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


Scottish Government Commits Millions to Funding Social Enterprises in 2020

As the Sullivan Foundation gears up for its first study abroad program in Scotland next summer, social entrepreneurs in that country have begun tapping into new revenue sources: flexible loans and repayable grants from the Scottish government.

As part of Scotland’s Social Entrepreneurs Programme, the €500,000 Boost It fund will provide grants between €30,000 and €50,000 to social enterprises focused on climate change and environmental issues. Announced in October by Aileen Campbell, Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government, the fund started accepting proposals in December, according to Industry Global News 24.

The Sullivan Foundation will take a cohort of students to Edinburgh for a study abroad program based at the University of Edinburgh. The program, which will focus on social entrepreneurship throughout Scotland, takes place June 4-July 4, and applications are due no later than Feb. 1. Click here to learn more about the costs and course offerings.

Administered by social enterprise agency Firstport, Boost It follows up on the success of earlier programs, called Start It and Build It, funded by the Social Entrepreneurs Fund (SEF). Those programs offer grants of up to €25,000. Social enterprises focused on the environment typically have higher start-up costs, however, creating the need for larger government subsidies.

this is a photo of Aileen Campbell, a leading proponent of Scottish social entrepreneurship

Aileen Campbell, a cabinet member in First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s administration, has shown a firm commitment to Scottish social entrepreneurship.

Selected Boost It businesses will be asked to repay a portion of the grant from a percentage of their profits after the first year—if they turn a profit. They will be expected to repay the full amount of the grant within three years. However, a spokeswoman for Firstport told Industry Global News 24 that these rules are “not set in stone” and that decisions would be made “on a case-by-case basis to decide a realistic and achievable amount” required as repayment.

Social entrepreneurs got another boost last year when the Scottish Social Growth Fund (SSGF) launched with €17 million in its coffers. The SSGF provides affordable and flexible loans of between €100,000 and €1.7 million to social enterprises, charities and volunteer organizations.

The Scottish government has invested €8 million into the SSGF, while the University of Edinburgh chipped in an additional €1 million and Big Society Capital, a UK social investment company, also pledged €8 million.

In August 2019, the Scottish government, led by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, announced the creation of a rural social enterprise hub, funded by a €27,000 grant, to be based in Campbeltown in Argyll, Western Scotland. The funding will establish a network for rural social enterprises to share their experiences while building on knowledge from other European countries, such as Finland, Estonia, Romania and Germany. Some of that money will go to helping leading social enterprises develop and grow their brands and customer bases. The fund will also create LaunchMe, an accelerator program to help social entrepreneurs attract private investment.

“Social enterprises play an important role in our economy and have a positive impact in our communities,” Campbell said when she announced the SSGF launch last May. “They contribute €2 billion to the economy every year and employ more than 80,000 people, and that’s why we’re taking action to grow this sector.”