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News and Media

Two Seniors Win 2012 Creativity & Leadership Fellowships

May. 25, 2012

Amanda Nagy

May graduates Wyatt Hayman ’12 and David Fisher ‘12 received grants totaling $50,000 from Oberlin’s Creativity & Leadership fellowship program. Hayman, with Jack Kearney ’12 and Shahab Raza ’12, will develop a technology company, Applaud, centered on a smartphone application that will facilitate an interactive conversation between customers, businesses, and employees. Fisher will establish a service-learning initiative, Interfaith Appalachia, which will offer service-learning programs that work with mining communities in the Appalachian region.

Each year, Oberlin’s Creativity & Leadership (C&L) fellowship program awards a series of grants of up to $30,000 to motivated students to help them develop their entrepreneurial ideas. The program supports dedicated entrepreneurs who have a creative model for addressing a demonstrated need or demand in a financially sustainable way, whether in the for-profit or not-for-profit sector. In addition to funding, fellows benefit from mentoring by leading entrepreneurs.

Hayman was awarded $30,000 for his venture. A biology major from Belvedere, California, Hayman says he has always been a dreamer with a love for problem-solving. He hopes to use his influence for developing large-scale social equality and environmental sustainability. At Oberlin, he was the sole captain of the men’s varsity soccer team, and he received the Andrews Family Award for Excellence in Academics, Athletics, and Leadership.  

Joining Hayman in his start-up are mathematics majors Shahab Raza and Jack Kearney. Raza, who is from Karachi, Pakistan, graduated with a degree in math (with honors) and philosophy, and he plans to continue his research in modeling social networks for his master’s program at Oxford University next year before returning to Applaud full time.

Kearney, who is from Minneapolis, graduated with a degree in math and economics (with honors) and a minor in computer science. His interest in entrepreneurship grew and developed at Oberlin. During his sophomore year, he noticed that transportation options for students were limited. He cofounded Wilder Lines, a bus company using local, family run charter companies to provide transportation to urban areas during academic breaks.

Fisher majored in Jewish studies and environmental studies. His project, Interfaith Appalachia (IA), brings people together across differences of faith, politics, and environmental perspectives through a common commitment to service, dialogue, and community development in central Appalachia. In the coming year, IA’s main focus is to organize immersive, interfaith service-learning opportunities in the tri-cities area of Harlan County, Kentucky. The organization is also creating a subsidized trip for college chaplains and youth group leaders. IA is also developing two pilot projects: a social venture in partnership with Appalachian artists, and a public speaking program.

Joining Fisher in his project are Hannah Kalson ’12, a classics major, who will serve as IA's director of curriculum development; and Anita Peebles ’14, religion and environmental studies major, who will assist as the group’s outreach coordinator.

As an undergraduate, Fisher undertook two winter-term projects, which he describes as spiritual and academic journeys, with support from the Doris Baron Environmental Studies Student Research Fund. In 2010, he conducted community-based research about environmental conflict resolution in the Middle East, and undertook an ecological pilgrimage by land and sea the following year. The pilgrimage ended in Israel, where he spent spring semester 2011 studying at the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies. Fisher, who is from Newton, Massachusetts, has been a recipient of the Dalai Lama Fellowship, Udall Scholarship, Davis Projects for Peace, and Newman Civic Fellowship.  

Fisher says the work of Interfaith Appalachia will address humanitarian challenges, promote intercultural cooperation, and offer environmental education. The project grew out of a 2010 Oberlin College service trip in partnership with Heritage Ministries of Harlan County, Kentucky. Oberlin students returned to Lynch, Kentucky, in fall 2011.

Fisher says Interfaith Appalachia and its two pilot programs are designed to be self-perpetuating through participation fees, tuition, and continued grant funding. “The first question shouldn’t be, ‘How do we do this long-term?’ The question is, ‘How do we start?’ Now that we have data and experience, we’re able to model something effective, and there’s more buy-in from the community. The Creativity & Leadership fellowship helps us figure out how to operate over a longer period of time.”

Fisher also credits C&L with teaching the nuts and bolts of developing a business idea. “The entrepreneurship course motivates you and brings you into a conversation with your peers, which is really valuable.”

C&L fellowship ventures may be business, social, or artistic in scope, or a combination. Proposals are adjudicated by a committee of faculty, staff, and alumni on the basis of quality of idea, strength of the implementation plan, and the leadership qualities of the students.

The 2012 fellowships are a component of Oberlin's Creativity & Leadership Project, which is part of the Northeast Ohio Collegiate Entrepreneurship Program—a Kauffman Campuses initiative funded by the Burton D. Morgan Foundation and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

The C&L Project reflects Oberlin’s musical and artistic excellence, academic rigor, and longstanding commitment to preparing students for leadership and civic engagement.

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