My Sullivan Foundation Retreat Experience

By Matias Meirelles Van Vliet, Rollins College Student

There’s something incredibly interesting about being at an innovation retreat inside a religious property. When we are in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by strangers, it seems like all the barriers that exist between people in our daily lives are lifted.

This is the first of a two blog post series that I am writing to share my experience at the Sullivan Foundation Ignite Retreat with the Rollins community.  I want to show how immersions such as this retreat can be beneficial, no matter your year in school or your major. The Ignite Retreat was special for many reasons, including the beautiful mountain background, but the most important being the diversity and similarity of the students there.  This can be reflected on the Rollins delegation that attended: an American student, a Brazilian student, and a student from Dubai. At the same time that we were all like-minded individuals, each of us had a different personal story, and were pursuing a different problem we wanted to solve.


Our trip to the camp included two flights and an hour drive to Camp Kanuga.  We represented the most southern school.  Some schools drove more than seven hours to be there. The long trip proved itself to be worth it immediately in the first moments at the camp.

We got there in the middle of the afternoon and had a couple of hours to spare before dinner, so after organizing my things in the cabin, a friend and I decided to explore our surroundings. The camp is in a beautiful place, near a huge lake with many hiking trails through the mountains that surround it. To make it even better, the leaves were changing, and I was able to experience a fall background for the first time–that doesn’t exist in Florida or Brazil.


We got back just in time for dinner and then we went straight to the activities. Before each activity we had a series of ice breakers.  I wondered if I had made the right decisions to attend the retreat.  It was then explained that just like in FHIL (Florida Hospital Innovation Lab), thinking like a social entrepreneur requires a mind shift, hence the importance of checking in before each activity.

One of the activities that resonated with me the most consisted of initially explaining your idea as a social entrepreneur in an elevator pitch in two minutes to a group of students.  Then, in 5 minute one-on-one sessions, we would pick up certain cards that contained a specific aspect of the enterprise, such as needs, stakeholders and clients, and we would discuss each of these topics with our partner.  We would then place it in a grid that would show us how clear and important that aspect was to our specific idea.


My elevator pitch idea was about a sports management and marketing company that matches an athlete’s personality traits with those of a non-profit the athlete could support. My company would be the middle man between the athlete and the non-profit, uniting management and marketing with purpose.

To talk in depth about a project which I only had in mind and occasionally used as a fictitious company for the purpose of classes here at Rollins, and to receive feedback, really helped me shape what I want the future of my enterprise idea to be. My main objective was to leave the retreat with a to-do list on how to get my idea off of paper and into reality.  Even though it is a long-term project, I think I began to form it into reality, comprehending that even though it might be a project for after my graduation, there are steps I can take during my academic career that will help me in the future.

There were in-depth discussions of specific subjects as well. One of the workshops was about pitching and finding the funding for your project, learning how to write grants, how to present your idea depending on the audience, and how to present based on your gender.


Special places make us do special things, and while at home I would never wake up at 6 am to hike up a mountain, in North Carolina I did that. Twice! Even though we got lost on the first day, the following day we took a beautiful hike to the eagle rock, which had one of the most breathtaking views I’ve seen since I moved to the U.S.


One comment

  1. Mary Conway Dato-on · November 9, 2016

    Very nice read Matias. I enjoyed the specifics and learning of your experiences in the setting and in the sessions. I know Rollins will benefit from your attendance and I look forward to watching your idea grow.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s