A natural changemaker

2018 Sullivan Award recipient Sarah Coffey is a leader and a champion for environmental issues

People at Stetson University in DeLand, Florida can tell you right off the bat why Sarah Coffey was an ideal candidate for a Sullivan Award.

“Oh, where to begin with Sarah?” says Wendy Anderson, professor and chair of Stetson’s Environmental Science and Studies Department. “My experience mentoring Sarah and watching her blossom is almost too sacred to be distilled to a few soundbites.

“She is a superstar student, of course. But, I would add this: Sarah has a heart of gold and a compassionate and humble spirit. She is genuinely thoughtful and caring to both those she loves and those whom she feels called to serve. Motivated by an overwhelming empathy for all people and creatures—the very living earth itself—Sarah wakes each day striving to make a difference in every moment of the day.”

When Coffey received her award in May, it was the culmination of a tremendous collegiate career in the classroom and the community. Both her academic and her service work center on environmental issues—Coffey has a passion for nature that’s difficult to understate.

“I guess what I want to do is just change people’s way of thinking [about the environment],” she says. “And I want to try to inspire people to be compassionate.”

A servant and an activist

As a student, Coffey was especially passionate about engaging children in gardening and in teaching the importance of growing their own food. She headed the campus garden club, Hatter Harvest, and volunteered with Boys & Girls Clubs.

Coffey also worked to halt the abuse of migrant labor in Florida’s agricultural industry, working with local members of the Farmworker Association of Florida, a group dedicated to equity and justice. Her devotion to the cause even prompted her to learn Spanish.

A remarkable resumé

Coffey, who has lived all over the U.S. before arriving in Florida, loves nature in all its forms

Coffey, who has lived all over the U.S. before arriving in Florida, loves nature in all its forms

Coffey became the university’s first Environmental Values Fellow as a first-year student, a 2016 Udall Scholar for her environmental initiatives and engagement with the Stetson community, and a 2017 Campus Compact Newman Civic Fellow by virtue of her social-justice activism. For good measure, she also tallied all straight A’s in the classroom as an environmental science and geography major.

The Udall scholarship provided the chance to explore fields related to health care and tribal public policy for American Indians and Alaska Natives. The Newman Civic Fellows Award, another national distinction, honored Coffey as a member of the “next generation of public problem solvers and civic leaders.”

Most recently, in April just before graduation, Coffey was part of 2018 Posters on the Hill in Washington, D.C. Each year, 60 top student research projects are selected from hundreds of applications, with students and their faculty mentors presenting research on Capitol Hill. Coffey’s research centered on the fire history of the San Juan Islands Washington.

Ready for the fight ahead

Part of Coffey’s admiration for nature comes from just how much of it she’s seen, having lived in New Mexico, Oregon, Maryland, Connecticut, Virginia, and Florida. An appreciation for nature in all its forms was built into her upbringing.

“I grew up with a personal relationship with the natural world and have always recognized this as an integral part of what it means to be human,” says Coffey. “It is distressing to see how many of us have lost this connection.”

Undaunted, Coffey intends to forge ahead. Her next stop is the Forestry and Environmental Conservation Department at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech), where she will continue her education with an emphasis on community food forests. Not surprisingly, she has a paid assistantship waiting for her, and research is already planned for this summer.

This story was adapted from an article by Michael Candelaria of Stetson University. To read the original piece or to read more Stetson news, visit stetson.edu/today.

The buzz about social entrepreneurship

George Mason’s Honey Bee Initiative promotes sustainability, teaches future entrepreneurs

Students and faculty work at the apiary on the George Mason campus

George Mason University has a vision for itself. That vision? To be “the best university for the world.” It’s a bold goal—the kind of thinking that makes a great Sullivan school.

Sometimes, achieving big things means encountering small ones. Small creatures, in this case: bees. Since 2012, the GMU campus in Fairfax, Virginia, has been host to an apiary as part of its Honey Bee Initiative.

Since the ribbon cutting on that first apiary, the initiative has expanded to 50 apiaries across Northern Virginia. It has three primary goals: conducting applied research to combat colony collapse, providing hands-on teaching about sustainable beekeeping practices and social entrepreneurship, and establishing collaborative partnerships to improve the security and sustainability of the Northern Virginia ecosystem.

Going global

Germán Perilla works with students at the apiary

The decline of honey bee populations is an ecological crisis that affects not only the United States, however, but much of the world.

That led Germán Perilla, who is the director of the initiative, and Lisa Gring-Pemble, Director of Social Entrepreneurship and Global Impact at GMU’s Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship, to think about taking their project global. Thus, a new course was born: Social Impact and Entrepreneurship. The immersive course takes students to South America for 10 days during spring break to get a granular look at local businesses that not only make a profit, but also help people and the environment.

Francis Fuller, a senior accounting major, took the course this spring along with 14 other students. Once she arrived, she found herself in a very unusual, and at least a little uncomfortable, position: she had never been around so many bees.

But there she was, in a beekeeper’s suit, in the Santander region of Colombia, hearing the insects buzzing around her head.

“To be around that many bees and not running from them was an experience,” says Fuller.

The Honey Bee Initiative has provided about 180 beehives to the Santander region through its social entrepreneurship outreach, making it a natural fit for the course.

An immersive ten days

In addition to touring some of those hives and speaking with the beekeepers—mostly women looking to create a sustainable livelihood that meshes with family and household obligations, according to Gring-Pemble—students visited businesses that produce honey, chocolate, brown sugar, and coffee, and explored their business models.

They also met with bankers and mayors, and administrators from the Universidad Industrial de Santander, all of whom are helping to finance and advance these initiatives.

“We’re reading about these abstract concepts about social entrepreneurship, using business to create a better world, and it all sounds really wonderful,” says Gring-Pemble. “But when [students] meet a business owner who says I’m willing to pay above what the market sets as a wage because it’s the right thing to do, and I’m making a profit and doing it in a way that’s sustainable, then they take notice.”

“They were able to see the whole picture of what social entrepreneurship is,” says Perilla, who also teaches beekeeping classes at Mason. “It’s one thing to create case studies. It’s another thing if you can go see the complexity of it.”

A personal experience

Germán Perilla

Seeing how beehives have been incorporated into the lives of locals was especially impactful for Fuller, who came to the United States from Cartagena, Colombia, in 2010.

“The trip allowed me to understand the importance of learning about problems and the communities before attempting to generate a solution, which is necessary to create sustainable change,” says Fuller. “That was a key concept throughout the class before going on the trip, and was also very much present through our time in Colombia.”

“Beyond that,” she says, “I have a much deeper appreciation for bees.”


This article was adapted from a piece by Damian Cristodero of George Mason University.

How to Register to Vote

 As you’ve no doubt heard, midterm elections are coming up this fall in the United States. These elections will be among the most important in American history, and you want to make sure your voice is heard. If you live in the Southeast and you aren’t sure how to register to vote, here are the basics for each state.


Alabama offers both online and in-person voter registration. You can also register by mail if you prefer. If you plan to register online, you’ll need an Alabama-issued ID, and voter registration closes October 22.


In Arkansas, you must register by mail or in person. If you register by mail, make sure you include a social security or alternate ID number and that you sign your form. You don’t have to indicate your race ethnic group or register with a party in Arkansas.


Florida allows online, mail-in, and in-person voting registration. Like Alabama, online registrants have to have a Florida-issued ID to register. If you don’t have a Florida ID, you can visit your local election office to register in person there.


Georgia offers online, mail-in, and in-person voting registration, like Alabama and Florida. If you have a Georgia-issued ID, you can register online. If you don’t have a valid Georgia driver’s license or similar, you can register by mail or in person.


Kentucky also offers all three forms of voter registration, online, in-person, and mail-in. You need a Social Security number to register online in Kentucky, but you don’t need a Kentucky ID to do so. If you’d like more information or to vote in person, you can visit your local election office.


Louisiana offers online, in-person, and mail-in voting registration. You have to have a Louisiana-issued ID to register to vote online. The deadline to register in person has passed, but you can register online until October 16.


Mississippi does not offer online voter registration, but it does offer mail-in and in-person registration. If you register by mail, remember that in Mississippi, you do not have to register with a certain party. You can register in person at your local election office.

North Carolina

North Carolina also does not offer online voting registration. You can register by mailing in a voter registration form, and you do not have to have a North Carolina-issued ID to do so. The deadline to register by mail is October 12, but you can register in person at your local election office until November 3.

South Carolina

South Carolina offers online voting registration as an option, as well as mail-in and in-person. You need a South Carolina driver’s license with a valid, up-to-date address (the same one you’re registering to vote with) to register online. All forms of voting registration are open until October 17.


Tennessee does offer online voter registration, as well as mail-in and in-person options. You do have to have a Tennessee driver’s license to register to vote online. If you do not have this, you can still register by mail or in person at your local election office.


Virginia offers all three forms of voter registration, online, in-person, and mail-in. You have to have a Virginia-issued ID and a Social Security number to register online. Voter registration in Virginia is open until October 15.


If you live in Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, or Tennessee, the deadline to register to vote in the upcoming midterms has already passed. If you live in one of the other states, there’s still time; check under your section for registration deadlines! Election day is Tuesday, November 6, so don’t forget to show up to the polls that day!

Go Register to Vote Now!

Voting is one of the best ways we can be changemakers in our society today. Your vote is your voice in the government, so take this opportunity to create the world you want to live in. If you need more information about how or when to register, visit your local election office or check out this site.