After losing traction for a year or two, the officers of Hillsdale College’s Enactus club are kicking off the new school year with rebranding and a greater emphasis on the group’s connection to the campus and community.
A coalition of thousands of students around the globe, Enactus invests in the campus — who identify and develop solutions to issues in their communities, according to the organization’s website. This year’s Hillsdale Enactus club will find solutions to problems in the community, offer professional-development training to students on campus, and offer resources for students to try out their innovative ideas, said sophomore Sam Swayze, the club’s president.
When Hillsdale students first started a chapter of Enactus in 2006, the national organization was called Students in Free Enterprise, a name that may have resonated more with Hillsdale students and professors, said junior Natalia Bodnar, vice president of communications for Hillsdale’s Enactus.
The organization changed its name to Enactus a few years later and lost some of its appeal at Hillsdale, Bodnar said.
“There was a breakdown in messaging,” Swayze said.
This year, the officers want the club to be known now as “Enactus: Hillsdale’s Entrepreneurship Club” to better communicate what it is, said junior Abby VandenBerg, the club’s vice president.
Two years ago, a disproportionate number of seniors — nine out of 12 members — also made it harder for the club to keep up once they graduated, said VandenBerg. The group launched a project almost two years ago to create a ride-sharing app which never came to fruition. The project still exists, but the club needs more “manpower” to finish it, VandenBerg said.
Now, Swayze said, he wants the club to be seen as a “sandbox” for Hillsdale students to come and try out ideas — to “create and fail and create and fail, so when they graduate they have this experience under their belts.”
Bodnar said the emphasis of the club this year will be on “bridging the gap between students of Hillsdale and the community.”
Toward that end, Swayze said, he’s trying to recruit a local entrepreneur of member of Hillsdale’s chamber of commerce to join the club’s business advisory board. The club also will conduct a needs report by hosting roundtables with decision makers in the community to determine what projects might be most helpful.
Several students will attend Enactus’ national competition in May to present their projects, but the club is also offering resources to students who won’t present there. Weekly meetings are open to anyone and will offer professional-development training, VandenBerg said.
“When people come to us with ideas, we can help grow them,” Swayze said, adding that they can present “as many projects as we have people for it.”
Bodnar said she wants students to realize that the values they learn in the classroom can be lived out through investment in the community.
“It’s really putting into practice the liberal-arts education,” she said.
“The community is developing right now, and we want to be a part of that,” he said.