When Bailey Pollard, a Business Sustainability Collaborative (BSC) associate at North Carolina State University, arrived at the Sullivan Foundation’s Fall 2021 Ignite Retreat in Asheville, N.C., she didn’t know much about social entrepreneurship. “I just knew I wanted to change the world some way, somehow,” she wrote in an article about the retreat. She also knew she wanted to boost her self-confidence and create a changemaking project based on some ideas that had been percolating in her mind for a while.
The retreat didn’t just meet her expectations, Pollard wrote. “It was easily one of the best experiences I have had.”
The upcoming Spring 2022 Ignite Retreat, which takes place April 1-3, will deliver similar results for the next cohort of young changemakers—this time in a different locale: Staunton, Virginia, home of Sullivan Foundation partner school Mary Baldwin University.
The deadline to register for the Spring Retreat is Monday, March 14.
This year’s workshops will be hosted at the Staunton Innovation Hub, located in the heart of the city’s Historic District. As always, the retreat will offer three life-changing tracks:
Personal: This track is designed for students who want to uncover their calling, better understand their skills and passions, build their self-confidence and explore the mindset of a social entrepreneur.
Problems: Designed for students who have a set of problems they want to work on but don’t know how to get started, the Problems track provides them with concrete and practical skills.
Project: This track is for students who want dive deeply into one concrete solution, campus initiative, project or venture that they’re actively trying to bring to life.
Attendees can bounce between any workshop they’re interested in or stick with one for the duration of the event.
Along the way, they’ll receive one-on-one mentorship from experienced coaches who have started nonprofits or built social ventures. They’ll also attend high-energy, uplifting workshops that will help them understand their passions and find clarity on the problems they want to solve in their communities or in the world at large.
Above all, they’ll build friendships and important connections with fellow changemakers their own age from more than 30 colleges and universities across the American South.
The Spring 2022 Retreat also offers a dedicated track for faculty and staff members who want to network with their colleagues from other schools. Details on this track will be released closer to the date of the event.
Pollard said the event empowered her with faith in her own abilities to make change happen and the confidence to start moving forward on her project. “I was able to formulate my ideas into something I can do in real life with the guidance of the coaches,” Pollard reflected. “The coaches are all successful social entrepreneurs. They were able to give me so much insight and guidance through their experiences, which I learned so much from.”
She added, “I learned that if you want something to happen, you must do it in real life, no matter how big or how small. This stuck with me because I am forever ‘researching’ my ideas online but never formally acting on them.”
Christopher Raville, a student at Elon University, had a similar experience at the Fall 2019 Ignite Retreat. The event “provided a space for those of us who are deeply passionate about creating social change to interact and network with like-minded social entrepreneurs,” he said. “Workshopping my own initiative provided fresh insights on how to deliver an impactful prototype. Pitching my initiative provided a space to practice delivering my message to a large, diverse group and left me with feedback as to how to better communicate my vision.”
Rich Meagher, director of social entrepreneurship at Randolph-Macon College, said his students leave the Ignite Retreats with a new, fresh and positive way of looking at the challenges their communities face. The events, he said, have “opened my students’ eyes and hearts to a new world of community service, specifically business-centric activities that solve problems and are sustainable. Many of my students now see their career options and life paths in a very different way!”
For her part, Pollard said she left the Fall 2021 retreat “as a new and improved person. I will take the skills I learned and use them for the rest of my life. I wish that everyone could experience something as mind-blowing and amazing as the Sullivan Foundation Ignite Retreat.”