EC, Forward Wayne County partnering to transform lives of 25,000 neighbors | Earlham College
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EC, Forward Wayne County partnering to transform lives of 25,000 neighbors

October 11, 2019

Earlham College, in partnership with Forward Wayne County, will award $40,000 in start-up capital this fall in support of innovative plans that can transform the lives of 25,000 people living in Wayne County.

The EPIC Grand Challenge, which will begin with launch events on Tuesday, October 15, is a competition that encourages social entrepreneurship and innovative coursework across the curriculum. It will showcase interdisciplinary teams of students with support from faculty, staff and community partners.

Participating students will develop social ventures that can help to address gaps in the county’s workforce, reverse downward trends in population and homeownership, or increase property values, by 2025.

“The EPIC Grand Challenge leverages the very best of Earlham’s curriculum, combined with support for new education and mentorship that will allow for transformative ideas or existing projects to become viable social ventures,” says Gene Hambrick, director of Earlham’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. “The Earlham community has a history of making meaningful change in communities all over the world. This major initiative promotes a greater focus on bringing innovation to our own backyard.”

Forward Wayne County is a county-wide initiative created to align community resources to tackle the county’s toughest challenges.  It seeks to create a common vision for Wayne County, and promote a vibrant economy.  Quality of place and human capital development initiatives are critical to the effort, especially as they align with identified goals.

“At its best Forward Wayne County seeks to spark creative solutions to some our toughest challenges,” says Forward Wayne County Program Director Megan Sanders.  We are excited to partner with Earlham College in this way because their students, faculty and staff represent resources that help us look at the challenges of our area more holistically and from many new perspectives.” 

This competition is the latest initiative funded by the Earlham Program for an Integrated Curriculum, or EPIC. Additional funding for this competition is supported by an $18,500 grant from the Wayne County Foundation. That grant will be used to award stipends ranging from $150 to $1,000 to faculty and staff who support students in the competition by infusing new coursework into the curriculum, offering workshops, developing key community partnerships, or mentoring student teams.

Teams will compete in an elevator pitch round, where they will give an initial two-minute presentation about their idea; a cameo round, where teams will unveil their business model; and a final round consisting of a 20-minute presentation of their comprehensive project plan. A $10,000 grand prize will be awarded during spring semester 2020. Smaller prizes will be awarded to other finalists.

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Earlham College has a rich history of engagement with social entrepreneurship and innovation. In addition to the EPIC Grand Challenge, Earlham hosted the Earlham Prize for Creative Capitalism and awarded $20,000 to teams of students with inspiring business plans. Students in recent years have developed ventures with the capacity to reduce indoor air pollution and create jobs for low-income people living in Haiti, create better accessibility for subsistence farming in Sub-Saharan Africa to sell their goods, and transform the sanitation system in Ethiopia.

Earlhamites also compete annually for the Hult Prize, the world’s largest student business plan competition for the social good, with support from the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. In 2016, Earlham’s “Team Magic Bus” won the $1 million grand prize for an innovative transportation solution in Kenya. Former President Bill Clinton joined Team Magic Bus on stage before proclaiming their idea “the Uber for buses.”

EPIC is how Earlham delivers an extraordinary, career-discerning liberal arts education to students. EPIC is a four-year journey combines the academic major with out-of-the-classroom learning experiences, including research, study abroad, internships, and leadership development, to prepare students exceptionally well for life beyond Earlham.

The EPIC Advantage, an offer of up to $5,000 for every student to embark on these types of experiences, is a signature feature of that journey and provides a level of support that few institutions in the country can match. In fact, The EPIC Advantage was recognized earlier this summer by Insider as one of 13 “out-of-the-ordinary” academic programs for students across the nation.

— EC —

Earlham College, a national liberal arts college located in Richmond, Indiana, is a "College That Changes Lives." We expect our students to be fully present: to think rigorously, value directness and genuineness, and actively seek insights from differing perspectives. The values we practice at Earlham are rooted in centuries of Quaker tradition, but they also constitute the ideal toolkit for contemporary success. Princeton Review ranks Earlham in the Top 15 nationally for Best Classroom Experience, and U.S. News & World Report recognizes the College as one of the nation’s “Most Innovative Schools,” and ranks EC 7th for the percentage of international students on campus, 25th for “Best Undergraduate Teaching” and 34th for “Best Value.”

Brian Zimmerman is director of media relations at Earlham College. He can be reached at 765-983-1256 and


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