Sophomore Sam Swayze and junior Abby Van­denBerg are
officers in the Enactus club. Sam Swayze | Courtesy

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.

Swayze agreed.

“The com­munity is devel­oping right now, and we want to be a part of that,” he said.