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ODU Enactus Team Advances to National Social Entrepreneurship Expo

By Brendan O'Hallarn

Old Dominion University's social entrepreneurial club ODU Enactus is one of 24 university teams selected during a regional competition to participate in the national championship for collegiate social entrepreneurship.

At a regional competition March 29 in Washington, D.C., the Old Dominion team's presentation "Turning What If Into What Is" was chosen to advance to the Enactus United States National Exposition in May in St. Louis.

It will be the second straight year for ODU Enactus to compete in the national expo. Last year, after competing in a regional qualifying event the day before, the team made the quarterfinals of the national competition.

"It is a privilege to work with such an amazing group of young people who share a tremendous passion for helping make a better, sustainable future for others," said Connie Merriman, associate dean of the Strome College of Business, and Enactus faculty adviser.

"I was extremely proud to hear the numerous positive comments from the judges and from others who were there observing the presentation. We especially thank Dean Jeff Tanner and Nancy Grden, executive director of the Strome Entrepreneurial Center, for their support of our projects and our trips to competition."

Enactus is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to inspiring students to improve the world through entrepreneurial action. It challenges university students to create nonprofit projects that combine the spirit of entrepreneurs with the social justice of community activists.

The organization reaches more than 1,700 colleges and universities in 36 countries..

For this year's competition, the ODU Enactus project is four-pronged - a social entrepreneurial symposium called Power Up Your Non-Profit; a mentoring program entitled Stand Up for Kids; an on-campus battery recycling project called Take Charge; and a legacy project ODU Enactus Student Veteran House.

Student Veteran House, led by Old Dominion M.B.A. graduate and disabled veteran Michael Thompson, seeks to provide a residence and support facility for disabled veterans returning to college campuses after military deployments.

At the Enactus regional competition, the project received a veteran's empowerment grant to increase awareness of the business case for hiring veterans. The preliminary grant places the ODU team in competition with 19 other teams for additional funds to be awarded at the Enactus National Expo.

The Old Dominion Enactus team consists of six main participants: biology major Dawn Boyd, accounting student William DeLuca; graphic design student Robert Lamb, finance major Lauren Magner, international business major Armando Russell, and Rebecca Loizides, a master's student in business.

Other Old Dominion students who took part in the regional competition include M.P.A. students Madeleine Hood and Carlisa Merritt; management student Janay Brown; music and business production student Anissa Bennett; political science student Gabe Miller; criminal justice major John Royal; and Stephanie Flores, an international business student.

Merriman said the diversity of academic majors among the participants demonstrates vividly how Enactus is an Old Dominion student club open to any discipline. "The only common denominator among the participants is the passion to make a difference," Merriman said.

Social entrepreneurship is one of the thrusts of the initiative aimed at spurring business startups at Old Dominion. The concept was given a significant boost with a gift of $11 million from the Strome Family Foundation in 2014 that was pivotal in the creation of the Strome Entrepreneurial Center.

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