5 Questions With Director Of The Center For Social Impact At Lynn Jerry Hildebrand

  1. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.

Prior to joining Lynn University, I spent a large part of my career in California. Most recently, I served as director of Middlebury Institute’s Center for Social Impact Learning in Monterey. I am also the founder and former CEO of the Global Center for Social Entrepreneurship at the University of the Pacific in Stockton and former CEO of the Katalysis Bootstrap Fund, where I spent 17 years working in microfinance.

Outside the office, I serve on the Cordes Foundation board of directors and the Semester at Sea corporate advisory board and work with Fair Trade University USA, Opportunity Collaboration, Stockton Impact Corps and The World We Want Foundation. In the early 1960s, I also had the opportunity to provide my service as a pioneering Peace Corps volunteer in Peru. This was a transformative experience which set the stage for the rest of my career.

A passion project of mine is mentoring students through the  Ambassador Corps, which offers an entry point to a purpose-driven career. Following training in ethical leadership, intercultural competency and social enterprise management, students complete an 8-10 week internship with a social enterprise.  Last year, two Lynn students and one professor completed assignments in Rwanda and Nicaragua. This summer, we will be sending 14 students to complete assignments in Rwanda, Macedonia, Costa Rica, Belize and Boca Raton.

The Ambassador Corps is only the beginning; I look forward to expanding the reach of Lynn’s social impact programs on an even broader scale with the help of our dedicated faculty and students.

  1. What is Lynn University’s Social Impact Lab?

The Social Impact Lab is a hands-on learning environment where students and professionals can learn to make a positive difference through sustainable business concepts. The space offers students guidance and access to a better understanding of core ideals in the social impact industry such as ethical investing, B Corps certification, Fair Trade, microfinance and corporate social responsibility.

The Social Impact Lab’s launch phase focuses on embedding social impact concepts and hands-on learning across all degree tracks on campus. The vehicle for real impact is empowering our students to develop the grit, commitment and practical understanding of pressing local and global challenges, as well as the economic and social systems in need of innovation.

  1. What does it mean to have a Fair Trade University designation?

Fair Trade assures the products consumers buy are grown, harvested, crafted and traded in ways that improve lives and protect the environment. As part of a national initiative, Fair Trade Campaigns recognizes U.S. schools that are committed to educating students about the issues of Fair Trade and sourcing Fair Trade products.

  1. Take us through the process of becoming a Fair Trade University.

It only takes one person to get your campus on track to become a Fair Trade University. Two students, junior Megan Selfridge and senior Gabby Monahan, led the charge to accomplish the following designation goals:

  1. Build your team

Students, faculty and staff must enlist a minimum of four students and one non-student to work together to plan events, monitor progress and pass a resolution. Teaming together, we enlisted more than 50 members from our school community including President Kevin M. Ross.

  1. Reach out to campus outlets

The committee must work with the campus food provider, in our case, Sodexo, to increase availability of Fair Trade products ensuring a minimum of two are available in all campus-owned and operated venues.

  1. Source Fair Trade at events and meetings

Organizers must ensure that Fair Trade products are used at internal university meetings, events and offices by providing specific examples. Products were featured at Lynn’s Employee Recognition Breakfast and the Alumni Advisory Council Meeting.

  1. Commit to Fair Trade education

The university must also sponsor Fair Trade educational events on campus to drive awareness, such as our Social Impact Lab Open House.

  1. Develop a Fair Trade resolution

Finally, a resolution must be passed through the appropriate decision-making bodies outlining the commitments from the institution to meet the other goals. Due to our supportive faculty, we were able to meets all goals and pass the resolution in less than three months – the fastest in Fair Trade history.

  1. What future plans does Lynn have for its new designation? 

Through connections forged through the Ambassador Corps, we will continue to raise the bar with the addition of Fair Trade Vega Coffee.  Rigoberto Beltran ’17, founded Lynn’s relationship with the Nicaraguan company when he interned last summer. From here, the sky’s the limit; we encourage students from our Social Impact Lab to continue to build relationships with Fair Trade vendors to add to our current offerings.