Letter from the president

With this seventh issue of Engage, we enter the fourth year of the magazine. This issue, as usual, features some colleges and people we’ve seen before as well as some new perspectives on our thriving network. I hope you’ll enjoy seeing what the Sullivan Foundation and its members have going on.

The Foundation is always striving to grow so we can take the valuable impact we have in communities and expand it to affect even more lives. In the coming months, we’ll be introducing even more ways for you to connect with us—through media as well as through new programs. We’re also looking at ways to not only increase our financial resources but also how to use those resources more efficiently to support students and faculty and make real change in the world. I hope to have an update on that in the spring issue.

We’re also committed to our existing programs and continuing to improve on them. Our Ignite student retreats continue to thrive, but we’re working on ways to keep students engaged once the weekend is over. Our Faculty Summit is building momentum and increasing the number of involved faculty in our network.

The more we connect, the more we can accomplish. I am as proud as ever of the work we do, and we want to make sure you stay connected to us, so feel free to reach out, to let us know how we can help you as you help others. As always, remember to engage.

Sincerely,

Stephan L. McDavid
President, Algernon Sydney Sullivan Foundation

Education of advocacy

A Davidson student combines a passion for language and politics with action on behalf of refugees

Hayden Bates hikes Wadi Rum while studying Arabic at the Qasid Institute in Jordan during the summer of 2015

When Hayden Bates was a child, her parents shared stories with her from their fieldwork with Eritrean refugees for Save the Children in Sudan. The Arabic language was subtly incorporated into her daily life and memory through her parents’ use of phrases around the house.

Those early experiences would shape Bates’ trajectory as a student at North Carolina’s Davidson College, a small college with a big focus on service that makes it an excellent member of the Sullivan Foundation network. Bates is set to graduate in 2017.

“When we first arrived, President Quillen addressed our class and said ‘don’t be afraid to take creative leaps and try courses that you have no background knowledge in,'” says Bates.

That inspired Bates to rediscover her appreciation of the Arabic language as well as to find outlets for her drive to help those in need. An Arab Studies and public health double major through the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies, Bates has been able to pursue both of her passions at Davidson.

“I think the Arabic language is beautiful, and I love learning about the language in the context of the history and politics,” she says.

“I took Dr. [Rebecca] Joubin’s class on political parodies in Syria. We learned to recognize the way in which Syrian political parodies subtly deconstruct the regime narratives, and the role political parodies play during uprisings,” she said.

With a Dean Rusk grant, Bates studied at the Qasid Institute in Jordan during the summer of 2015. There, she lived with a host family and spent five hours in Arabic class each morning; but her experiences outside of the classroom proved more valuable still.

From research to reality

Bates is merging her interests in public health and Arabic by researching the psychological effects of refugee camp design on their inhabitants.

“My work focuses on two camps: one that had grown to more than 100,000 refugees, forming almost a mini city, and one that had taken a unique design approach with mini communities that allowed families and groups to travel together,” she said.

To gain background information first-hand, she sought ways to work with the refugee population in Jordan, where it is estimated that more than 600,000 Syrians have relocated since 2011.

After applying to various refugee service organizations and developing community connections through her host family, Bates was granted a meeting with a public health official from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which leads and coordinates international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide.

“I told her about my interest in public health and my research,” Bates explained. “She said that UNHCR generally focuses on treating communicable diseases; however, given the relatively high socioeconomic standing of the Syrian population, they were encountering different health concerns, specifically cancer–they were processing more than 500 cancer cases with 133 new cases in the last six months.”

Bates was hired to work in the UNHCR office and witnessed the effects of budget cuts on the services available to the burgeoning refugee population. The organization was forced to make difficult decisions about the number of cases they could take on and the treatment protocols they were able to establish for refugees with cancer.

Students hosted a Thanksgiving dinner in Charlotte with families from Eritrea, Butane, Burma and Vietnam.

Through her experience, Bates came to better understand the complexity of the refugee situation and the stark choices organizations such as the UNHCR face, as well as the scrutiny those organizations face for their perceived shortcomings.

“They were providing so much, but it wasn’t always complete treatment,” she said. “Working with individuals made it so real, and after that experience I decided that I wanted to continue working with displaced and underserved populations.”

Resilience at home and abroad

Bates most valued the relationships she built with the UNHCR patients and decided to carry some aspect of that with her back to Davidson. Bates and her friends, who had had similar summer experiences, decided to raise awareness among their peers of Charlotte’s refugee population, and identify ways to help them assimilate to the community.

According to Refugee Support Services, a Charlotte organization that connects refugees to people and resources in the region, approximately 600 refugees arrive in Charlotte from over 15 different countries each year. More than 60 Syrian refugees have been relocated to Charlotte thus far.

“We realized that a lot of students here had the same interest and that we could get plugged into the Charlotte refugee population by assisting with things like ESL classes, citizenship tests, navigating the bus system and using food stamps,” she said.

In collaboration with Refugee Support Services, the students are organizing events that foster dialogue and relationships among refugees and Davidson students. Most recently, seven families attended a Thanksgiving dinner hosted by the students.

“Ideally they [the students] will form valuable relationships that change people’s perspectives,” says Bates. “I want others to recognize the creativity and resilience of people I met this summer who had gone through so much but still worked hard to start a business in the camp or get jobs outside of the camp. That resilient spirit is also evident in the Charlotte community.”

A legacy of service

One family makes a 15-year mark on the University of Virginia

Kate Whelan was the last of five siblings to attend the University of Virginia in a row. Her older brother, Kevin, received a Sullivan Award in 2001

When students decide to attend a college following in the footsteps of a relative who attended previously, they are known in university admissions-speak as a ‘legacy.’ It’s a bit of a grandiose term for a pretty common occurrence. Not so, however, in the case of the Whelan family at the University of Virginia.

The family consists of parents Pam and Will Whelan—who moved the family to Vienna, Virginia 30 years ago in part because of the excellent public education system in the state—and their five children: Matthew, Kevin, Elizabeth, Joseph, and Kate.

The siblings took full advantage of that educational system. All five attended the University of Virginia and created a streak in which at least one Whelan was a student over a span of 15 years, from 1996 to 2011.

The commitment to U.Va. is not the only thing the Whelan children have in common. The family has always emphasized service. In fact, Kevin, the second oldest Whelan, received a Sullivan Award upon his graduation in 2001.

“Service has always been important in our family,” says Will Whelan. “As a father that really makes me proud. That tells me that Virginia is a good place, an outstanding university, where service is cultivated.”

Fifteen years in five careers

Matthew, 33, graduated in 2000, majoring in religious studies and English. After graduation, he worked for the Peace Corps in Honduras and earned a master’s degree in agriculture in Costa Rica.

Kevin, 32, graduated in 2001 from the honors program in government and foreign affairs. He won the Raven Award in addition to his Sullivan Award, recognizing in particular his deep involvement in Madison House volunteer service programs. In the summer of 2000, he had a fateful internship with the policy-planning unit in the office of former Secretary of State Madeline Albright; he now works as a lawyer for the State Department.

Elizabeth, 29, was a Phi Beta Kappa English and religious studies major in the class of 2003. A passion for photography began in high school and led her to do several U.Va. photography projects, including documenting the Kasisi Orphanage in Lusaka, Zambia where many of the children have AIDS. Funded by a Harrison Undergraduate Research grant, she documented the role of religion in a remote village in Honduras struggling to recover from Hurricane Mitch, with the resulting photos and related poems and essays eventually published in U.Va.’s undergraduate research journal, Oculus, and the Women’s Center’s journal, Iris.

Joseph, 25, earned his bachelor’s degree in 2007, majoring in religious studies and anthropology, then joined the Peace Corps. He now works as a ranger at Denali National Park in Alaska. He does interpretive work and interacts with visitors in three languages.

Kate, the last Whelan to graduate, worked with the Catholic Student Ministry group and lived in and worked for a Catholic shelter in New York City for women and children facing domestic abuse or homelessness. Her first job after college was with the Innocence Project, which works to exonerate those wrongfully convicted of crimes and pushes for other reforms that might prevent future wrongful convictions.

A lasting impact

While this group of siblings certainly has a great deal in common, each of them found their own way.

“None of us felt as if we were conforming or following in footsteps,” Kate said. “It was a coincidence in a way.”

And just as U.Va. had a profound impact on the Whelans, the family left quite a mark on the university.

“My gratitude to the Whelan parents, Pam and Will, is enormous,” says Vanessa Ochs, a religious studies professor. “They have raised up the kind of young people that teachers dream of educating: smart, focused, compassionate, self-critical, and always aware of the big picture.”

Ochs and her husband Peter, also a religious studies professor, taught all five of the siblings at one point or another. The families have become close friends.

“I would be altogether bereft,” says Ochs, “if not for the fact that there are tiny Whelans who may one day come our way.”

Q&A: Igniting change

A conversation with Spud Marshall

Spud Marshall wears many hats—literally too many to list all of them here (visit his website iamspud.com to get the full list). His chief occupation is CEO and Chief Catalyst of the co.space, a network of intentional communities for changemakers. He’s also an important consultant for the Sullivan Foundation. Serving as the foundation’s Director of Student Engagement, he’s designed and delivered over a dozen retreats.

1. What initially got you interested in service and social entrepreneurship? What was the path that led to your involvement with the Foundation generally and the Ignite retreats specifically?

I actually stumbled into the world of social entrepreneurship. One day I was watching a youtube video of someone explaining the concept and I suddenly had one of those light bulb moments where I realized “oh, that’s what I am!”

For me, the whole journey began back in 2010 when I moved back to Pennsylvania after living abroad in Sweden. I was frustrated with how few opportunities I was provided while an undergrad to get connected to my community and make a real impact—rather than just study equations from a book—and so I teamed up with some friends to launch a nonprofit. Our goal was simple: create an alternative space right beside our university for students to get involved on real-life projects that made a difference. We had no clue what we were doing, but day by day, we managed to find just enough money to keep the lights on and pay the bills. The more I explored, the more I fell in love with the world of social entrepreneurship.

My journey really quickened after I took a visit to DC and happened to walk in to Ashoka’s HQ. I had read about their work online but never met anyone from the group. So, when I saw their logo on a door while randomly walking around DC, I decided to jump at the opportunity to wander in and say hi. I couldn’t have made a better decision. They quickly introduced me to countless conferences, mentors, and peers in the social change community. They were in fact the ones that introduced me to the Sullivan Foundation, who, soon after, invited me to speak at one of their Ignite retreats. The rest is history and I’ve had the pleasure of running more than a dozen retreats over the past few years.

2. What issues in community engagement (or more global engagement) are especially close to your heart? In what ways, outside of your work with the Foundation, do you try to get involved?

Jessica Malerman (center) enjoys herself at the fall 2016 Ignite Retreat.

I am really passionate about connecting young people with small-town communities who are ripe with possibility for change. So much of the mainstream narrative revolves around millennials and young professionals wanting to move towards the cities. But I see a different trend hopefully emerging. As someone who has spent all my life living in relatively small towns, I have found so much potential and opportunity by committing myself to get fully involved with the community I call home. I often talk about small towns as “sandbox communities” because they allow young people the flexibility to experiment and try new things easily. There’s a layer of trust and quality of life that comes from a small town which are sometimes difficult to find in the bigger cities.

So, a majority of my work outside of working with the Sullivan Foundation is helping position my town—State College—as a place with open arms for young professionals. I work extensively with groups like our community foundation, the municipal government, local real estate developers, and the entrepreneurship community to tackle that issue head on.

3. Tell me a little bit about the co.space and the work you do there.

Colby DeVane (left) and Gabrielle Deculus speak with other retreat participants on the porch

The co.space originated when a pastor walked into my office one day and told me that I should consider buying the frat house that was for sale beside his home. He felt that if any group could do something with a property like that, it would be ours. At the time, I was leading New Leaf Initiative (www.newleafinitiative.org) and the idea he planted in our heads quickly grew.

Combining a lot of personal experience I had living in intentional communities and pursuing a social change career, we designed co.space to be a place where young people—from undergraduate students to self-directed learners to working young professionals—could live together under one roof and explore what it means to be a changemaker. We aim to make the house as diverse as possible so that the multitude of perspectives, skills, and passions can create a supportive family where tenants feel fully equipped to tackle issues they deeply care about. For the first 2 years, I lived in the home. But now, it is run entirely by two house managers and I simply help from afar.

We host 3 retreats a year and frequent programming throughout the year—from guest dinners to funding projects that tenants dream up over the course of the year. The house is unlike any other home most people have stepped inside and features everything from cave showers with stalactites and waterfalls, to indoor beehives so that folks can learn about the importance of local pollinators, to rock climbing walls and secret trap doors scattered throughout the home. It’s truly a home that brings out the creativity in you.

4. What’s the in-a-nutshell pitch for a student considering attending one of the retreats, but doesn’t know the specifics of what Ignite! is all about?

An Ignite group gathers
together

Ignite is all about helping you find a career and passion that is worth waking up every morning excited to tackle. We help you align the issues you care about—whether it be sustainability or police brutality—with the skills you possess to identify alternative career paths. We bring together social entrepreneurs and innovators from around the country who are paving those non-traditional paths so you can learn first-hand from them.

5. What are you specifically looking forward to about the upcoming retreat? Anything new happening this time around?

One of the things that I’m incredibly excited about this time around is the food. I know—it may seem simple—but the food provided at this venue comes entirely from the farm on-site or nearby producers and is incredibly fresh. There’s something about being in the company of incredible people, while simultaneously filling your body with super local food, that makes for an incredible experience!

Knowing how we live

Sullivan Faculty Fellow Pradip Malde uses art to inform and to transform his students and the world

Pradip Malde is an artist, professor, and world traveler. His photography is held in collections at the Museum of the Art Institute in Chicago, Princeton University Museum, the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, Yale University Museum, and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh, among others.

But, for Malde, art is about more than creating beautiful objects. It is inextricably linked to social action.

“I believe that art-making stands to put into a shared place our most personal attitudes and most enduring concerns, and in doing so, is essentially a social practice,” he says. “It follows then, that I am less concerned by art as a self-expressive practice and more interested by the way it helps create bonds and connections.”

That socially conscious artistic approach brought Malde, who is a professor of art at Sewanee, to be selected as one of the Sullivan Faculty Fellows for 2016-2017. He is using his fellowship to design a program of study that includes courses in documentary photography and environmental studies.

“Students begin to consider how an understanding of environmental and social relationships can lead to resilient and innovative communities, and from there to community-based action,” says Malde. “The course requires students to spend a majority of the time outside of traditional classroom spaces, with extensive field trips and home visits.”

A course in engagement

Evans Ousley, carrying out a photographic survey of Mita Simon’s farm for the Zanmi Kafe project, Bois Jolie, Haiti, March, 2016 (photo by Pradip Malde)

Students in the program, which is now fully planned and is beginning enrollment, will spend three weeks in Haiti and three in rural Grundy County, Tennessee, which is adjacent to Sewanee and has a poverty rate well above the national average.

As Malde puts it in the course’s description, “students will understand the significance of the day-to-day in relation to larger environmental issues, and vice versa, and learn to glean concerns that persist and are shared by communities as different as those in Haiti and Tennessee.”

Malde specializes in documentary photography, and much of the work he and his students do is about contextualizing communities, particularly those in need or suffering a loss. Photography, he believes, is especially capable of doing that contextualizing work.

“Photography is a widely accepted and highly readable expression,” says Malde. “Its ‘language’ is easy to access. It stands as evidence of events and establishes histories. Not to be confused with truth, but certainly aligned with authenticity, the use of photography by communities can establish pathways for social action.”

An art born out of loss

planning meeting with Sewanee students and
agronomists for the Zanmi Kafe Project, Corporan, Haiti, March, 2016 (photo by Mansell Ambrose)

That loss is a constant theme of Malde’s work likely comes, he thinks, from where he started in life. His family was forced to flee his hometown of Arusha, Tanzania, on short notice as political turmoil took hold there in the 1970s. While they were never homeless or starving, he recalls the feeling of having lost everything his parents had worked for and not knowing what the future held.

“The story has a happy outcome, of course, but experiences like that leave deep imprints,” says Malde. “Vulnerability, not belonging anywhere, being afloat with no control over one’s fate—these feelings help me engage as much as I can with wherever I am. Photography is about full engagement, and has always been in my life.”

The happy outcome he mentions is, of course, a long and prolific career as a professional artist, many opportunities to teach—he’s been at Sewanee for XXXXX years now—and a host of awards and fellowships.

Turning experience into knowledge

The Sullivan Faculty Fellowship, which he received in August of 2016, is a distinction Malde is honored by. Most important, though, is the opportunity it has afforded him to have an impact on art students who wish to actively engage with the communities they document.

While the details are important, Malde sums up his hopes for his students in the broadest, most hopeful terms.

“I want students to know how we live,” he says, “and why things may be the way they are, and where small changes in our lives may lead to larger transformations.”

Leonel Jeremie, a Zanmi Foto and Kafe partner, identifying portaits of community members, Bois Jolie, Haiti, 2016 (photo by Hunter Swenson)

Clean peace

Davidson student returns home to Ethiopia to provide jobs to the jobless

Taye (center) poses with some of her carwash’s staff and a few water jugs ready to clean the cars of the city

While the members of the Sullivan network have always been confined to the American South, the reach of the Sullivan Foundation is meant to be global.

That truth couldn’t be better exemplified in a single person than it is in Telavive Taye, who moved halfway around the world from Ethiopia to Houston, Texas, and ultimately Davidson College in Davidson, North Carolina. Only there did she discover how she could return home and make it a better place… by starting a car wash.

Projects for Peace, a part of the Davis United World Scholars Program, awards grants and encourages student initiative, innovation, and entrepreneurship focused on conflict prevention, resolution, or reconciliation. The grants are given to project ideas the program finds truly exceptional so that college undergraduates can get a chance to make their dreams become reality.

Taye learned about the grants and applied through Davidson’s Center for Civic Engagement, which solicits project applications from Davidson students and submits the most outstanding ones to the Davis program for consideration. The program seeks grassroots projects that promote peace and address the causes of conflict.

Awash with inspiration

A line of vehicles waits for washing outside the carwash created by Davidson College student and native Ethiopian Telavive Taye. The carwash is located in Taye’s hometown of Hawassa

Taye’s idea? A new car wash enterprise in her hometown of Hawassa, Ethiopia. Drawing inspiration from the example of her uncle, Teferi Tesfaye, who regularly helped unemployed young men in Ethiopia find work, Taye envisioned a car wash managed completely by and for youth, with the goal of engaging them in a productive business in a growing city with high rates of unemployment. Official estimates place Ethiopia’s rate of youth unemployment at more than 50 percent.

Taye’s proposal outlined a plan to provide sustainable means of financial support for a group of youth, and “to motivate them toward education, business and hard work.” She determined the business would be a car wash because there are no other private car wash businesses in Hawassa, and the demand for the service is high given dusty road conditions.

Both the Center for Civic Engagement and the Davis program were clearly impressed. She found out in March 2015 that she would receive $10,000 to get her car wash off the ground, so she got to work immediately.

Building from afar

The idea seemed simple in theory, but Taye faced several significant challenges. She needed a partner organization in Hawassa that understood local commerce and politics-she found that partner in Project Hopeful, an international non-governmental organization whose mission is “to bring hope to overlooked children and vulnerable mothers around the world.”

Project Hopeful helped Taye obtain approval from the government for use of two small plots of land as locations for car wash stations. Project Hopeful also helped her recruit 17 young, capable employees, and instruct them in business practices, customer service, personal finance and other life skills.

“The car wash not only allows these young men to secure a reliable source of income,” she says, “but helps them realize there are people out there who will support them today and in the future when the lessons they learn through the car wash lead them to other business enterprises.”

An advocate for education, Taye took the opportunity to stress to the employees the importance and value of schooling. Though all levels of education in Ethiopia are free to students, many young people drop out because they aren’t able to support themselves while they attend school.

“They needed a better understanding of how they can support themselves in the long term,” she says, “and of what education can mean to them in the future.”

A clean success

By the time Taye arrived in Ethiopia on June 1, many of the pieces of the business were falling into place.

Once there, she purchased the necessary equipment—jerry cans to hold water, a compressor, hoses and a donkey cart to transport water from the nearby lake.

Over the summer, her employees worked up to nine hours per day, and most of them worked seven days per week. On average, they serviced approximately 10 cars, and 10 motorcycles and three-wheeled tuk-tuks per day, earning somewhere between 500-600 birr ( $21-$28). Weekends were more profitable, with proceeds of 900-1,000 birr ( $41-$47).

Even since Taye’s return to Davidson, both car washes remain in operation with oversight from Project Hopeful. Taye found her experience with the Projects for Peace program to be personally rewarding and feels that, through her project, the organization fulfilled its purpose of promoting peace.

“There are many definitions of peace,” she said. “The program promoted the peace of individuals who now have a sustainable source of income for their families.”

Taye, a biology major and member of the class of 2017, plans to attend medical school after graduation.

This article was adapted from one originally produced by Davidson College, with contributions from Bridget Lavender, class of 2018. To read the original piece, please visit davidson.edu.

Did you know?

George Sullivan, son of Algernon and Mary, was the founder of the Sullivan Foundation

When Algernon Sydney Sullivan died on December 4, 1887, he was mourned by many, especially in New York, where the family had lived for more than three decades. Mary Mildred Sullivan outlived her husband by many years, dying in 1933 at the age of 96, and left behind a tremendous legacy of service in her own right.

It’s possible, however, that the Sullivans would be mostly forgotten had it not been for the efforts of George Hammond Sullivan, who, with his mother’s help, created the Foundation in 1930 and went on to define its purpose and ensure its continued existence.

While the charter for the Foundation was granted in 1930, it remained inactive for several years as George cared for his dying mother. After her death, however, he took an active role, serving as its first vice-president and determining how its resources would be put to use.

The first two grants made, at a meeting in November 1934, were $85 to Rollins College for prizes for the three best student essays on the life and character of Algernon Sullivan and $200 to Peabody College for four scholarships to be awarded to students picked by the faculty for their “character and meritorious service.” The beginnings of the Foundation as it is known today can be seen even that long ago.

The Foundation was tasked with continuing to bestow Sullivan Awards after the decline of the New York Southern Society, which created them. George Sullivan took it upon himself to expand upon that singular task and define the Foundation’s culture.

The Sullivan House, on West 11th Street in New York City, depicted during the Sullivans’ time in New York in a drawing by W.E. Mears on the left and in a modern-day photograph of the Sullivan House courtesy of Google at right.

 

One of his most important acts was the writing of a letter on the direction the trustees should take in the future, which he read aloud at a meeting. He told them he and his mother had always felt that “perpetuating the influential usefulness of (Algernon Sullivan’s) character would be of great value to others” and that he wanted the Foundation to draw on its income to grant scholarships and student-aid funds in “as many colleges or universities as possible.”

Many of the most identifiable traits of the Sullivan Foundation today—the focus on Southern schools, the inclusion of mostly small colleges and universities, and the focus on service over all other criteria in the handing out of awards and funds—are largely due to the work of George Sullivan.

Despite a lifetime filled with bouts of poor health, Sullivan lived a long and consequential life. He died on November 15, 1956, at the age of 96—the same as his mother—and lived in the same house he had shared with his parents until his death.

Alumna Letter: Ruth Evans Handley

Ruth Evans Handley was a recipient of the Sullivan Award in 1948 at the University of North Carolina. The alumni reception in Winter Park, mentioned in this letter, was cancelled due to the threat of Hurricane Matthew, much to Handley’s regret.

Receiving my first issue of Engage several months ago was a pleasant surprise.  It sent me to the bookshelf  holding treasures:  books to save.  One was a slightly-yellowed volume titled Algernon Sydney Sullivan.  It had not been off that shelf for many years, but it was a special book.  I explored it for the first time in years and re-read the inscription on the frontispiece:

        “To Ruth Bannister Evans, May 19, 1948
From The Algernon Sydney Sullivan Awards Committee
U. of N.C.
Ernest L. Mackie, Chm.”

So, what was this Engage that sent me to the special bookshelf?  It was a thin, glossy magazine marked ‘Issue 2, 2014 ‘.  The sub-title in all caps read: SERVICE AND SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP. I had never before seen a copy of this publication. Then I noticed a blurb saying ‘Featured in this Issue’ a headline including magic words: ‘University of North Carolina’.  I must explore any reference to my beloved “Carolina”, a place where I experienced two wonderful, life-changing years!

Inside back cover was a feature on Margaret Pickard Sirvis, a 90 year old who won the Sullivan Award at UNC in 1944!  Here was a fellow Tar Heel with whom I share a special bond.   Discovering her, AND the magazine, AND the Foundation, made for a complete surprise and a real thrill.  That day I read through the entire publication.  Then I placed it, along with the old, faded volume, up on the special bookshelf.

Yesterday, along came Issue 6 of Engage in a mailing which included an invitation to an Alumni Reception on October 6 in Winter Park, FL,  a mere two-hour drive from my home in Sebring, Florida.

I immediately decided to attend…and then I began to consider a question I have  been asking myself often in recent (shall we say ‘mature’?) years.  Why have I spent so much of my time these last 68 years deeply involved in public education at all levels and in a wide variety of community projects?  Was the Sullivan award the trigger?

Maybe so.   During my two years at UNC Chapel Hill, (where, back then, women were not allowed to matriculate until their junior year) I was involved in many extra-curricular activities, especially the YWCA and student publications, as well as student government, a sorority, and several  inter-collegiate activities, including a five-week leadership training program at the University of Chicago under auspices of the Intercollegiate Christian Council. There I was so powerfully exposed to social reform projects on race relations, international relief, human rights etc. that I never lost the sense of how urgent it is for individuals to work diligently at making the world a better place.

Handley with seven of her 11 grandchildren on
her 85th birthday.

I have no doubt that receiving the Sullivan Award for SERVICE firmly stamped into my consciousness and my conscience the sense of obligation, a need to ‘pay back’ society… and God… for the numerous and continuing blessings that I have enjoyed  throughout my life: deep family roots, a  love of learning, good health, a strong faith and patriotic fervor nourished by being an ‘Army brat’.

My ultimate blessings have been 50 years of marriage to a wonderful man and our five children, each of whom is now employed in work that is a service role: one in international public health research, one an elected county governing official/ home builder, one an administrator overseeing exceptional education programs, one the executive vice president of a state association of food producers, and one administering a large Soil and Water Conservation District.  Yes, being ‘service-oriented’ has been ‘a given’  throughout my life.   The Sullivan Award helped to make it so.

Thank you so much for finding me, sending me the two magazines, and inviting me to the Reception.  I look forward to October 6th in Winter Park

Ruth Evans Handley (Mrs. Frank)

Walking the walk

Through a Sullivan-sponsored program, Randolph-Macon students make a tangible difference in their community

Richard Meagher addresses the group during presentations to the Skills Development Center

Paper shredding and social engagement might not seem like natural companions. The Sullivan Foundation, however, recognizes that in the fast-developing field of social entrepreneurship just about anything can be leveraged to make a positive difference in the world. A little creativity is all that’s needed.

One shining example of that spirit can be found at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia, where students recently helped a non-profit that runs a recreation center for developmentally disabled adults—and soon hopes to provide them with meaningful work in a shredding business that will help fund the center.

This is just one example of the kind of projects coming out of Randolph-Macon’s Social Entrepreneurship Program, created through a partnership with the Foundation. The program uses lessons and ideas from commercial entrepreneurship to find solutions to social problems. This is often described as “doing well by doing good,” in which entrepreneurs try to use the revenue generated by businesses to address existing social problems.

Housed in the Political Science department and directed by Political Science Professor Richard Meagher, the program offers unique opportunities for students of all majors to learn about social change.

Shredding for the common good

Nadia Roane

Randolph-Macon College students learn by doing. That’s especially evident in Meagher’s Social Entrepreneurship class. The course, offered each fall, enables students to use approaches from political science, sociology, and business studies to learn about the field, and to get hands-on experience working with a local social entrepreneur.

“The entrepreneur is our client,” says Meagher. “Students work in project teams to come up with ideas to help them advance their mission.”

In this case, the client, Skills Development Center (SDC), was looking for a way to expand the services they provided while also creating new funding for those they already provide.

“The director, Pat Weaver, wants to launch a shredding business to help her clients find meaningful work, and to help fund the center,” says Meagher. “Our students worked in three teams, with one each focused on market research, marketing, and legal research.”

On December 4, 2015, Meagher’s students presented the results of their group projects to Weaver and her colleagues. The response seems to have been overwhelmingly positive.

“Student recommendations ranged from how much to charge per pound of shredded paper, to how to use Instagram to promote the business, to what kinds of regulatory requirements might apply,” says Meagher. “I think our client was thrilled with how concrete the students’ information was, and how helpful it will be for her going forward.”

Making change, expanding horizons 

Bar Hass, a 2016 graduate with a sociology and psychology major and political science minor, didn’t realize before taking Meagher’s course that so many social enterprises exist, and on multiple scales, from local to international.

“The variety of organizations reflects that there isn’t a single equation to solve every problem: resolving social problems is a tangible process that may need to be reapplied to different scenarios of the same fundamental issue,” says Hass.

He and his group outlined the legal recommendations for the SDC should they proceed with their shredding business.

Nadia Roane is a member of the class of 2017 and is a psychology major and political science minor.

“This semester I learned the ins and outs of social entrepreneurship, which is something I hadn’t previously thought about,” says Roane, who plans on attending law school. “There is a lot of hard work that goes into creating a sustainable venture, so it was pretty cool learning about it. In Professor Meagher’s class I was part of the ‘legal team’ and during the presentation I discussed the steps needed in order to obtain the Certificate of Destruction, a document that shows that the shredding business has followed proper regulatory procedures.”

A new approach to age-old problems

Meagher, who joined the Randolph-Macon faculty in 2009, believes in going beyond the theoretical and addressing problems head on. In addition to directing the program, he directs Randolph-Macon’s annual Social Entrepreneurship Week, serves as a political commentator on local television and maintains a Richmond, Virginia politics blog.

He sees social entrepreneurship as another natural extension of that motivation to go beyond the classroom walls and engage in tackling issues that have always plagued communities.

“Students really do learn about how to change the world,” says Meagher. “Social entrepreneurs are working to find practical, economically sustainable solutions to our toughest problems: poverty, lack of education, homelessness.”

This article was adapted from one originally produced by Randolph-Macon College. To read the original piece, please visit rmc.edu.