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.

This Sullivan Alumnus Is Leading Menstrual Equity Reform at Wofford College

As a high school student in Virginia, Mackenzie Syiem, a Sullivan Foundation Field Trip alumnus and cofounder of the social enterprise SEED., watched Netflix’s award-winning documentary “Short, Period. End of Sentence” and immediately felt moved to email students, faculty and staff to stress the need for menstrual products in the school’s restrooms.

She again championed the cause shortly after arriving at Wofford College, a Sullivan Foundation partner school, in 2019 and made requests to a Campus Union candidate last spring. “Menstrual products should be freely available,” said Syiem, an English and Spanish major from Shillong, Meghalaya, India. “It’s as necessary as toilet paper.”

The request was heard, and a team of students took action.

“As I was campaigning for student body president, I started an Instagram campaign where I would ask Wofford students to share their concerns, questions, comments—literally anything that they would like to see changed at Wofford,” said Destiny Shippy, a sociology and anthropology major from Spartanburg, who is a senior delegate. “Kenzie said she wanted to see free menstrual products around campus. When I saw this, I instantly began thinking about the people to contact to make this happen, because it’s such a necessity.”

Shippy was connected with Sera Guerry, an at-large delegate with Campus Union and a student coordinator in the college’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion, as well as Woods Wooten, the chair of Campus Union’s Campus Relations Committee. The three of them partnered with Syiem and had discussions with the college’s administration. Dispensers were installed over the summer in six restrooms across campus.

Related: Therapy Ninjas: Converse College alum goes behind bars to serve prison inmates

Wofford College student leaders Woods Wooten, Destiny Shippy, Sera Guerry and Kenzie Syiem worked together to improve access to menstrual products across campus and to get dispensers installed in restrooms.

Syiem didn’t just request support for the project. She had been ensuring that menstrual products were available across campus.

As a first-year student, Syiem began stocking menstrual products in the restroom on her hall. She encouraged women to take what they needed. Through her work creating content for Just Periods, she has received supplies to distribute across campus and she’s shared products for houses in the college’s Greek village and supplies that are given to local women’s shelters.

After returning from a Sullivan Foundation social entrepreneurship field trip to Raleigh, N.C. in September 2019, Syiem went on to cofound SEED., a social-impact business that empowers artisans and craftspeople to sell their products—such as jewelry, artwork, bags and more—internationally, with profits going to support the programs that she and cofounder Grace Gehlken care about. “I got to meet amazing entrepreneurs who had created powerful social ventures and hear directly from them about their experiences,” she later recalled in an interview with the foundation. “That trip inspired me and helped me feel like I could do the same thing that all those amazing founders had done as long as I had the passion and was willing to put in the work.”

Menstrual equity is one of her favorite causes, and Syiem has found that gaining support for the movement at Wofford College isn’t difficult. “All it takes is a conversation,” she said. “It’s hard to ignore the facts. Ninety-nine percent of the time I hear, ‘I never knew that was an issue.’ But I go into the conversation expecting them to get it because it’s so logical.”

Guerry shared that experience. “Surprisingly, we found that there was very little, if any, pushback from students, faculty and staff and that there was, in actuality, a solid amount of support among those we spoke with,” says Guerry, a religion major from Moncks Corner, S.C.

Guerry says details needed to be addressed concerning the installation of dispensers, and the students found Aunt Flow, a social impact company that sells organic menstrual products while donating products to people in need. The college purchased dispensers from the company.

“It feels really good to know that my female peers have access to these dispensers and that we will continue to work with Wofford to make sure our campus is welcoming to everyone,” said Wooten, a government major from Lexington, South Carolina.

This article has been edited and expanded from the original version appearing on the Wofford College website.

Furman Alumnus Creates Company Offering Free Tech Support for the Senior Set

By Tina Underwood, Furman University

There’s a new kid on the block for online tech support. Meet Go Go Quincy, the brainchild of Tyler Wood, a 2014 graduate of Sullivan Foundation partner school Furman University, and co-founder Ryan Greene. But Quincy isn’t for everyone—its target audience is adults aged 55 and older. And now, while the coronavirus Delta variant is raging, the company is offering the service to individuals at no charge.

“It’s an underserved population,” said Wood, who majored in communication studies at Furman and was a member of the baseball team. “Making it available for free is something we are happy to do—it’s a way to give back to a group that was so formative in our growing up. We want to return the favor.”

Greene came up with the idea of a tech support concierge for older adults when he visited his grandparents in Florida last year. Before returning to his home in New York, his grandfather handed him a hefty to-do list of technical problems that needed attention. That’s when the gears started turning for the entrepreneurial venture.

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

As part of his MBA at Columbia University, Greene took a class on launching a startup. With Wood’s help building out the company model throughout the semester and preparing the final pitch for the class, which included visiting venture capital firms, the two were ready to “pressure test” the product.

For the past several months, with a total of only four employees, the startup now has close to 500 users, including direct-to-consumer clients, friends and family, and about 70 retirement facilities and communities across 11 states.

The popularity of the service has grown so much that Wood quit his day job to dedicate his time toward building the business.

Here’s how Quincy works: Users call a hotline to request help from one of Quincy’s U.S.-based technicians. Following account setup, a brief onboarding session between the user and technician establishes the nature of the problem. With permission from the user through a unique authentication code, the technician gains access to the user’s device through remote support software, allowing the rep to see what’s happening on the other end. The technician either guides the user, or if necessary, takes control of the device to resolve the issue. Every session is video-recorded so the user and any family members can know exactly what steps were taken to resolve the problem.

Wood said Quincy provides more than on-demand tech fixes. “There’s an emotional aspect to it. Sure, we are solving very raw technical problems, but there’s a human on the other side—a dialogue and a relationship. We just want to be that friendly ally for these individuals. That’s been very fulfilling for Ryan and myself in the last few months.”

Related: Rapper J.I.D. and MOD Pizza join forces to help people struggling in the pandemic

He describes a session in which a client struggled to send a five-minute video from her phone to her niece. The video of renewed wedding vows between the client and her husband was too long to send, so Wood walked the client through the process of editing the video to send in two smaller clips.

That’s the type of problem Wood and company see on a daily basis—simple for the more technically savvy, but perhaps frustrating for those who haven’t grown up with a phone in hand since age 8, Wood says.

And that’s the opportunity for the founders—to provide quick solutions so people can get on with their day. The service also frees up nursing staff at assisted living facilities whose primary role is to dispense caregiving, not tech know-how.

Wood expects to keep the service free to individuals 55 and older so they can receive help from the safety of their homes during the pandemic.

“We want to make sure they know they can count on this resource,” he said.

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

This Sullivan Partner School Makes Its Own Vino to Help the Wine Industry

When you drink a glass of vino from the University of Kentucky Winery, you won’t just get a pleasant buzz—you’ll also be helping the state’s commercial wine industry.

When you think about wine, you probably think about Italy or France—or maybe Northern California. But the University of Kentucky (UK), a Sullivan Foundation partner school, wants you to think about bluegrass country instead. UK students, faculty, staff and retirees can now buy wines grown and produced locally by the UK Winery—and available only online—with all proceeds going to support grape and wine research that helps to advance Kentucky’s wine industry.

The U.S. wine industry is valued at around $88 billion, while it’s a $364 billion market worldwide. In Kentucky, boosting the prospects of wineries can mean more jobs and possibly tourism dollars, especially if the wines can compete in taste with Californian or overseas varieties.

There are currently 74 commercial wineries in Kentucky. UK’s vineyard research at the Horticulture Research Farm, part of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, focuses on developing grape production practices that improve fruit quality and labor efficiency and reduce pesticide use. Researchers have evaluated more than 100 wine grape cultivars and numerous grapevine rootstocks for commercial viability.

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

UK’s wine production research identifies methods to produce wines that reflect Kentucky’s unique soil and climate. That work includes identifying and using native yeast and bacteria to conduct fermentation.

All UK wines are produced using only fruit grown at the Horticulture Research Farm. Currently, there are 15 white, rosé, red, sparkling and fruit wines available, with nine wines newly released.

this photo shows grapes being grown for the University of Kentucky Winery.

The grapes are growing in the vineyard at the UK Horticulture Research Farm. (Photo by Stephen Patton.)

Those new wines include the 2017 Quercus alba, a full-bodied white wine. Extended aging in oak barrels gives it a bourbon-ish flare. The 2017 Flora is a dry white wine with an aroma of melon, apple and floral notes balanced with an earthy spice.

Both new rosés are 2017 vintages. Saignée is a dry wine with a high acid taste, and Verona is an unfiltered dry rosé with an intense fruity aroma.

The latest red wines are all 2017 vintages. Querus rubra is a dry red wine aged for 12 months in new Minnesota oak barrels from Kelvin Cooperage in Louisville. South Farm Red is dry with a dense color and classic red wine texture and just enough tannin to make things interesting. Carbonic, a balanced white wine with low alcohol and moderate acidity, has low but well-balanced tannin and a slight bitterness.

Related: Purpose-driven VEDGEco is first national wholesaler of plant-based foods

Finally, the new sparkling wine, Chambourcin (2015), is similar in style to traditional champagne. Extended bottle aging in the presence of yeast provides a complex fruity-yeasty bouquet and a creamy mouthfeel. The 2017 Solidago is similar in style to dry/brut prosecco.

To wish to purchase wine through the UK Winery Web Store, you must be affiliated with the university. You’ll have to fill out a member registration form on the site, http://winery.ca.uky.edu/. After submitting an order, members may pick up their wines curbside at the UK Horticulture Research Farm in Lexington. Detailed descriptions of the wines are also available on the winery site.

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

Zume’s Pizza Robots Now Make Sustainable Containers for the F&B Industry

The story of Zume, a Silicon Valley company that earned international media coverage in 2017 when it launched a pizza kitchen manned partially by robots, seemed to have an unhappy ending: Zume started backing away from its pizza-making robot model in late 2019 and laid off most of its staff in 2020. Anti-tech scoffers snickered, and the media suddenly forgot the company’s existence.

But Zume’s robots haven’t ended up in some futuristic landfill. According to CNBC, the tech company has “recommissioned” its fleet of robots to make sustainable packaging, including takeout containers for restaurants. And considering that the sustainable packaging industry is projected to grow to $413.8 billion by 2027, that might have been a smart move.

There’s little doubt Zume was a tech innovator. In addition to its pizza-making robots, the company developed predictive software that forecast what kinds of pizzas would be ordered on any given day, enabling the company to prepare a daily inventory using its robotic assembly line. The robots stretched dough balls into 14” discs and squirted and spread sauce over each dough skin. Human employees then added the toppings, and another robot removed the pie from the make line and into a double-decker oven for par-baking. Zume also equipped a fleet of delivery trucks with computer-operated ovens, which were used to finish the bake on the pizzas en route to the delivery customer’s doorstep. By the time the truck arrived, the pizza had usually just come out of the oven.

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

this photo shows a robot created by Zume that's now used to develop sustainable packaging

Vincenzo was said to be Zume’s smartest pizza-making robot. (Photo credit: Zume)

This so-called “cobot culture” model was so revolutionary that Zume attracted $375 million in investment dollars from SoftBank in late 2018. But a year later, things started going awry. “One of the problems that we encountered in pizza was, our beautiful pizza—with no stabilizers in it—in a traditional box declined in quality from the time you cooked it until the time it was delivered, to the point that we didn’t think it was good enough,” Zume Chairman and CEO Alex Garden told CNBC.

Fortunately, all that cutting-edge technology has been put to a new use to help the environment. Zume’s pizza-making robots are now being used to press and mold agricultural waste into sustainable containers to help leading brands in their mission to eliminate plastic. Corporate giants like PepsiCo and Unilever, long under fire for using plastics that are bad for the environment, have set a goal to design 100% of their packaging to be reusable, recyclable, compostable or biodegradable by 2025.

Zume developed a customized round, compostable pizza box for Pizza Hut.

Related: Shake Shack starts testing sustainable, biodegradable straws and cutlery

Zume now operates a compostable packaging facility in Camarillo, California. On its website, the company says it’s dedicated to “replacing single-use plastics with 100% compostable, plant fiber-based products.” These products can be used in foodservice, healthcare and cosmetics as well as consumer goods.

Zume products designed for the foodservice industry include meal boxes, bowls and beverage cups. They’re made of moldable fibers like sugarcane, bamboo, wheat and blends of various grass fibers.

“When you look at what you want your food containers to do, it’s not an exhaustive list: prevent leaks, water-proof, leak-proof, and with snap-tight container closure,” writes Vaibhav Goel in a blog on Zume’s website. He adds that, with Zume’s products, “all of these qualities are available in a cost-effective and ethically manufactured solution.”

This article has been edited from the original version appearing at PMQ.com and is republished here with permission.

Furman Grad’s Startup Promotes Sustainable Behavior With Refillable Containers

Michaela Barnett, a 2015 graduate of Sullivan Foundation partner school Furman University, has a couple of good reasons for wearing a T-shirt to work.

One reason is that the shirt displays the name of her startup company, KnoxFill, a zero-waste household products store.

The other reason is that, thanks to her passion for conservation and her work at Furman’s Shi Institute for Sustainable Communities, “I’m not a big shopper, as you can imagine,” she laughed.

People do still need to shop, however, and using refillable containers is one way they can help reduce harmful waste. That’s where KnoxFill comes in.

Related: Girl Scout creates sustainable shopping maps to combat fast fashion

Customers in the Knoxville, Tenn., area can place orders for products like shampoo, liquid castile soap, concentrated cleaner and even dental floss. KnoxFill will then deliver the products—many of which come from local suppliers and family-owned businesses—in refillable containers. Later, customers can place the empty containers on their front steps, and KnoxFill will pick them up and replace them with fresh products in reused containers.

“Just like the milkman,” Barnett said.

Barnett, who holds a B.S. in sustainability science from Furman and is nearly finished with her Ph.D. studies in behavioral science from the University of Virginia, said that the union of those two fields led organically to her new business.

“I came to realize that most of the sustainability problems I wanted to solve had to do with human behavior,” she said. “I understood the problem really well, and I know how to analyze it from a systems-analysis perspective. But, as we know, humans are embedded in every part of the process.”

Among KnoxFill’s products are refillable containers of Castile soap.

Offering consumers a sustainable alternative can inspire more sustainable behavior, Barnett realized. KnoxFill is currently the only refillery in her area, although several have sprouted up elsewhere in Tennessee and other markets nationwide. Future hopes include moving the three-month-old business from her home into a brick-and-mortar location and expanding her staff beyond her current part-time employee.

“People are really hungry for alternatives,” she said, “and the community response has been overwhelming in the best possible way.”

Raised on a hobby farm in central Ohio, Barnett “loved the earth and really became embedded in it,” she said. But it wasn’t until she moved to the suburbs of Houston, Tex., as a high schooler that her environmental consciousness began to flower.

Related: Elon University social entrepreneurs help black-owned businesses find new customers

“I really started to see a lot of opulence, a lot of waste,” she recalled. “I became that kid in high school who was sorting through trash at the end of events and was really distressed by all the things we were throwing away.”

At Furman, sustainability science and the Shi Institute were fertile ground.

“I was like a little baby plant, and Furman nourished me,” she said. “There were all of these students and faculty and staff who cared about the same things and helped push me forward.”

She met several energetic mentors who shared her passion, including professors Brannon Andersen, Betsy Beymer-Ferris and Bill Ranson; Shi Institute Executive Director Weston Dripps; and Furman Farm Manager Bruce Adams.

“I would not be the person that I am today without the community of people that I was fortunate enough to grow with and be with at Furman,” Barnett said.

After spending some time “living out of an oversized backpack” in Spain, Costa Rica, Belize and Thailand as a trip leader for Wilderness Adventures and teaching at a boarding school in Switzerland, Barnett was ready to plant herself somewhere back in the Southeast. She made a list of five cities, picking Knoxville “kind of on a whim,” she said.

Barnett, who balances managing her three-month-old company with her duties as an editor at Behavioral Scientist magazine, understands that refillable containers are not the only—or even the most important—way to solve our sustainability crisis.

“The place where we solve these problems is at the level of the system,” she said. “It’s with policy, and it’s with the largest plastic polluters. It’s not all about the individuals making better choices, even though I’m helping them do that. We’ve really got to change the system.”

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

The Summer of Sullivan: Summer Workshops for Leadership and Transformative Action Kick off May 18

Call it the Summer of Sullivan: The Sullivan Foundation’s Summer Workshops for Leadership and Transformative Action will kick off on May 18, 2021, in Greenville, S.C., offering a 10-day experience that will reenergize college students’ passion for igniting change in their communities after a long, challenging pandemic year.

The workshops will be held May 18-28, and participating students can earn college credit through OM Study USA. The program costs $1,500, which covers lodging, food and adventures in Greenville and in Asheville, N.C.

Click here to sign up for the Summer Workshops for Leadership and Transformative Action.

The workshops will offer learning outcomes that stimulate deep reflection and transform the educational experience. Students will gain knowledge in cutting-edge concepts to develop their leadership skills and create transformative action plans that pull together converging concepts and practices to provide innovative solutions to real-world problems.

The program’s workshops include:

Workshop 1
Foundations of Leadership: Approaches, Applications and Self-Development

Through self-assessment questionnaires, students will gain an awareness of their own leadership philosophy, traits, skills and behaviors. Real-world observation exercises will help them better understand the fundamental methods practiced in organizations, while reflection and action activities will give them an understanding of and appreciation for the unique dimensions of their own leadership style.

Workshop II
Community Engagement and Problem Analysis

Students will identify a community-based problem, link it to a broader issue and draft a strategy for addressing the problem through a project. They’ll learn how to develop a public narrative, build asset and power maps, forge partnerships and draft a project plan for use back on campus to practice their community-engaged leadership skills.

Workshop III
Business Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Design Thinking

Students will learn about organizational structures while gaining an understanding of internal processes that affect the function of organizations. They will also come away with an understanding of ideas, skills and strategies for effective changemaking in the 21st century.

To round out their summer adventure, students will go on excursions to Asheville, N.C., for whitewater rafting on the French Broad River, a tour of the Biltmore and a mountaintop zipline tour while also exploring downtown Asheville and Greenville.

Changemakers Can Leap Back into Action With Sullivan’s Summer Leadership Workshops in May

With an end to the pandemic in sight at last, college changemakers are ready to leap back into action, and the Sullivan Foundation will help them get started with a 10-day summer workshop series this May.

Sullivan’s Summer Workshops for Leadership and Transformative Action will be held May 18-28 in Greenville, S.C. College credit can be earned through OM Study USA. The program costs $1,500, which covers lodging, food and adventures in Greenville and in Asheville, N.C.

Click here to learn more and sign up for the Summer Workshops for Leadership and Transformative Action.

The workshops are designed for all majors and for recent graduates. They will offer learning outcomes that stimulate deep reflection and transform the educational experience. Students will gain knowledge in cutting-edge concepts to develop their leadership skills and create transformative action plans that pull together converging concepts and practices to provide innovative solutions to real-world problems.

The program’s workshops include:

Workshop 1
Foundations of Leadership: Approaches, Applications and Self-Development

Through self-assessment questionnaires, students will gain an awareness of their own leadership philosophy, traits, skills and behaviors. Real-world observation exercises will help them better understand the fundamental methods practiced in organizations, while reflection and action activities will give them an understanding of and appreciation for the unique dimensions of their own leadership style.

Workshop II
Community Engagement and Problem Analysis

Students will identify a community-based problem, link it to a broader issue and draft a strategy for addressing the problem through a project. They’ll learn how to develop a public narrative, build asset and power maps, forge partnerships and draft a project plan for use back on campus to practice their community-engaged leadership skills.

Workshop III
Business Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Design Thinking

Students will learn about organizational structures while gaining an understanding of internal processes that affect the function of organizations. They will also come away with an understanding of ideas, skills and strategies for effective changemaking in the 21st century.

To round out their summer adventure, students will go on excursions to Asheville, N.C., for whitewater rafting on the French Broad River, a tour of the Biltmore and a mountaintop zipline tour while also exploring downtown Asheville and Greenville.

Purpose-Driven VEDGEco Is First National Wholesaler of Plant-Based Foods

By Tracy Morin
Editor, PizzaVegan.com

We know that necessity is the mother of invention—and that’s certainly true for VEDGEco, the United States’ first nationwide wholesaler of 100% plant-based foods, headquartered in Kailua, Hawaii. The company was born when Trevor Hitch, founder and CEO, was working for a Hawaiian food company and witnessed how difficult it was for independent plant-based food brands to gain traction through national food distributors. “At the same time, I saw how challenging it was for independent restaurants to get access to quality plant-based products,” Hitch recalls. “That was my aha moment—I realized there was a need that wasn’t being met. That’s when VEDGEco was born.”

For Hitch, who has personally been 100% plant-based for more than 19 years (and in the food industry for more than a decade), VEDGEco began as a passion project and organically grew into something much bigger. Today, the company offers a carefully curated selection of versatile plant-based products in foam-free, recyclable and compostable packaging, to create as little environmental impact as possible. Meanwhile, as VEDGEco foods are available to consumers, restaurants and other foodservice industry businesses across the United States, Hitch asserts that his company is “on a mission to enable freedom of food choice at mealtime.”

Related: This sustainable restaurant will top its pizzas with rejected veggies to combat food waste

Plant-Based, Purpose-Driven
Hitch notes that VEDGEco has been a purpose-driven business from the beginning. “We prioritize people, animals and the planet over profit,” he says. “We are especially focused on making it easier for independent restaurants to add plant-based options to their menus. This approach not only brings in new customers; it helps their bottom line as well.” (See the below sidebar for some eye-opening stats on how plant-based is growing worldwide.)

VEDGEco stocks a range of 100% plant-based alternatives to foods like meats, cheeses, seafood, eggs and butter, and all products are available to restaurants and consumers. Its VEDGEco Plus program, designed specifically for wholesale and foodservice partners, offers volume discounts and free shipping on case packs. “Since we launched nationally, we’ve seen exponential growth, with extremely high numbers of repeat customers,” Hitch says. “Many of our independent restaurant customers have told us that the response to new plant-based dishes on their menus has been very positive and resulted in increased sales and foot traffic.”

In the pizza world specifically, several of VEDGEco’s pizzeria customers have increased their plant-based cheese orders week over week due to the positive response from their guests. “Another restaurant customer told us that the response to plant-based dishes has been so good, they have now added plant-based versions of every animal-based dish on their menu,” Hitch reports. “Now, plant-based items make up the majority of their sales!”

this is a photo of a vegetarian pizza made with seitan-based sausage crumbles available through VEDGEco, a national wholesaler of plant-based foods for the restaurant industry

This pizza features seitan-based sausage crumbles from Blackbird Foods, one of VEDGEco’s wholesale partners. (Photo by Blackbird Foods)

Taste-Tested, Vegan-Approved
Hitch explains that VEDGEco chooses to carry brands based on the quality of their products and consumer demand—and everything the company carries must pass a vigorous taste test conducted by its staff. Some current best sellers include BE-Hive Plant-Based Pepperoni, Daiya Mozzarella Style Shreds, Blackbird Sausage Crumbles, All Vegetarian Drumsticks, ForA:Butter plant-based butter, All Vegetarian Vegan Bacon, JUST Egg, Impossible Burgers, and Plant Ranch Carne Asada.

And, to the joy of pizza lovers everywhere, VEDGEco offers a build-your-own pizza starter kit so that customers can customize the contents to their needs. “The future is plant-based, and pizza is no exception,” Hitch says. “Two of our most popular vegan products are BE-Hive Plant-Based Pepperoni and BE-Hive Garlic Chz Shreds [a garlic-flavored vegan mozzarella]. This dairy- and nut-free plant-based cheese alternative is packed with flavor that takes your pizza or Italian meal to the next level.”

Related: GreenToGo makes it easier for restaurants to kick the styrofoam habit

As for the future of the plant-based/vegan movements, Hitch predicts continued growth. “Over the past few years, plant-based eating has exploded with demand and become more and more mainstream in many parts of the country,” he concludes. “People are opening up to the realities of the health and environmental benefits of eating less meat, and there’s a growing awareness about the horrors of factory farming and inhumane treatment of animals.

“All of these factors are contributing to more plant-based offerings, innovative products, and a growing demand for delicious plant-based dishes in restaurants. There is no limit to how much innovation we are going to see in the plant-based food industry—the future really is limitless.”

VEDGEco even offers plant-based foods for pets, such as these healthy treats from the Louisville Vegan Jerky Co.

Key Stats: The Growth of Plant-Based

● The plant-based alternatives (to conventional animal foods) retail market is now worth more than $3.7 billion.

● According to Meticulous Research, the plant-based food market is expected to reach $74.2 billion by 2027.

● According to The Good Food Institute, adding plant-based entrées can provide an important point of differentiation for restaurants by adding interest to the menu, allowing for innovation, and aligning the restaurant brand with customer values around health and environmental sustainability.

● A 2018 study from Foodable Labs found that in just 12 months, restaurant owners experienced a 13% growth in business when adding vegan options.

Related: How restaurants can help reduce food waste

Eco-Conscious Shipping
VEDGEco prioritizes running a sustainable wholesale operation, so the company ships its plant-based products in foam-free, recyclable and compostable packaging to minimize environmental impact. “It’s also very important that our brand partners share the same level of respect for our planet as we do, and that’s why we only sell 100% plant-based brands,” Hitch adds. “We’re also continuously opening up additional distribution centers across the United States to minimize our product’s time in transit and further reduce our carbon footprint.” Finally, the company enforces a $100 order minimum, ensuring the boxes are fully packed to reduce split shipments and stay ice-cold during transit.

This article has been reprinted with permission from PizzaVegan.com, a national website providing news and information about the vegan and vegetarian pizza movement. View the original article here.

Rapper J.I.D. and MOD Pizza Join Forces to Help People Struggling in the Pandemic

She lost her job, her health insurance and her car during the pandemic. But when it looked like things couldn’t get much worse, a young woman in Decatur, Georgia, got an uplifting surprise from MOD Pizza, a leading social impact company and one of the country’s fastest-growing restaurant chains, and Grammy-nominated rapper J.I.D., becoming the first beneficiary of the fast-casual pizza chain’s new Random Acts of MODness initiative.

In a video released by MOD Pizza (see below), J.I.D. is shown meeting with the unnamed woman at a MOD store for a pie and a chat. He then led her outside, where he presented her with a brand-new four-door sedan bedecked with a giant red bow.

Related: How Malawi’s Pizza is leading the social enterprise movement in the pizza restaurant segment

The giveaway was part of the launch of Random Acts of MODness, MOD’s year-long campaign to grant wishes to individuals or organizations in need across the United States. J.I.D will help MOD grant additional wishes via Twitter, the company said.

Beginning on March 25, Twitter users anywhere in the United States are invited to tweet their wish or a wish for someone else to @MODPizza with the hashtag #RandomActsofMODness. MOD and J.I.D are looking for large or small ways to help—whether paying a utility bill, purchasing clothes for a job interview, providing a bus pass to get to work or a gift for a special birthday. Nothing is off limits, the company said, and there are no strings attached.

As the year continues, MOD Pizza said it will look for ways to fulfill more Random Acts of MODness on social media.

“It’s been a tough year and we know folks are struggling,” J.I.D. said. “So I’m excited to partner with MOD to spread some love in our local communities. We all need a little help from time to time, so hit us up!”

Ally Svenson, MOD’s co-founder and chief purpose officer, added, “We’re so inspired by the impact that a kind gesture can have on someone’s life and the ripple effect that this can create. We call it ‘Spreading MODness.’ J.I.D is helping us spread more MODness and positively impact more lives, and for this we are so grateful!”

In a feature story earlier this year, PMQ Pizza Magazine, the trade publication for the pizza restaurant industry, asked MOD Pizza co-founder Scott Svenson if he considered his company to be a social enterprise. “I guess the answer would be yes,” Svenson said. “When we started MOD, we referred to it as a crazy social experiment that would combine the best of a for-profit business with the heart of a nonprofit, whereby the more successful we were, the better and bigger social impact we would make.”

During the pandemic, MOD has reinforced its commitment to making an impact on the communities it serves. For example, MOD said it has delivered 180,000 meals to kids and families impacted by COVID-19 and fighting food insecurity in partnership with the anti-hunger nonprofit Generosity Feeds. MOD also aided 46 local and regional food banks and backpack programs to help tackle hunger in local communities during the annual Spreading MODness week.

MOD Pizza this year partnered with the National Restaurant Association Education Foundation (NRAEF) on the HOPES Program (Hospitality Opportunities for People (Re)Entering Society), which creates job opportunities and training for young people re-entering society after serving prison sentences. HOPES is a collaboration between businesses, state restaurant associations and community-based organizations that provides pathways to success for justice-involved individuals looking for a new start. The partnership launched in March in Chicago-area MOD Pizza locations, with plans for a nationwide rollout later this year.

MOD Pizza has also made a commitment to hire people with autism and other differing abilities who otherwise have trouble finding employment.

J.I.D. was born and raised in East Atlanta, where he grew up on his parents’ collection of classic funk/soul LPs. He broke onto the scene with his 2015 EP, DiCaprio, which saw him collaborating with hip-hop duo EarthGang, whom he’d previously joined on a 2014 tour that included Bas and Ab-Soul. During that tour, he was spotted by J. Cole who signed J.I.D to his Interscope Records venture, Dreamville Records.

Soon after signing to Dreamville, J.I.D made his major-label debut with the widely celebrated album, The Never Story (2017)The effort was closely followed by the critically acclaimed DiCaprio 2 (2018), which received major looks from Rolling Stone, Billboard, NPR and more. In 2019, J.I.D continued his momentum with contributions on Dreamville’s platinum-certified compilation, Revenge of the Dreamers III, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Top 200 charts and received multiple Grammy nominations, including Best Rap Album and Best Rap Performance.