Kansas College to Send GEW Contest Winners to Start Venture in Haiti
Oct 20, 2010
Guest post from: Adam Pracht, Coordinator of Development Communications for McPherson College
Ask Lane Allison about his experience at McPherson College and he gives a concise answer.
“If I had to sum it up in one word, it would be ‘Opportunity,’” he said.
In his three years at the small liberal arts college in McPherson, Kan., Allison has met congressmen, traveled to Egypt and been elected president of the Student Government Association.
But during Global Entrepreneurship Week, Allison will compete in the most ambitious opportunity provided by the college to date – the Global Enterprise Challenge.
In the challenge, teams composed of three students will learn about the current situation in Haiti and come up with a plan for a self-sustaining social venture.
The winning team members each receive a $1,000 scholarship, independent study credit and, best of all, the opportunity to travel to Haiti and turn plans into reality.
Allison said there was no hesitation when he heard about the challenge – he had to sign up. It would be a highlight of his life if his team is selected, he said. “I think it’s great that it’s getting students to come out of their shell and work for causes,” he said.
President Michael Schneider said the challenge was a new way to lift up liberal arts at McPherson College through entrepreneurship.
“This effort gets our students out in the world taking risks and coming up with solutions to important issues,” he said.
After students sign up for the challenge as individuals, they will meet their teammates the week prior to Global Entrepreneurship Week.
During this “Idea Week” students will learn about Haiti and the situation on the ground, receive the detailed contest guidelines and connect with their assigned mentors.
Then, during Global Entrepreneurship Week, the excitement of the contest will really kick in. The week will start on Sunday, Nov. 14, with an “Extreme Entrepreneurship Encounter.” Arel Moodie of Extreme Entrepreneurship Education Corporation will lead the event. The corporation was founded by Michael Simmons, who was selected by “BusinessWeek” as one of the “Best Entrepreneurs Under 25.”
Simmons said aspiring entrepreneurs often get stuck at the “idea stage.” The event will include keynote speakers, workshops and intense peer mentoring – all with the goal of giving attendees a clear plan for their next steps to making entrepreneurial ideas into a reality.
“We’re extremely excited to work with McPherson College because we share the same vision of helping students make a global social impact,” Simmons said. “With today’s tools, students don’t have to feel disconnected from and powerless to the world’s problems.”
Throughout the week, the teams will develop their ideas with their mentors during challenge work days. Nov. 18 will feature Dr. Betsy Gatewood of Wake Forest University, who has become one of the foremost experts on entrepreneurship in post-secondary education.
The college’s all-campus gathering on Nov. 19 will showcase Jessica Jackley, co-founder of Kiva.org, the world’s first peer-to-peer micro-lending website. Members can lend as little as $25 to specific entrepreneurs in the developing world, providing affordable capital to those who need it most. The website moves more than $1 million from lenders to entrepreneurs in 185 countries, was named one of the top ideas in New York Times Magazine and was called “revolutionary” by the BBC.
The gathering will culminate with the naming of the winning team for Global Enterprise Challenge.
Global Entrepreneurship Week at McPherson College will wrap up on Saturday, Nov. 20, with Nick Rallis Band, who will perform and speak about starting a band as a small business.
But the challenge will just be getting started for the winning team even as Global Entrepreneurship Week ends. That team will work with Dr. Kent Eaton, McPherson College provost, to create a business plan and work out logistical details for the trip to Haiti.
Dr. Eaton, who has extensive experience living and traveling in developing countries, will help adapt the group’s idea to the actual needs on the ground. “We don’t go to impose, but we go to serve,” Dr. Eaton said.
The challenge will teach these students how to make a difference in the world with only limited resources, Dr. Eaton said, comparing it to the fictional television character MacGyver – famous for making complicated contraptions out of common items like paper clips and bubble gum.
“I just envision a student who does something like this to look in the mirror and say, ‘I can really make a difference,’” Dr. Eaton said. “’I don’t have to just react to the world around me. I can really be an agent of change.’” And because the challenge is to create an enterprise that will be self-sustaining, the resulting project won’t be a case of “flyby philanthropy.”
The challenge is just one aspect of the new focus at McPherson College: to use entrepreneurship as the way to an outstanding liberal arts education. The Global Enterprise Challenge grew out of a recently established and successful program called the Horizon Fund.
The new fund, unveiled by President Schneider this fall, provides micro-grants of $100 to $500 for students who have an entrepreneurial idea to do good in a creative way. Any individual or team of McPherson College students in any major is eligible to apply for and to receive a grant. On Oct. 8, the first round of grants were awarded to 19 ideas generated by 22 students.
One of the recipients was Shane Ball, Hillsboro, Kan., senior, who received $500 to kickstart his custom motorcycle design company – Dük Designs. Ball has also signed up to compete the Global Enterprise Challenge.
What’s been just as helpful as the money, Ball said, was access to the tools and space to work on his motorcycles with the college’s premier automotive restoration program. McPherson College offers the only four-year degree in automotive restoration, and among the tools available to Ball will be a Fadal vertical machining center made possible by Tonight Show host Jay Leno and MAG - Fadal.
Professors and advisors at the college have helped turn him into an entrepreneur, Ball said.
“They have my back,” he said. “They always push for more than just mediocre. They don’t accept that things have to be how they are.”
Allison – along with Tecie Turner, Scott City, Kan., senior – have also received a grant for their idea to create a community-wide recycling program called “Give it Back 2 Mac.” Allison said he was inspired to this project by his hometown of Greensburg, Kan. Greensburg decided to follow its name and use “green” construction practices when it rebuilt following a May 2007 tornado that leveled the town.
Allison said the college is teaching him to be an entrepreneur – outside of the classroom as much as in it.
“With innovation comes creativity,” he said. “And that’s what keeps us moving forward.”
To follow the Global Enterprise Challenge at McPherson College as it unfolds, read about all the recipients of the Horizon Fund and to read blog posts about entrepreneurship at the college, visit blogs.mcpherson.edu/entrepreneurship/