Campbell University Students Go in Search of Rural Entrepreneurs

Business students at Sullivan Foundation partner school Campbell University left their comfort zone and spent much of February making cold calls in an effort to capture stories from rural entrepreneurs North Carolina.

“I enjoyed this project,” said Zach Winston, a sophomore from Raleigh, N.C. “It was definitely challenging to try to find someone, but it was super-cool to learn about what people are doing in their rural community.”

According to Instructor and Entrepreneurship Coordinator Scott Kelly, the NC Rural Entrepreneur Project was inspired by a visit from Patrick Woodie, president of the NC Rural Center. “Mr. Woodie noted that North Carolina as a whole is growing,” Kelly said. “However, the growth is mainly in urban areas while rural areas are declining. It’s the age-old question of how to grow an economy, and the secret sauce is an entrepreneur who is willing to experiment, fail, and try again.”

Results of the interviews included more than just student-created blog entries, podcasts and a mural on the wall. For Miranda Quinn, a sophomore from Kinston, N.C., the result was an internship.

Quinn interviewed Paul Sugg and Zac Holcomb from EastPoint Prosthetics, and they all clicked. “Listening to their answers gave me insight on how they run their business,” she said. “They are truly leading with purpose and making a difference in their community. I am excited that they have given me the opportunity to intern with both of them.”

“Seeing how entrepreneurs in rural North Carolina counties started their businesses and overcame so much adversity was truly inspiring,” said Amary Ryder, a sophomore from Cary, N.C. “Behind every company is a real individual who was determined to solve a problem and followed through despite all the challenges! [I’m] so glad I was able to be a part of this project and witness these journeys.”

This story was edited slightly from the original article appearing on the Campbell University website.

University of the Cumberlands, Campbell University Among Nation’s Safest Campuses

Two Sullivan Foundation partner schools—the University of the Cumberlands in Kentucky and Campbell University in North Carolina—have been ranked among the safest college campuses in the country.

Nuwber Research compiled the listing using data provided by the U.S. Department of Education and the Handbook for Campus Safety and Security Reporting.

In a separate study, the University of the Cumberlands has also been recognized as the safest campus in Kentucky and fourth-safest nationwide by Your Local Security. That study used data from the Department of Education and the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report.

“If a school is truly committed to its students—to helping its young people succeed in all facets of life—then it will do all it can to meet the basic need of student safety,” Dr. Emily Coleman, vice president of student services at Cumberlands, said in a press release. “The leadership at Cumberlands has done what it can to provide a safe environment for our students to thrive. We’re glad to see those efforts making a positive impact across campus.”

Those efforts included installing more light posts across the Cumberlands campus to help ensure safety at night, according to Cumberlands. Additionally, members of the Williamsburg Police Department were welcomed onto campus in 2018 as an extra precaution. And all Cumberlands students and employees have to complete a Title IX course on what proper conduct with classmates and colleagues looks like and what to do if improper behavior is observed.

“It’s easier to pursue excellence when you live on a safe campus,” said Coleman. “While we acknowledge that no university is perfect, it is our hope that Cumberlands is a place where students possess the peace of mind necessary for them to grow intellectually, spiritually, and creatively.”

Campbell University Joins Collegiate Hunger Challenge to Combat Food Insecurity

Sullivan Foundation partner school Campbell University is participating in the second annual Collegiate Hunger Challenge, where it will compete against 11 other North Carolina colleges and universities for up to $22,000 to put toward fighting hunger on and around campus.

The Collegiate Hunger Challenge was created in 2018 by Food Lion Feeds and North Carolina Campus Compact, a collaborative network of colleges and universities committed to educating students for civic and social responsibility. In the competition, which runs now through April 25, Campbell will earn points based on several activities the school participates in, all centered around collecting and donating food for neighbors in need or hunger awareness.

Related: This “Dogoodr” uses technology to feed the hungry and reduce food waste

“We know hunger on and around college campuses is a significant issue, and we’re excited to partner with the next generation of leaders to find solutions for our neighbors in need,” said Emma Inman, director of external communications and community relations at Food Lion. “We were so impressed with the creativity and excitement in the inaugural contest last year and can’t wait to see this year’s participants’ fresh, innovative ideas to fight hunger in their communities.”

As part of the challenge, each school nominates an MVP Student Hunger Ambassador who is responsible for leading the effort on each campus.

Campbell has selected Morgan Pajak and Alex Gooding, divinity and public health students respectively, as the MVP Student Hunger Ambassadors leading the Collegiate Hunger Challenge campaign. They were selected because of deep connections to food security-related programs on the Campbell campus, including a Campus Pantry, Mustard Seed Community Garden and the Campus Kitchen food reclamation program. The faculty/staff mentor is Brian Foreman.

The North Carolina Campus Compact responds to the needs of North Carolina and its communities, with a special focus on combating food insecurity.

A Life-Changing Summer in Prague

Steeped in history and brimming with bohemian allure, Prague has a famously romantic past, but for Sullivan Scholar Lori Kaitlyn Babb, it also offers a glimpse of a dazzling future in which innovative young thinkers like herself take the lead in building a better world.

A senior biology major at Campbell University who also serves as a Sullivan Ambassador, Babb spent the month of July 2019 in the Czech Republic’s capital city in a Sullivan-sponsored study-abroad experience. The program included two courses, Social Entrepreneurship + Global Change and Philosophies of Leadership, plus an excursion to Vienna, where Babb and her fellow students visited one of the four United Nations headquarters, and a weekend getaway to Budapest, Hungary.

The scenery in Prague is nothing short of spectacular—towering Gothic cathedrals, magnificent castles plucked from the pages of fairy tales, an ancient astronomical clock with moving figures of the 12 apostles. But the coursework was equally eye-opening, Babb said, thanks to the tutelage of Sullivan Foundation President Steve McDavid; Dr. Jody Holland, an assistant professor in the University of Mississippi’s Department of Public Policy Leadership; and Heather McDougall, founder and executive director of Leadership exCHANGE.

this photo shows the subject's excitement to visit the John Lennon Wall in Prague

Lori Babb, a Sullivan Ambassador and Sullivan Scholar, poses at the John Lennon Wall during a Sullivan study-abroad experience in Prague.

“On the academic side, I found the two courses to be incredibly formative in my thought-theory approaches to the ‘soft sciences,’” Babb said. “As a science major, a majority of my schoolwork is in the ‘hard sciences,’ but I loved exploring the social sciences, where methodologies have great variety and there isn’t always a concrete ‘right’ way to do something.”

Expecting the Unexpected

While social enterprise and leadership were the key subjects of study, the focus “expanded outside of just the classroom and syllabus,” Babb noted. The program included presentations by active social entrepreneurs who had gone through the study-abroad program in years past. “To be able to see and meet those who experienced the same program and who took those strides to ignite change and create social enterprises was incredibly inspiring,” she said. “It also emphasizes how life-changing this summer abroad can be if you utilize and maximize the skills and resources the program provides.”

Babb learned to expect the unexpected, too—and to embrace challenges to her viewpoint. “The greatest surprise (of the experience) would probably be learning that sometimes you don’t always get quite the answers you expect from the questions you ask,” Babb reflected. “Meaning you have to be expectant of the curveballs that not only business or academia throws at you, but, truly, life as a whole. I thrive in structure and long-term planning, but, realistically, no one can plan for everything.

this photo shows the beauty of Viennese architecture

As part of the Sullivan study-abroad program in Prague, Lori Babb and fellow students made a trip to Vienna, Austria.

“This is a life lesson that I didn’t foresee learning in a traditional classroom setting, but the classrooms were innovative on all fronts. Oftentimes, as we delved into project development or topic brainstorming, Dr. Holland would challenge our ideas with nonconventional ideals or devil’s-advocate perspectives. It helped shift my thought process to anticipate hardships and adapt when those inevitable problems arise.”

Building a Sustainable World

Throughout her study-abroad experience, Babb gained inspiration from many Europeans’ commitment to protecting the environment, practicing sustainability and reducing single-use plastic. “Anyone who knows me knows how passionate I am about sustainability,” she said. “I loved seeing the strides Eastern European countries were making towards a more sustainable community. For example, when grocery shopping, most people either bring a reusable tote/bag or carry their groceries out in-hand because plastic bags must be purchased. They cost just a couple of crowns, the equivalent of about a nickel. But that small price promotes bringing your own means of transport, which lessens the need for single-use plastic.”

Many restaurant customers also do their part for the environment by supplying their reusable own takeout or to-go containers rather than pay an extra fee. They can even order smaller portions to cut back on leftovers. “Not only does this limit plastic usage, but it also helps lessen food waste,” Babb noted. “In similar efforts, within Prague, plastic straws are not readily available or distributed or, in many cases, the straws are eco-friendly. These changes are slight, yet the sum of each person’s efforts will make a difference. I would love to see American entrepreneurs and governmental policy move towards sustainability in a similar manner.”

Babb enjoys a visit to Prague’s famous astronomical clock.

As a biology major, Babb has a particular interest in bioethics as well as social entrepreneurship. She plans to pursue graduate-level studies in bioethics with a focus on science policy. “I would like to steer towards the creation of a venture that can facilitate social change through the intersection of science, art and entrepreneurship,” she said. “During our tour of the United Nations of Vienna, I was overtaken with inspiration from the interdisciplinary work facilitated at an international level within those four walls where I was standing.”

Fired Up at the Ignite Retreat

Prior to her summer in Prague, Babb had attended the Sullivan Foundation’s Spring 2019 Ignite Retreat. That event, coupled with her study-abroad experience, got her fired up to represent the Sullivan Foundation as a Sullivan Ambassador on the Campbell University campus. “I recognized the greatness of what the Sullivan Foundation has to offer through its programming and events, and it feels almost selfish to keep it to myself,” she said. “I truly think these experiences shifted the big-picture trajectory of my life.”

“I learned how to widen my scope when approaching not only academics or business but in all aspects,” Babb continued. “This mindset of igniting change and working towards a common good shifts your perspective on everything. During my year as a Sullivan Ambassador, I hope I’m able to be that pivotal link for other students who yearn to leave a mark on this world and the Sullivan Foundation, which can help teach them the skills to do so.”

So, all in all, what did she take away from her month-long adventure in Prague? “Never underestimate the greatness you hold within you,” Babb concluded. “Hone your skill sets, continually learn from the world around you and harness your internal power. You can change the world.”

Raven Rock State Park Celebrates 50th Anniversary With Its Founder

Half a century after establishing Raven Rock State Park in North Carolina, Robert Soots, a former biology professor at Campbell University, is still around to enjoy the stunning views. The university celebrated his vision and his work with a special 50th anniversary event at the park’s visitor center on Saturday, Sept. 14, with live music, lectures, hikes and activities for the whole family.

Soots, who served as head of the Campbell biology department, was teaching a course on invertebrates’ natural history in the mid-60s when he first became acquainted with what is now Raven Rock State Park. He needed a place outside of the classroom to teach the laboratory portion of the class, and the large tract of land just a short drive from the university suited his needs.

Seeking permission to access the area for his classes, Soots had gotten to know some of the landowners. One—he calls her “Miss Lizzy”—became a good friend. She lived alone on the several hundred acres she owned along the Cape Fear River, and she often had Soots and his wife, Sharron, over for meals or to help in the garden.

When Miss Lizzy considered selling her property for mining, Soots asked her to consider learning what it would take to convert it into a state park. He researched the process at length and visited other nearby landowners, floating the idea and testing the waters. “Without exception,” Soots said, “everybody said they would sell their property for the state park if we could make it happen. I made it clear to them there was no guarantee I could accomplish this, but I’d try.”

Soots sketched out a plan and took it to the Harnett County Board of Commissioners, showing them slides of the beautiful area and discussing the benefits of having a state park in an area. He went to every town meeting and every garden club, bird club and scout club he could think of to get people on board.

Following months of hard work, in 1969, Raven Rock State Park was created with the passage and adoption of North Carolina Senate Bill 495. Today, Raven Rock State Park, which covers 4,810 acres along the Cape Fear River’s banks, is a popular destination for hikers, campers, anglers and canoeists, drawing thousands of visitors ever month The park also boasts horseback riding trails and beautiful overlooks.

At the 50th anniversary event, which was co-sponsored by the Sullivan Foundation, several speakers discussed the park’s history. Musical entertainment featured regional talent, and throughout the five-hour event, an artists village, food trucks, games and other activities were offered, along with guided nature hikes on the Cape Fear.

Dr. John Bartlett, an associate professor of biology at Campbell University, said the event was “a celebration of the park and the people who made it happen.” Of the man whose work helped create a state park and spare hundreds of acres from a potentially much different future, Bartlett is clear. “I think Bob Soots is a hero,” he said. “He’s a visionary, and he was way out ahead of his time on things.”

This story was adapted from the original article appearing on the Campbell University website.

An Eye for Beauty

As a photographer, Amber Merklinger has an eye for beauty. And like any artist, she often sees it in places others would miss.

So when she learned about creative placemaking—using local arts and culture to strategically shape the physical and social character of a neighborhood or town—during the Sullivan Foundation’s Social Entrepreneurship Field Trip to Chattanooga in March 2019, she quickly recognized its power to transform a struggling community. Now Merklinger—who earned her degree this spring in Health Communications and Public Relations at Campbell University (CU)—and a group of fellow CU students and recent graduates are working on a creative placemaking project of their own: Campbell CREATE, aimed at helping communities in the CU area discover and celebrate their own cultural advantages and heritage.

Campbell Create members Michelle Vazquez and Jonathan Molai (photo by Amber Merklinger, Amber Faith Photography)

CREATE stands for Community Relationships, Encouragement, Art, Tradition and Empowerment. In addition to Merklinger, team members include Jonathan Molai, Cassie Burgett, Jaden Grimes, Adrian Dailey, Carolina Rosado, Michelle Vazquez, Danielle Holquist, and Dylan Andrews. Campbell CREATE’s mission: “To engage and involve the community members surrounding Campbell University in order to strengthen social capital and community involvement while also enhancing the culture found there. We hope to do this by involving the community in beautifying the campus and the surrounding towns to bring in more business and to bring more people out of their homes and into the community.”

The initiative—and the excitement the students bring to it—illustrate how Sullivan Foundation events empower college students to channel their youthful energy, ambitions and ideas into positive action. “Students always walk away with an expanded view of what’s possible for their future career paths,” said Spud Marshall, the Sullivan Foundation’s director of student engagement and Field Trip and Ignite Retreat leader. “These trips give students a sense of the multiple ways in which they may package their passions into concrete careers past college.”

Amber Merklinger and fellow students from Campbell University founded Campbell Create after the Sullivan Foundation’s field trip to Chattanooga last spring. (Photo by Amber Merklinger, Amber Faith Photography)

Changemaking in Chattanooga
This spring’s Field Trip took dozens of students to 10 social enterprises and nonprofits tackling a wide variety of issues around Chattanooga. Among many stops, Field Trip participants visited Mad Priest Coffee Company, which works with displaced individuals and employs refugees while educating the community about social injustice and humanitarian crises; the Chattanooga Mobile Market, a mobile grocery store that brings fresh, healthy food and produce to underserved neighborhoods; the Glass House Collective, an organization focused on revitalizing Chattanooga’s historic Glass Street area; and Co.Starters, which helps communities build vibrant entrepreneurial and cultural ecosystems.

The Spring Field Trip included a tour of Chattanooga social enterprise Mad Priest Coffee. (Photo by Amber Merklinger, Amber Faith Photography)

The CU students’ experiences at Glass House Collective and Co.Starters in particular opened their eyes to the possibilities of creative placemaking, according to Merklinger and Molai.

“I had never heard of that term until I went on this field trip,” Merklinger said, “but it inspired us to start the process of emulating this concept on our own campus and in our surrounding communities. They took an issue they saw in the community and found a solution that impacted everyone in the city, bringing life to a culture not easily seen. That’s the kind of thinking I wish to apply to my future endeavors as a social entrepreneur.”

Artwork in Chattanooga’s Glass Street district inspired the creative placemaking efforts of the Campbell CREATE team. (Photo by Michelle Vazquez)

Molai, who graduated from CU this spring with a Biology Pre-Med degree, was equally inspired. “I am always seeking experiences which add value to my life and further my goals of effecting meaningful social change,” he said. “On this trip, I was able to commingle with students from other majors and schools, all with an interest in community development and social entrepreneurship … It truly was inspiring to see other successful social entrepreneurs making positive changes for the community.”

Uniting Communities Through Culture
After the Field Trip, the CU students hatched the idea for Campbell CREATE, based on the Co.Starters Canvas model, on their ride home from Chattanooga, Molai said. Back at CU, the young changemakers quickly went to work. “As inspired by the visions of Glass House Collective, we have been marshaling our unique strengths as leaders on our campus to stimulate community engagement and economic growth,” Molai said. “In the time between the Field Trip and the Spring Ignite Retreat, we had self-organized, successfully pitched at two innovation challenge-type pitch contests hosted by the Lundy Fetterman School of Business, and begun to build a critical mass of campus and community support after launching our first prototype.”

The team also made its first presentation to the mayor and board of aldermen of Coats, N.C., on May 9, who approved their request to work with the Coats Beautification Committee in a creative placemaking initiative.

Field Trip students take a break after visiting social entrepreneurs in Chattanooga. (Photo by Diamonique Anderson)

Campbell CREATE will use creative placemaking to help small communities spur economic growth through local arts and culture. They plan to recruit artists and craftspersons to create murals and statues as well as decorative benches, swings, tables and chairs in public areas, showcasing local talent and building a sense of hometown pride. “We all agree we want to capture the expressionism, dreams and culture that so deeply enrich the communities surrounding Campbell University,” Merklinger says.

Each community has its own problems to solve, but that’s not the focus of Campbell Create, Merklinger points out. “Like the Glass House Collective, we don’t feel it is our place to fix these issues, but instead to amplify the cultures found there in order to bring the community together.”

Flipping the Script
Prior to the Spring 2019 Field Trip, Merklinger had attended the Fall 2018 Ignite Retreat in Black Mountain, N.C. She learned about the Sullivan Foundation when Marshall spoke about social entrepreneurship to CU’s School of Nursing. That first encounter, she said, “had such a huge impact on me that I wanted to become more involved with the organization. I was also attracted to the Field Trip because I was enrolled in a class centered on discovering underserved communities, and I felt it would correlate well with my class. I was informed that the businesses we would be visiting were run by social entrepreneurs who had made a positive difference in their community, despite the difficulties they faced. I wanted to get a closer look at how their entrepreneurs did this and how I could learn from their example.”

After experiencing the Spring Field Trip to Chattanooga, Jonathan Molai and his teammates fine-tuned their concept for Campbell CREATE at the Spring Ignite Retreat. (Photo by Amber Merklinger, Amber Faith Photography)

Merklinger, Molai and other Campbell CREATE team members went on to attend the Spring 2019 Ignite Retreat, where they worked with facilitators to further develop their concept. “Being able to directly build on this initiative in the project track at the Ignite Retreat proved incredibly useful for myself and our team in our sharpened consideration of priorities and learning points,” Molai noted.

Merklinger said she would recommend the Field Trip, Ignite Retreat and other Sullivan events to any college student looking to help others without trying to solve their problems for them.

“When you walk into a city or town and see issues such as poverty, low incomes, lack of healthcare, violence, and a variety of other problems, what is your natural instinct?” she said. “Do you want to run away and forget you’ve ever been there? Or do you want to fix their issues and completely flip the script? If you would choose the latter, this field trip is for you. But instead of ‘fixing their issues,’ how would you like to take a creative approach in learning how to walk alongside the community members and create positive change?”

“Sometimes we go through life and become so engrossed in our passions or ideas—or blinded by the negativity we see—that we miss the beauty of the communities right in front of us,” Merklinger added. “The Sullivan Field Trip gives students new and fresh perspectives on how you can implement change in different areas that you’ve come across in life. Some of the approaches these businesses take would be solutions you may never have thought would solve the issues the communities are facing and, thus, engage your creative and critical thinking skills. This trip will ignite in you the desire to think outside the box in order to go beyond the superficial and to dig deep into the heart of the community in order to help those around you. So, do I think this trip is worth going on? I do 100 percent.”

Field Trip attendees learned how Mobile Market, a mobile grocery store in Chattanooga, caters to underserved communities. (Photo by Jonathan Molai)