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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Student Veteran House Ranked Third Nationally at National Enactus Expo

By Brendan O'Hallarn

Student Veteran House, a concept pioneered by Old Dominion M.P.A. graduate and M.B.A. student Michael Thompson and refined by the University's social entrepreneurial club, Enactus, finished third in a national veteran empowerment competition held in conjunction with the Enactus National Expo.

Student Veteran House, a non-profit organization established by Thompson, seeks to provide accessible learning environments on college campuses that enable veterans with disabilities to excel as they pursue higher education. ODU Enactus is partnering with Thompson, a veteran and Enactus team member, to make Student Veteran House a reality, including complementary veteran support initiatives.

The ADP Veteran Empowerment Project Partnership, which seeks to mobilize Enactus teams to empower veterans and their families, awarded $1,500 grants to 25 Enactus teams in fall 2015 for projects that help veterans transition to careers outside the military. As required by the grant, each team provided an impact report on project outcomes to be eligible for additional funding.

The ODU Enactus project was ranked third in the nation for its multi-year plan to raise awareness, market and raise funds for the innovative concept to empower veterans with the will to learn. The project received an additional $2,000 from ADP.

The ODU Enactus team showcased its efforts and outcomes on Student Veteran House and three other projects in a presentation titled "Turning What If Into What Is." It advanced to the quarter-finals of the Enactus National Expo for the second straight year.

The team's other projects this year were a social entrepreneurship symposium called Power Up Your Non-Profit; a partnership with the Hampton Roads chapter of Stand Up for Kids titled Meeting Emotional Needs Today, and an on-campus battery recycling project called Take Charge.

"Our success at Enactus highlights the creativity, passion and abilities of our students," said Jeff Tanner, dean of the Strome College of Business. "This type of success is why so many businesses are choosing to recruit their next generation of leadership here in the Strome College of Business."

Social entrepreneurship is one of the thrusts of ODU's to spur business startups. The concept received a significant boost with a gift of $11 million from the Strome Family Foundation in 2014, which was pivotal in the creation of the Strome Entrepreneurial Center.

The members of the Old Dominion Enactus team worked at the Strome Center to refine their pitch before the regional and national competitions.

"We are proud to support ODU Enactus and the Student Veteran House student leaders as they bring their innovative vision to a reality," said Nancy Grden, executive director of the Strome Entrepreneurial Center.

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.

Connie Merriman, associate dean in the Strome College of Business, serves as the adviser to the ODU Enactus team. Thirty-five students, representing six University colleges, have worked throughout the year to generate successful outcomes for their projects. The students logged 450 hours for Student Veteran House alone.

The Old Dominion Enactus presentation team included 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 public administration.