At Southwestern Adventist University students have many opportunities to take the lead in key experiences that allow for growth and development. One of those opportunities is through Enactus, a student led team whose members share a passion for entrepreneurship, business and community service. Enactus student leaders are engaged in every aspect of the project process from ideation to execution. Recently, an emphasis on empowerment and personal development has been a common theme for three distinct projects: EmpowerU, BrandU and LaunchU.
In 2019, Sharne Lazarus, a business major and Enactus officer, identified a need on campus. Many students lacked information and resources that would help them approach a job search with confidence. As part of the Enactus leadership team, Sharne led a group of students to create the EmpowerU event. EmpowerU provided students with resume help, free headshots and other resources. Through a collaboration with the GenHERation organization, students attended breakout sessions led by branding experts from a variety of industries including fashion, design and social media marketing. A central theme was how to pitch individual stories in an effective way to any audience. Students responded enthusiastically to the inaugural event.
Enactus student leaders had the opportunity to expand this project concept in 2020 through an invitation to host an event at the Arlington Adventist Church in conjunction with the Younger Generation Church ministry. Targeting high school seniors, college students and recent graduates, the event was renamed BrandU and focused on the importance of creating a personal brand through different phases in life. BrandU was a success, attracting 130 participants and 9 partner organizations. The event featured an interactive networking session with a variety of activities including LinkedIn Profile Creation, Social Media Inspection, Financial Literacy, Sustaining a Side Hustle and an Elevator Pitch Competition.
Project partner and Younger Generation Church teaching pastor, Dr. Allan Martin, described working with student leaders and the BrandU event as an experience that "provided stellar support, coaching and encouragement to our young adults who live, study and work in the DFW Metroplex. Partnering with SWAU Enactus was tremendous, as their team is filled with great leaders who have a deep desire to benefit the community and inspire excellence... Enactus put their vision into action, and we're honored to be part of their brainchild, Brand U."
Shortly after the BrandU event, COVID-19 disrupted the spring semester, sending students home prematurely. Now, Enactus students are excited to be back on campus and are meeting the challenge of finding ways to execute projects while keeping COVID-19 restrictions in mind. The focus for this year will be on projects that can be executed on campus or online. In collaboration with CoLab INC, the Enactus team is promoting a new opportunity for student entrepreneurs. LaunchU is a collegiate program that encourages students to submit a business idea, develop a plan and prepare for a live pitch competition with the opportunity to win cash prizes. As part of a participating university, SWAU students can explore entrepreneurship while connecting with mentors that will help them develop a business plan and pitch strategy.
LaunchU 2021 at Southwestern Adventist University is sponsored by Civitas Senior Living. Wayne Powell, CEO of Civitas and SWAU alum shares that his favorite class as a student was Profiles of Entrepreneurship. Sponsoring entrepreneurship at the university level is important to him because “the privilege of getting to interact with successful leaders and learn from their successes and failures is critical in understanding the journey of the Entrepreneur. It is a privilege to provide support to future Entrepreneurs.”
Students are enthusiastically developing ideas and will work with faculty and staff mentors throughout the semester for a practice pitch event. The final pitch competition will take place either live or virtually in March of 2021.
EmpowerU, BrandU and LaunchU are three examples of projects that engage students to experience leadership and develop skills that will serve them now and in the future.