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For the First Time, ODU Student Ideas Represented at National Social Entrepreneurship Expo

At the Enactus National Expo this week in St. Louis, Old Dominion University is being represented for the first time by a group of students who will present ideas for using entrepreneurship to solve real-world dilemmas.

Presentations about a way for students to save money on textbooks; a proposal to design and construct accessible housing for student veterans; and a service that helps families reunite that have been separated because of financial concerns have been delivered by the 12 Old Dominion students who traveled to the competition. The Enactus United States National Exposition concludes April 16.

The Old Dominion team advanced to the quarter-finals after the first day of the competition.

"This National Expo is not just an opportunity to show the nation what ODU has to offer from its students. It's also an opportunity to show how much our students care about the Hampton Roads community and improving local lives," said Akeyla Barbour, a master's student in Higher Education and Leadership Administration and the Enactus Old Dominion team leader.

Enactus is an international non-profit organization that brings together student, academic and business leaders who are committed to using the power of entrepreneurial action to improve the quality of life and standard of living for people in need.

For the first time, an Old Dominion team is among the 168 college and university teams participating in the National Expo.

"The ODU team is comprised of students from several colleges and majors and includes undergraduate and graduate students. This is just another example of the broadly-defined entrepreneurial culture at the University," said Connie Merriman, assistant dean of the Strome College of Business, which is the home college of Enactus at Old Dominion.

Merriman has been faculty adviser of the social entrepreneurship group since it was created at Old Dominion more than two years ago.

"The students are extremely excited to share our projects, all of which demonstrate the passion of ODU students to facilitate positive, lasting change in the lives of others," she said.

The three projects are:

  • CampusWise, an online textbook-sharing service for students, which was launched commercially at Old Dominion in early 2015;
  • Hotel Kids, a program based on the Peninsula that provides assistance for families forced to separate because of economic or other concerns; and
  • Student Veteran House, a proposal developed by an Old Dominion student veteran to create a model residence that offers accessible campus housing for disabled single veterans who want to continue their education.

"While it would be great to win this competition, what's more important to my Enactus team is how much of an honor it is to go to St Louis and represent Old Dominion and the values of the Monarch Community," Barbour said.

The thrust to bring entrepreneurial thinking to service-based organizations was a key component of the $11-million gift to Old Dominion University by the Strome Family Foundation in 2014. The gift aims to help create a campus-wide entrepreneurial ecosystem which includes organizations like Enactus.

The experience is intended to not only transform lives, but help students develop the kind of talent and perspective that are essential to leadership in an ever-more complicated and challenging world.

The National Expo in St. Louis includes several career fairs, where large organizations and Fortune 500 companies look for future executives that have an entrepreneurial spirit and highly developed social consciousness.

"We, as students, believe that higher education is an opportunity for both personal growth and public good," Barbour said. "What good is an education and an excellent skill set if we don't use it to help others?"

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