Students explore changemaking, social entrepreneurship at Sullivan Foundation Ignite Retreat

The retreat focused on helping students unlock their ability to make community change through social entrepreneurship.

During fall break, Christopher Raville ’20, Imani Vincent ’20, Mikayla Ford ’22 and Angy Aguilar ’22 participated in the Sullivan Foundation’s Ignite Retreat held Oct. 18-20 in Asheville, North Carolina.

The students attended workshops, activities and opportunities about changemaking and social entrepreneurship. The retreat workshops were hands-on and experimental, and allowed participants time to work on a project of choice, gain clarity on potential career paths and dig deeper into a set of problems, all focusing on connecting skills and interests in a way to create positive community change.

“An activity that particularly stood out to me was about empathic listening,” said Aguilar, a computer science and entrepreneurship double major. “Students formed groups and one person in the group shared a problem in their life that they had. We were encouraged to ask ‘what’ and ‘how’ questions rather than ‘why’ questions to really understand the problem. I found this activity very valuable as most of the time we listen to respond rather than listen to understand and empathize.”

The Elon group was among 100 students and young professionals in attendance who are passionate about social entrepreneurship. “Students came from all over with different problems, passions and curiosities with the goal to make a mark in the world,” said Ford, a communication design major.

“After this weekend I know I have a community of people who understand my motivation,” added Vincent, who is majoring in public health. “What amazed me about the Ignite Retreat was being able to be in a space with so many people with different perspectives who all want in some way to make social change.”

Alyssa Martina, director of the Doherty Center for Creativity, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and Elena Kennedy, assistant professor of entrepreneurship, accompanied the students and met with faculty and staff from a variety of schools to learn best practices relating to teaching social entrepreneurship and innovation.

“The Ignite Retreat provided a space for those of us deeply passionate about creating social change to interact and network with like-minded social entrepreneurs,” said Christopher Raville ’20, a finance and entrepreneurship double major. “Workshopping my own initiative provided fresh insights on how to deliver an impactful prototype. Pitching my own initiative provided a space to practice delivering my message to a large, diverse group, and left me with feedback as to how better communicate my vision.”

The Ignite Retreat provided a space for those of us deeply passionate about creating social change to interact and network with like-minded social entrepreneurs.

Christopher Raville ’20, a finance and entrepreneurship double major

The Sullivan Foundation focuses on inspiring emerging servant leadership across the American South and has a network of colleges and universities it supports with funding, programming, and scholarships.

Elon University is a Sullivan Foundation Award School and the students’ participation in the retreat was funded by the Sullivan Foundation endowment. Mary Morrison, Sullivan Foundation Campus Liaison, and Elon’s Kernodle Center selected the Elon participants and provided logistical support.

Kennedy is a 2019-22 Sullivan Faculty Fellow. Her fellowship project will focus on ways to strengthen sustainability and social innovation content in the Love School of Business Core Curriculum.