Fifteen area professionals were recently honored by MTSU as “Millennials on a Mission in Middle Tennessee” as part of the university’s second annual Nonprofit & Social Innovation Week.
The event, which concluded Friday with a student summit at the James Union Building, was created to provide MTSU students with entrepreneurial skills as well as opportunities to network with established professionals in the nonprofit arena.
Some of the honorees are shown in the photo above. Seated from left, they included Meghan Kelly, children’s ministry associate at New Vision Baptist Church; Regina Wilkerson Ward, development director for Interfaith Dental Clinic; Miki Agrawal, keynote speaker, social entrepreneur and author; Hannah Holladay, MTSU student and VSA intern; Shannon Ritchie, founder and executive director of GIRLS Ranch Inc.
Shown standing from left are honoreees Alden Ward, club director at Smyrna Boys & Girls Club; Beth Jennings, resource development director for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Rutherford County; Christi and Clark Powers, founders and owners of Bear It No More; Claire Wilson, marketing director for United Way of Rutherford and Cannon Counties; and Claressa Ham, founder and executive director of Archie’s Promise.
Not pictured, but also honored, were Will Anderson, founder and executive director of Salemtown Board Co.; Sam Davidson, co-founder and executive director of Cool People Care; Meagan Flippin, president and CEO of United Way of Rutherford and Cannon Counties; Kevin Scott Page, founder of Popcause.org; and Ginger Spencer, director of marketing for Special Kids.
Agrawal, a New York City native, met with honorees in a special reception before her March 23 keynote presentation at the MTSU Student Union to kick off the week of events.
Named by Forbes magazine as one of 2013’s “Top 20 Millennials on a Mission,” Agrawal is author of the book “Do Cool Sh*t,” which shares insights from her journey of leaving a traditional job that she hated to founding the popular farm-to-table pizza restaurant, WILD (formerly known as SLICE), in New York as well as co-founding female garment company THINX while also continuing to branch into other socially conscious business efforts that spoke to her personal passions and purpose.
Agrawal’s book, which at one point hit No. 1 on Amazon’s bestseller list, “had a lot of practical business knowledge, written in a way that we thought would appeal to college students,” so bringing her in as a speaker made sense, said Leigh Anne Clark, associate professor of management in the Jennings A. Jones College of Business and one of the event organizers.
Agrawal told students that while surveys show that many millennials have felt the need to move back in with their parents in recent years, the changing nature of the economy has opened up promising opportunities for them to start their own businesses. But to do so, she cautioned, students must identify their passion and commit long term to turn that passion into a career.
“The good news is that the barrier to starting a business, cause or community is lower than ever before,” Agrawal told the crowd of more than 200 inside the Student Union Ballroom. “… Actually, we have the power to create our own reality. Isn’t that exciting?”
The week of events was hosted by the Departments of Management and Marketing and Business Communication and Entrepreneurship in the Jones College of Business and the Department of Communication Studies and Organizational Communication in the College of Liberal Arts.
Agrawal’s visit was made possible with support from MTSU’s Distinguished Lecture Funds, Jones College of Business, College of Liberal Arts and the Jennings and Rebecca Jones Foundation.
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Here’s a video recap of Agrawal’s remarks: