DJ Henson is the community liaison and volunteer coordinator for NextCourse, a Drake student organization that recovers unused food from Hubbell Dining Hall and brings it to six local community organizations. The new “Every Bulldog a Changemaker” initiative, which has a fundraising goal of $10-12 million within the $225 million goal of “The Ones” fundraising campaign, could help NextCourse expand and add new leadership.
“We want to create as much impact as possible,” Henson said. “And if we have more than one person in [my] position, that could mean we could expand even further: go beyond just Drake University, go beyond just our six community partners, do even more with the more people that we have.”
NextCourse isn’t the only organization that might benefit from this initiative. Renee Sedlacek Lee, director of Drake’s Office of Community Engaged Learning, explained the Changemaker initiative’s main components: a Social Impact Fund, a Business Innovation Fund and a web application for tracking community involvement.
“I think a key piece that students need to hear about the Changemaker initiative [is] that it is not just nonprofit,” Sedlacek Lee said. “This is across sectors. And so this about being the change in the business world, being the change for the environment, being the change for the youth advocacy program that you really care about.”
Sedlacek Lee said that the Social Impact Fund would fund mini-grants for community impact, internships that create social change and training and development for faculty. She said it would also fund the four-year Changemaker Scholars program, which would replace the one-year Engaged Citizen Corps.
Similar to three other campaign initiatives, the Changemaker Scholars program would provide renewable $5,000 endowed scholarships to five students who become involved with community engaged learning, according to Drake President Marty Martin and Vice President for Advancement John Smith.
According to Sedlacek Lee, the Changemaker initiative also includes a Business Innovation Fund that will be led by the College of Business and Public Administration. This part of the initiative may include a business clinic where students can give advice to small businesses and possibly market their own products or services.
Sedlacek Lee said the initiative may include a Social Impact Business Incubator to help businesses become Certified B Corporations and a Socially Responsible Investment Fund to give Drake students experience in investing in causes and businesses that are working for social change.
“We know we’re launching a Business Innovation Fund and Social Impact Fund,” Sedlacek Lee said. “But what exactly it’s going to be able to support is going to be determined by the type and the amount of the type and the amount of the donations of investments received.”
Sedlacek Lee said the initiative will also support the use of the Collaboratory web application to highlight service projects and partnerships happening around Drake. She said administrators could use the platform to see the connections between faculty, classes and community partners, as well as the number of students involved.
“Another key piece to limitations currently is we don’t have a good system for tracking and managing our data across this work, and therefore we’re limited in our ability to tell our story, and we’re also limited in our ability to network and make connections across campus and across the community,” Sedlacek Lee said.
Sedlacek Lee said this initiative has received input from the project’s faculty champions, as well as teams of faculty and staff and student focus groups.
“My involvement with [the] Community Engaged Learning Office changed my entire trajectory in my career,” said Brittany Freeman, a 2021 alumna who was consulted about the initiative. “And I think it’s invaluable work that we’re not investing enough time and energy into.”
Henson said this investment will provide “immediate benefits to Next Course” by bringing in more volunteers and increasing students’ understanding of the social issues the CEL office addresses.
“Only 10 of us were in Engaged Citizen Corps, and there were over a 100 people who applied for it,” Henson said. “So every Bulldog A Changemaker is trying to get those other people who weren’t involved in ECC or who aren’t in the CEL office to also get involved in these kinds of things.”