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This Week’s “Navigating the Unknown” Features Four Cutting-Edge Social Entrepreneurs

The Sullivan Foundation’s “Navigating the Unknown” webinar series returns this week with four cutting-edge social entrepreneurs in the fields of digital media, professional training and education. Guests this week are Romain Vakilitabar of Pathos Labs and Justin Simpkins of WYRD on Wednesday, April 22, and Victor Saad of Experience Institute and Monica Tinyo of Hudson Lab School and Prehype on Friday, April 24.

Hosted by Spud Marshall, the Sullivan Foundation’s director of student engagement, the webinars will be streamed on Instagram Live at 12 p.m. (ET), Wednesday, April 22, and 5 p.m. (ET) on Friday, April 24. Here’s more information about this week’s guests:

Romain Vakilitabar

12 p.m. (ET), Wednesday, April 22
Romain Vakilitabar, Pathos Lab

Romain Vakilitabar is founder and chief artist of Pathos Labs, a nonprofit laboratory that works to increase compassion and mutual understanding by leveraging entertainment, media and technology – including virtual reality (VR) – to create narratives that change deeply ingrained biases and beliefs. “We believe that implicit bias is born when there isn’t necessarily the room or platform for people of different identities to engage with one another,” Vakilitabar explained in a promotional video for Pathos Labs. “And so with VR, we’re focused on creating a point of exposure to the different identities that exist beyond your relatively small and enclosed echo chamber.”

 

 

Justin Simpkins

Justin Simpkins, WYRD
Justin Simpkins and his team at WYRD (pronounced “weird”) are building a new category of culture by modernizing the many pathways to civic engagement. According to its website, WYRD “is built on the belief that in order to solve our world’s biggest challenges, we need to organize and direct a paid workforce to fully carry out the most impactful solutions.” Working with a network of experts, freelancers and producers who want to use their skills to improve the world, WYRD helps brands “take ownership over solving challenges like never before” and allows consumers to work with their favorite brands to address issues in their communities. “WYRD breaks down our biggest challenges into bite-sized milestones, allowing for progress to seem attainable,” the website states.

 

 

Victor Saad

5 p.m. (ET), Friday, April 24
Victor Saad, Experience Institute

Named to Forbes 30 Under 30 list in the field of education in 2015, Victor Saad founded Experience Institute (EI) as a place where college students and career professionals could learn and grow through short-term, real-world experiences. According to its website, EI “works with institutions and companies to help define experience-based learning paths at various seasons of life and work.” During the COVID-19 crisis, EI has offered workshops and coaching to help teams and managers make the switch to remote work, including instruction in using the phone, video and other digital communication tools effectively. EI also developed the “What’s Worth Doing” deck of cards “for life’s big (and small) decisions.”

 

Monica Tinyo

Monica Tinyo, Hudson Lab School and Prehype
Monica Tinyo is a digital fabrication and maker specialist for Hudson Lab School in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York. As a designer with a masters degree from the Parson School of Art and Design, she “aimed to make products and services that help facilitate experience-based learning for all ages.” She has worked as the Tinkering Teacher at Camp Hudson, providing kids with the tools “to be ambitious through planning, collaboration and hands-on testing.” Hudson Lab School is a personalized, project-based K-8 school in New York that “integrates collaborative, interdisciplinary, project-based learning and thoughtful self-reflection with the academic fortitude of a classical liberal arts education,” according to its website. Hudson Lab School’s 26-acre campus allows a combination of indoor and outdoor classroom approaches. Tinyo is also the entrepreneur-in-residence at Prehype, a New York collective of entrepreneurial people who help each other build new ventures.

 

“Navigating the Unknown”: Ajax Jackson, Tessa Zimmerman Discuss Social Innovation in the Age of the Coronavirus

Social innovators Tessa Zimmerman of ASSET Education and Ajax Jackson of Magnolia Yoga Studio will be the next guests on the Sullivan Foundation’s new live-streamed webinar series, “Navigating the Unknown.” Zimmerman and Jackson will speak with Spud Marshall, the Sullivan Foundation’s director of student engagement, from 5-6 p.m. (ET), Friday, March 27. The webinar will be hosted on Zoom and streamed on Facebook Live.

Details for joining the call can be found on the Sullivan Foundation’s Facebook Event Page.  You can join the Zoom call at https://zoom.us/j/399894174 at the appropriate time.

The Sullivan Foundation launched the “Navigating the Unknown” series in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The series addresses the challenges faced by social entrepreneurs, innovators and nonprofits as they guide their communities and clientele through the health crisis. Each call features two social entrepreneurs or innovators from the Sullivan Foundation’s Speakers Bureau, who share how they are responding to the pandemic in their communities and through their work. They also discuss the challenges they’ve faced and the challenges they’ve overcome as social innovators and changemakers.

photo of Tess Zimmerman, founder of ASSET Education

Tessa Zimmerman, founder of ASSET Education

Tessa Zimmerman, who suffered extreme anxiety in the classroom as a youth, founded ASSET Education in 2016. ASSET equips teachers with a curriculum of concrete tools to help their students reduce stress and build resilience. Composed of three modules—Mindfulness, Positive Psychology and Positive Self-Talk—the program ensures that all students walk away by the end of the academic year with at least one new stress-reducing tool that works for them.

Ajax Jackson (pictured at top) founded Magnolia Yoga Studio as New Orleans’ first black-owned yoga studio. The studio’s mission is to support growth, healing and empowerment through the art and science of hot yoga and community. Jackson works with her clients to develop and strengthen life skills such as courage, patience and intuition through yoga.

The first webinar in the “Navigating the Unknown” series was held on Wednesday, March 25. It featured Tony Weaver, Jr., founder of Weird Enough Productions, and Jasmine Babers, founder of Love Girls Magazine.

Featured entrepreneurs and schedules for upcoming webinars are listed below. Many of the guests were scheduled to speak or lead workshops at the Sullivan Foundation’s Spring 2020 Ignite Retreat—a twice-yearly event for college students with a passion for social entrepreneurship and community service—until the event had to be canceled due to the rapid spread of the coronavirus.

Through the “Navigating the Unknown” webinar series, college students, faculty/staff members and other members of the social enterprise sector will have the opportunity to connect with and learn from these leading social innovators. No previous affiliation with the Sullivan Foundation or its programming is required to view or participate in the call.

All webinars will be recorded and uploaded to the Sullivan Foundation’s website at www.sullivanfdn.org/webinar for later reference.

Additional dates and speakers will be announced over the next few weeks, Marshall said. The schedule thus far is as follows:

Fri, March 27, from 5-6 p.m. ET
Tessa Zimmerman of ASSET 
Ajax Jackson of Magnolia Yoga

Wed, April 1, from 12-1 p.m. ET
Josh Nadzam of On the Move Art Studio
Abhinav Khanal of Bean Voyage

Fri, April 3, from 5-6 p.m. ET
Reagan Pugh of Assemble
Dustin Betz of Founders Institute

Spring 2020 Ignite Retreat: Inspiring a New Generation of Changemakers

A hip-hop educator who teaches language arts through rap lyrics. A publishing prodigy who launched a successful girl-power magazine at 15. A master storyteller who has taught leadership development at companies like Nike and PepsiCo. The Sullivan Foundation’s upcoming Spring 2020 Ignite Retreat has some heavy hitters in the lineup, and they’ve got a plan to inspire a new generation of college-student changemakers at the weekend-long event, taking place March 27-29 in Wake Forest, N.C.

The deadline to register for the Spring 2020 Ignite Retreat is Wednesday, March 11. Click here to learn more and to sign up.

Designed for college students with a passion for social change, the twice-yearly Ignite Retreats features exciting workshops, activities and opportunities to connect with a tribe of like-minded individuals who want to make a real difference in their communities, their country and their world. Over three days, a team of facilitators, coaches and conspirators lead the students on a journey to discover how they can change the world in a positive way—through social entrepreneurship, founding a nonprofit, launching a social-change project, or by simply cultivating their own leadership skills and creative talents.

photo of India Larry, a student attendee of the Sullivan Foundation Ignite Retreat

India Larry, a past student attendee of the Sullivan Foundation Ignite Retreat

Meet the Ignite Retreat facilitators: Jarren Small of Reading With a Rapper teaches ELA skills through hip-hop

The Ignite Retreat offers three workshop tracks:

Personal: For students who are still uncovering their calling and want to better understand their skills and passions, build self-confidence and explore the mindset of a social entrepreneur.

Problems: For those students who have a social issue or a set of problems they want to work on but don’t know how to get involved, this workshop track helps them develop concrete and practical skills.

Project:
This track is designed for students who want to dive deeply into a concrete solution, campus initiative, project or venture they’re trying to bring to life.

Building a Leadership Team

This year’s workshop leaders and presenters include Spud Marshall, founder of the co.space and innovation director of 3 Dots in State College, Penn.; Jasmine Babers, founder and CEO of Love Girls Magazine; Reagan Pugh, founding partner of Assemble; Jarren Small, cofounder of the Reading With a Rapper educational program based in Houston; Nicole Kelner, cofounder and COO of Coding Space and founder of Lemonaid; Josh Nadzam, cofounder and director of On the Move Art Studio in Lexington, Ky.; Adrienne Wright, executive director and CEO of U-Turn Sports in Richmond, Va.; Jason Reed, founder of Reach USA; Danielle Espiritu, learning success director of WeThrive; and Abu Fofanah, founder of Power Your Launch Marketing Accelerator.

photo of Spud Marshall at the Sullivan Foundation Ignite Retreat

Spud Marshall

Marshall puts together the roster of Ignite Retreat facilitators and coaches for each event. “We look for emerging leaders across the country pioneering novel solutions to a wide array of problems,” Marshall said. “Our hope is that the leadership team that the students get to meet during the retreat will give them an exciting array of possible career paths and approaches they may apply to their own journeys.”

Meet the Ignite Retreat Facilitators: Love Girls Magazine founder Jasmine Babers shines spotlight on “everyday girls”

“Some of our coaches have started million dollar companies, some are working on grassroots and small-scale nonprofits,” Marshall added. “Others tackle challenges through public policy, while still others work through school systems or private enterprise. I’m particularly excited about the team we’ve assembled for the Spring 2020 Ignite Retreat. This group represents some of the folks I most respect and admire in the social change space, and it will be a humbling opportunity to spend a weekend together with nearly 100 college students.”

The Ignite Retreat: A Life-Changing Experience for College Students
College students who have attended past Ignite Retreats often describe them as life-changing experiences. “The Ignite Retreat demonstrated unapologetic and honest empowerment of youth by unlocking the passions and curiosities of both extroverts and introverts alike,” said Jonathan Molai, a 2019 graduate of Campbell University and attendee of multiple Ignite Retreats and social entrepreneurship field trips sponsored by the Sullivan Foundation. “It was truly amazing to see how much each individual had grown by the end of the retreat.”

Related: Jonathan Molai: “My life was forever changed” by the Sullivan Foundation Ignite Retreats

Jonathan Molai

Many of the student attendees arrive with ideas for personal changemaking projects that need some fleshing out. For example, Haleh Ghaffari, a student at Randolph Macon College, wants to use journaling to help promote mental health at her old high school. She has been keeping a personal journal for years that includes quotes for people suffering from depression, anxiety or self-harm. “When I was in high school, I had a really bad living situation, and I felt just so alone in the world,” she recalled. “The journal was a way to not feel so alone, to feel there was something good in the world [and to inspire] self-love. As I just kept going throughout the years, it kept getting bigger and bigger.”

Ghaffari plans to work with her high school counselor to create a journaling project that starts with her own journal. “The counselor will give it to other people who have gone through the same thing, and then they will make their own journal and give it to the counselor,” she said. Over time, future students will have access to these journals of former students who went through depression, anxiety and other mental-health issues. “To me, it’s so important … to let other people know they’re not alone,” Ghaffari said. “I know what it’s like, and I don’t want other people to feel what I felt if they don’t have to.”

Blaise Gourley of North Carolina Wesleyan College already had a project underway before coming to the Fall 2019 retreat. He launched the IMPACT Wesleyan Business Society, a program for business school majors and minors, especially international students. “It focuses on practical skills that you might not learn in class as well as networking. We have guest speakers [from the business sector], peer-to-peer collaboration where you can present business ideas and get feedback, and practical projects that get you engaged in different activities that can be added to your portfolio.”

Related: Ole Miss changemaker Cecilia Trotter learns to say yes to risks and new life experiences

Gourley said he liked the mix of people and perspectives that he encountered at the last Ignite Retreat. “Having an environment where people can collaborate without judging or comparing each other—that’s one of the important keys,” he said. “You can take other people’s ideas as encouragement and inspiration rather than making [negative] comparisons and feeling bad because maybe you’re not as far along as some others. Everyone’s journey is different.”

What’s the best thing a newcomer will get out of the Ignite Retreat? “Looking at yourself and saying, ‘I can make a difference,’” Gourley said. “From the Ignite Retreats, I’ve learned that the Sullivan Foundation is an organization that’s making a difference in our youth, encouraging people to pursue their passions in a way that’s going to contribute to a greater society. That’s something I’m totally for.”

Meet the Ignite Retreat facilitators: Reagan Pugh builds connections through storytelling

 

 

 

Study Abroad in Scotland: A “Game of Thrones” Adventure

If you were a character on Game of Thrones, which one would you be? Jon Snow, the noble, dutiful hero? Daenerys, the fierce, fearless and charismatic breaker of chains? Or are you more like Tyrion, the wily, witty, warm-hearted underdog with a penchant for peacemaking and a taste for the good life?

Students who take part in the Sullivan Foundation’s Study Abroad in Scotland adventure this summer will discover their personal leadership styles in the context of the beloved HBO show, according to Dr. Jody Holland, a University of Mississippi professor who will lead one of the two courses offered in the program.

Doune Castle near Scotland was used to depict Winterfell, the Stark family’s ancestral home, in the early episodes of Game of Thrones. HBO is reportedly planning to shoot scenes for the hit show’s prequel, House of the Dragon, in the Isle of Skye in the Scottish Highlands.

“We’re going to have some fun with it,” said Holland, an assistant professor in Ole Miss’ Department of Public Policy Leadership. “This is a Game of Thrones-oriented program. We’re going to look at some characters from Game of Thrones and identify their leadership traits and apply those [to the coursework]. We’re expecting this program to be a highly engaging, active learning process that individuals will glean a lot of information from.”

this photo shows edinburgh, home base for the Sullivan Study Abroad in Scotland program

Edinburgh will be the home base for this summer’s Study Abroad in Scotland program. (Image by Ellen26 from Pixabay)

Titled “Leading for Innovation: Study Abroad in Scotland,” the program, offered in partnership with Arcadia University, takes place June 4-July 4. Applications must be submitted by Feb. 1, and candidates who are selected to participate will be notified by Feb. 7.

Click here to learn more about the Study Abroad in Scotland program and fill out the application here.

The program is designed for students interested in social entrepreneurship and innovation. Scotland is one of the world’s leaders in the social-enterprise sector. A 2017 census conducted by the Scottish government found there were 5,600 social enterprises operating in Scotland, an increase of 8 percent over 2015. These social ventures employed more than 81,000 people and generated £3.8 billion (about $5.45 billion) in annual revenues.

Related: This Scottish social entrepreneur is the landlord every tenant deserves

But launching a social enterprise requires unique leadership skills that you can’t learn in a typical college-level business course. Holland will teach the study-abroad program’s “Leadership by Design” class, which focuses on the practice of leadership. The course examines topics such as the nature of leadership, recognizing leadership traits, developing leadership skills, creating a vision, handling conflict and overcoming obstacles, among others.

“We want students to take a self-reflective look so they can identify their own leadership philosophy, strengths and skills and really dive into that ability to self-design their leadership approach and serve as an agent of change on their campus and in their community, region and the world,” Holland said.

this photo depicts characters who inspired the Sullivan Study Abroad in Scotland program

By the end of the Study Abroad in Scotland program, you’ll know something (about social entrepeneurship), Jon Snow. (Photo by HBO)

At the same time, students will venture out of the classroom, exploring the thriving social enterprise scene in Edinburgh and other Scottish cities. “We want the students to immerse themselves in the culture and environment,” Holland said. “We’re going to have a lot of engagement with the community and with community leaders.”

Spud Marshall, the Sullivan Foundation’s Student Engagement Coordinator, said the second course, “Social Change in Action,” offers a “spiral learning dynamic.”

“We’ll start with a clear framework for creative ways to innovate around social and environmental problems,” he said. “Spiraling up from there, the students will create a case study analysis of local groups in the community that are tackling some of these social problems. They’ll be able to apply those frameworks to practical case studies and then scale up to a blueprint for social change. Students will work in teams to create unique social innovation interventions based on local groups they connect with and insights from the community.”

“We’ll bounce a lot back and forth between what social change in action looks like and the inner dimension of leading social change, making sure these students have the inner qualities they need to effect change,” Marshall added.

The first week of the program will focus on leadership, while the second week takes students out into the community to learn from social-enterprise leaders and changemakers. “During the third week, we’ll really start to dive into the principles of social entrepreneurship, and the students will start to develop their own blueprints for effective change,” Marshall said. “And in the fourth week, we’ll package it all together with a focus on effective storytelling and communication techniques students can use to properly convey their ideas and pitch the projects they want to bring into the world.”

Related: Scottish government commits millions to funding social enterprises in 2020

Throughout the month-long program, co-curricular events will immerse students in Scottish culture and provide day-trip opportunities. Past excursions have ranged from a Highlands Games day to a Scottish dancing experience and visits to Rosslyn Chapel and the Scottish Borders. Students will be housed in flats at the University of Edinburgh.

The fee for the program is $4,740, which covers six hours of academic credit, housing, site visits and tours, health and accident insurance, 24-hour emergency support and local transportation in Edinburgh. A limited number of Scotland study-abroad scholarships, ranging between $500 and $1,000, are available for students who attend the Sullivan Foundation’s partner schools. For more information on the scholarships, contact Merry Huddleston at admin@sullivanfdn.org.

 

University Students Learn Social Entrepreneurship Skills at Sullivan Foundation’s Upcoming Ignite Retreat

Students from throughout the southeastern United States will meet in Asheville, N.C., October 18-20, to attend the Sullivan Foundation’s social entrepreneurship-focused Ignite Retreat.

Sullivan retreats are designed to immerse students in a series of targeted workshops that help them “ignite” ideas for making positive change in their communities or develop a social business enterprise or event that might solve or alleviate a problem.

this photo conveys the energy of the Ignite Retreat attendees

Ignite Retreat attendees learned how to build social enterprise businesses and made new connections and friends at the Spring 2019 Ignite Retreat.

“The Sullivan Foundation recognizes students and community leaders who have led lives with integrity characterized by service above self and service to their communities. We’ve presented awards each year since 1890 to outstanding students primarily. And since 1934, we have provided scholarships to deserving students,” said Steve McDavid, the Foundation’s president. “In 2008, we added focused programming, including the Ignite events, to foster social enterprise activities.”

Related: View a photo gallery of the Spring 2019 Ignite Retreat

Students interested in the Ignite Retreat may attend a series of workshops and activities and connect with many socially conscious, like-minded individuals from throughout the southeast and beyond. They may also choose from three educational programming tracks for the weekend based on whether they are just beginning their social entrepreneurial journey, have a set of social challenges they would like to learn how to address now, or have a specific social venture they would like to bring to life.

this photo depicts a self-empowered yoga instructor who will facilitate workshops at the Sullivan Foundation's Ignite Retreat

Ajax Jackson, founder of Magnolia Yoga in New Orleans, says that once you can get your body into an open and flexible, you can do the same with your mind.

Students can also pitch their projects to experienced social entrepreneurs, gain access to and get feedback from Sullivan Award alumni, and receive access to Sullivan scholarship funding.

Spud Marshall, founder of the co.space and innovation director at 3 Dots, will lead the Fall Ignite Retreat, along with Harrison Wood, program coordinator for the Teach For America Graduate Fellows Program. The event also will feature an impressive roster of dynamic, experienced facilitators, coaches, innovators and social entrepreneurs, including:

Holley Murchison, founder and CEO of Oratory Glory and founding partner of HOLI. Brands

Crystal Dreisbach, founder of GreenToGo and executive director of Don’t Waste Durham

Ajax Jackson, founder of Magnolia Yoga

Abhinav Khanal, co-founder of Bean Voyage

Reagan Pugh, founding partner of Assemble

Tessa Zimmerman, founder of ASSET Education

Chad Littlefield, founder of WE!

Interested students may purchase tickets for the Ignite Retreat until October 2. General admission is $425. However, a select group of students from the 70-plus Sullivan Network Schools may be eligible to receive a sponsored ticket. Meals and housing are included with admission.

this photo shows that Crystal Dreisbach is a social innovator with a unique product

Crystal Dreisbach, founder of GreenToGo in Durham, North Carolina, is also leading a campaign to reduce single-use plastic in the city.

For further information go to www.sullivanfdn.org/events or call 662-236-6335. To register go to www.sullivanfdn.org/ignite/#tickets.  You may also e-mail questions regarding the events to admin@sullivanfdn.org.

Related: Ignite Retreat speaker leads charge to reduce plastic waste in Durham, N.C.

The Algernon Sydney Sullivan Foundation was founded in 1934, but its roots date back 60 years earlier when U.S. President Grover Cleveland and a group of other influential persons created the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award to honor those that inspire a life of integrity and service. Sullivan Awards have been presented to people whose lives of service have changed the world with little fanfare as well as those who have become household names – recipients include First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell, and Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, to name a few.

this photo shows the fun energy that Chad Littlefield brings to his Ignite Retreat presentations

Team-building expert Chad Littlefield of We! helps groups of people engage in conversations that matter. (Photo by Amber Merklinger, Amber Faith Photography)

Penn State Ignite Retreat

This year, the Sullivan Foundation held our first-ever college-sponsored Ignite Retreat. Penn State University’s Schreyer Honors College partnered with us to host an Ignite Retreat this September on the Penn State campus. The event was free to all PSU students, and we had forty attend.

The weekend was an amazing time of connection, inspiration, and discussions about changemaking. Students formed amazing bonds, and the weekend kick-started a new wave of change in Pennsylvania. Read on to learn a little more about the Penn State Ignite Retreat.

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