Seven Mary Baldwin University students representing various majors attended the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Foundation’s weekend workshop for social entrepreneurism and civic leadership at Kanuga Retreat in Hendersonville, North Carolina, connecting with other college students and learning how to network, launch ideas, and build careers out of a passion for service.
Junior Betsey Suchanic, student leader for the fall retreat, said classes that she had already taken at Mary Baldwin helped provide a strong foundation for the weekend and that the experience will enrich her future coursework as well.
“[The retreat] was rewarding on an individual level, and getting to know and collaborate with other passionate students, both from Mary Baldwin University and other institutions across the United States, was inspiring and empowering,” said the marketing communication and studio art major. “I’m grateful for the opportunity [to have taken part in this] learning experience and the faculty members that work to make it possible for students to attend.”
Math major Mwazomela Mbewe ’15 already had an idea of what she was passionate about: math, clean water, poverty, and education. “But after being around other people my age who are so passionate about social problems,” she said, “I found myself really wanting to go out and make changes.”
In the “Launching an Idea” session at the retreat, Mbewe said she ended up with a business idea that would involve partnering with or starting an engineering company in Zambia to build water-related infrastructure to help prevent flooding during monsoons. A large number of students in Zambia, especially in impoverished areas, are unable to attend school because of flooding.
“Even if I never carry out that exact idea, I learned a lot about how to develop an idea and execute it,” Mbewe said. “I also learned that I could apply my skills to come up with creative solutions for social problems — the definition of social entrepreneurship. I’m already pursing engineering, but being made aware and thinking about my passions has helped me decide that I want a career to integrate my passions.”
Allie Ellmauer ’15 said she found inspiration among her peers at the conference.
“Although I only spent a couple days with them, I know that I now have a reliable network of people to contact when I need to bounce ideas off of somebody for a project I am working on,” said the political science major. “I realized that anything is possible with a little bit of hard work and a whole lot of spirit, and as cliché as it may sound, maybe one day I will change the world.”
According to Associate Professor of Communication Bruce Dorries, a faculty fellow of the Sullivan Foundation, Mary Baldwin sends between four and 10 students every year to the Sullivan retreats. Faculty who are interested in nominating students for a similar spring retreat should contact Dorries for more information.
For the past 85 years, the Sullivan Foundation has supported efforts across the South to promote service learning and social entrepreneurship.