Past, present, future

Sullivan Foundation events continue to grow, evolve

Ignite participants gather for an intimate
talk by social entrepreneur Tom D’Eri

Through its summer programs, special events, and retreat weekends, The Sullivan Foundation has been promoting service and social entrepreneurship beyond its awards and scholarships for a long time. It’s easy to make the case that 2015 was the Foundation’s best year ever, and 2016 promises to be even better.

The most recent Ignite Retreat for social entrepreneurship, held in October, drew students from 22 universities across the Sullivan network. Held in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, the retreat was the largest to date, with nearly 100 participants exploring ways to create positive change in the communities around them.

With piles of cardboard, post-it notes, and markers strewn throughout the conference center, participants bounced between workshops offered by the facilitators. Topics ranged from unlocking creative solutions when brainstorming to networking and pitching social venture ideas.

Friends and alumni of the Foundation gathered in Charlotte, North Carolina on the evening of October 1, 2015, to share some social time and forge new connections. The next alumni reception, to be held in Alexandria, Virginia, will take place on April 14, 2016

Saturday evening concluded with a special talk from Tom D’Eri, founder of Rising Tide Carwash, a social venture that provides meaningful employment to individuals with autism. D’Eri’s talk served as an inspirational jumping-off point for Sunday’s Prototype Crowdfunding Competition. Students pitched projects they had worked on throughout the weekend in hopes of winning a cash prize to help make their ideas realities.

“The greatest thing I walked away with from the Ignite Retreat was realizing that if I want to make a change, don’t wait until after graduation, after next year, or even tomorrow,” says participant Qadira Muhammad. “I need to begin right now!”

Two more Ignite Retreats will take place in 2016. This year, however, will feature a new addition to the lineup that promises to expand the scope of the Foundation’s campus impact. The spring retreat — scheduled for April 8-10 in Raleigh, N.C. — will include the first-ever Sullivan Foundation Faculty and Campus Leadership Summit.

The Sullivan Summit is designed to promote deeper understanding of the social innovation and entrepreneurship community among faculty and campus leaders across the Sullivan network. Through social events designed to bring together change makers of all stripes and a full slate of workshops and panels, the new event will inspire fresh thinking and expose participants to tools that can be applied on their campuses and in their classrooms.

The summit is designed to allow participants to share best practices, create a new peer-learning community, and get feedback that can accelerate change when they return home. More information is available on the events page at

Ignite participants gather for a group photo

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