Students in Hollins University’s first-year seminar “Sustainability and Social Innovation” are focused on finding ways to address the world’s most pressing problems as they present themselves in our local communities. Class members recently received inspiration and a blueprint on how to start finding their purpose as social entrepreneurs through “Head, Heart, Hustle,” an interactive workshop presented by the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Foundation.
“What we do is simply support young people who want to be changemakers,” explained Reagan Pugh, a facilitator with the Sullivan Foundation. Partnering with a network of 70 schools throughout the southeastern United States, the foundation seeks through college scholarships, awards, and events and programming to inspire young people to prioritize service to others above self-interest.
Pugh discussed with the students the idea of finding “an intersection” between one’s own beliefs, passions, and skills. “We know that we want that, but some of us are not one hundred percent clear what that looks like. It’s a work in progress. The most effective young people are the most reflective young people.” He urged the class to “take a minute and pay attention to what’s going on around us and make observations. Then, pick a path forward and do that incrementally over time. Move toward finding something that’s right for [you] and right for the world.”
In the “Head, Heart, Hustle” workshop, Pugh led the students in recognizing potential career pathways that employ one’s head (an individual’s skills and unique gifts) and align with one’s heart (the issues that matter most) in order to develop a hustle (a vocation) that fits the individual and serves others.
“If you leave here today and you have a clear step of something you might try, in real life, to bring you clarity about what you might want to do,” Pugh noted, “that’s our goal.”
At Hollins, all first-year students take a first-year seminar. These seminars allow them to participate in collaborative and active learning and to hone their skills in critical thinking, creative problem solving, research, writing, and oral communication. Each seminar also has an upper-class student mentor called a Student Success Leader, or SSL. SSLs attend the seminar, help students with advising, and answer academic questions.
“Igniting passion into people and seeing them transform will always be a concept that’s magical to me,” said Zahin Mahbuba ’22, who serves as the SSL for “Sustainability and Social Innovation.” From her perspective, the workshop had a profound impact. “It was tremendous to see the students being struck by their own sense of inspiration and to ultimately want to build on their passions.”
Assistant Professor of Education Teri Wagner co-teaches “Sustainability and Social Innovation” with Assistant Professor of Biology and Environmental Science Mary Jane Carmichael. “At the heart of the concepts of sustainability and social innovation is stewardship – the responsible use and protection of the environment around your through thoughtful and intentional practices that enhance ecosystem resilience and human well-being,” Wagner said. The concept of stewardship, she added, is applicable not only to the environment and nature, but also to economics, health, information, theology, cultural resources, and beyond.
“In this seminar, we challenge students to develop innovative solutions to complex problems by applying design thinking principles while working in multidisciplinary collaborative teams. We challenge them to ask not what your community can do for you, but what you can do for your community.”