Students tackle social issues in new Sullivan Foundation Scholarship program

A group of Sullivan Foundation Scholarship students at a retreat in Black Mountain, North Carolina
(Renee Just)

Four students will tackle social impact issues through their studies at Brenau as part of the newly revamped Sullivan Foundation Scholarship program. Each student is awarded a scholarship as they work toward solutions to a real-world problem.

Brenau is part of a pilot program with the Sullivan Foundation to develop merit-based, mission-focused scholarships. The program now awards four students a year instead of one, and emphasizes social impact projects and biannual retreats.

Renee Just, Brenau’s Sullivan Foundation Faculty Fellow and academic department chair, said project topics include art expression for the underserved, literacy and reading programs, and tackling food insecurity.

She said the program ties in well with The Women’s College GOLD Program, which is in the “D” year for diversity and global perspective.

“We have students on campus who come from very different populations and demographics, which makes us a rich and diverse campus. When you bring all of that together, it unites us and can make an incredible impact,” Just said. “Sullivan believes in tackling large problems, like hunger, locally. The idea is there’s not one solution, but by combining small solutions in different communities, you quickly realize that collectively we can make a difference.”

Growing ideas through collaboration

Brenau’s first student cohort attended a retreat in Black Mountain, North Carolina, in the fall, alongside Just and Shatrela Washington-Hubbard, the Swinton A. Griffith III Dean of the College of Business and Communication. Retreat costs are covered as part of the scholarship experience.

Brenau students interacted with more than 100 students from Sullivan institutions from around the Southeast. The workshops help identify and expand student projects, and push projects past the ideation stage.

Sydney Jones presents an ideal to her peers at the Sullivan Foundation Scholarship retreat.
Sydney Jones presents an idea to other Sullivan Foundation Scholarship recipients in Black Mountain, North Carolina. (Renee Just)

Sophomore Sydney Jones attended the retreat. The psychology and dance double major said she was encouraged in the supportive environment at the retreat.

“I gained knowledge about how to start a business properly, how to write a good resume and business pitch,” Jones said. “I learned to take risks, have faith, and most importantly, to have more self-confidence. It gave me the idea for a business that would improve my community’s mental health by fusing dance and psychology. I even mustered the courage to showcase my business idea to people I barely knew.”

“I learned to take risks, have faith, and most importantly, to have more self-confidence.”

Sydney Jones

Additionally, Just said the retreats offer networking and collaboration opportunities to help bring ideas to fruition. It also creates opportunities to turn things the students have only envisioned into realities in their own communities.

“And as the program grows, Brenau will be positively impacted because the students in the cohort will be giving back and doing things for the Gainesville community,” Just said. “That inspires our students, expands the program and spreads the insight to other students.”