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Thursday, October 01, 2020


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Town hall highlights millennials' contributions

This Wednesday, April 16, The Atlantic and National Journal's small town hall series about millennials and their engagement in service opportunities and entrepreneurship came to the University of Richmond campus.

The event, "A New America: How Millennials Are Sparking Change," featured a wide range of political leaders and business innovators, as well as a panel of Richmond students, speaking in the Alice Haynes room packed with local residents and Richmond faculty and students.

"When I think of Richmond, I think of innovation ... and millennials sparking change," said Fred Humphries, the vice president of U.S. Government affairs at Microsoft, the underwriter of the event.

President Edward Ayers welcomed the event to Richmond, and said the university had made huge strides over the past six years in terms of increased diversity on campus and students who were devoted to giving back.

Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine served as the keynote speaker and focused on the importance of taking advantage of service opportunities. He spoke on how his work with missionaries in Honduras after college shaped his outlook on life and his career path.

Citing Israel as a model, Kaine said he believed the United States should implement a mandatory year of service before citizens graduate college. "To give to someone else is what ennobles and elevates us," he said. "Investing in service is a smart thing to do."

The panel that followed Kaine was composed of three local entrepreneurs who have each started their own business. Jeff Rock, the co-founder of Mobelux, a company that serves as a product team for hire, said on starting a business from scratch, "It's more exciting to be scared and work a little harder."

Paul Singh, another panel member and founder of Disruption Corporation, a company that is a new model for financial and asset management, added that each millennial should aim to do something that no one else is doing. "There are no barriers to starting, it's really just yourself," he said.

The next panel focused on service and how millennials have been taking advantage of technology to raise money and help people around the world. Mark Hanis, the director of the Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation at Georgetown University, said he was able to get his start in service through social media by raising $250,000 on Facebook to help the genocide in Darfur.

Cassie DeCesare, a sophomore who attended the event, found these connections made between the sciences, modern technology and the importance of a commitment to service particularly interesting because she had never seen them coinciding before.

During the final panel, Richmond students in leadership positions on campus reflected on what the previous speakers had said.

Mimi Mudd, former Westhampton College Government Association president, said as a generation and as Richmond students "we're driven and action-oriented." Brad Groves, the current RCSGA president and fellow panelist said, "We have a real desire to create something."

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Tiffany Hall, the director of the local non-profit organization Micah, attended the event because she was interested in exploring the millennial mind. She said listening to speakers talk about how to combine volunteering and what millennials were involved in was interesting and relevant to her organization.

A networking reception followed the speakers and panel discussions as a way for audience members to connect directly with the panelists.

"Given Richmond's strong start-up community, its emphasis on service leadership and its engaged student body, we felt this was a great location for our third town hall," said Alexi New, a media relations contact at The Atlantic.

The "A New America" series has previously taken place at California State University in Los Angeles and University of Texas in Austin. The event at Richmond was orchestrated through the Jepson School of Leadership Studies.

To involve those who couldn't be there in person, the event was chronicled on Twitter with #MillennialPathways and live-streamed on The Atlantic's website.

Contact staff reporter Brooke Harty at

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