been supported by hundreds of volunteers—Vanderbilt students, faculty, staff and members of the community—and operates in 15 sites in the major food deserts of Nashville, 35 hours per week.

The big white trailer is a welcome sight to area residents, who now have access to lean meats, fresh produce and nonperishable items at reasonable prices.

“Here in America, we have enough food that each of our neighbors should be able to eat the life-sustaining diet they deserve,” Fenelon said. “But our system is broken. By working to bring staples necessary for a healthy diet into neighborhoods that lack fresh food access, the Nashville Mobile Market gives us the chance to bring about social justice and systemic change.”