Black Hills State University student Devin Lynn recently attended the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGIU) Conference in Washington, D.C., as he begins a project using social media to connect entrepreneurs in Uganda with entrepreneurs in South Dakota.   Lynn is currently in the process of planning a trip to Uganda to carry out his project.


As part of the initiative Lynn, a junior mass communication and history major from Powell, Wyo., has committed to take action to create a mutually beneficial business relationship for entrepreneurs in Uganda and S.D.  He will be working on the project until March 2013.


Lynn devised the project by researching how the Allen Foundation in Wyoming helps women in Africa start an entrepreneurial venture by selling baskets to provide for their families. He wanted to take that a step farther with the use of fair trade.  He hopes to connect the two groups of entrepreneurs using the social media platform Ning.com. Lynn will create a social community on Ning.com where entrepreneurs from South Dakota and Uganda can communicate through a blog format. 


He hopes to connect the groups and then see an exchange of goods under fair trade agreements.  “Success of the project will be measured by the amount of fair trade relationships established,” says Lynn. 


Currently Lynn is working with another BHSU student—Lisa Simmons, mass communication major from Spearfish. Lynn also formed a committee of advisors that are helping him with the project.  The committee includes: Dr. Mary Caton-Rosser, assistant professor of mass communication; Gina Gibson, assistant professor of digital communication; Dr. John Alsup, professor of math education; Dr. Christian Nsiah, associate professor of economics; Dr. Amy Fuqua, associate professor of English; and Helen Merriman, director of SD CEO.  “I selected the committee based on of their areas of expertise and interest. Each one of them brings a new perspective to the table,” Lynn expressed. 


Lynn was accepted to attend the CGIU conference based on his proposed project idea and outline.  He also had to submit a resume and a personal statement as a part of the selection process.


When asked about his experience at the conference, Lynn said, “The conference was incredible. It was inspiring to see over 1,000 students working towards the same goal of making the world a better place. Students flew in from all over the world to share ideas and to network.”


“It is reassuring and inspiring to see so many other students working on commitments that help others,” comments Lynn.  “I met a few people that I may be working with in the future or at least looking to for advice. There was also a long list of distinguished speakers that were able to share some advice as we move forward with our commitments to action.”


“It is hard to say what my favorite part of the conference was because all of the plenary sessions were full of great information and advice. The last session with President Bill Clinton and Jon Stewart was really interesting; they both had good information to share,” notes Lynn. 


During the conference Lynn had the opportunity to participate in a service project in Washington D.C., where students were put into random groups and sent into the community to help people. “It was a great experience to work with people that I had never met before, and make a difference in the life of a woman living in Washington D.C.,” Lynn says. 


Over the summer, Lynn hopes to launch an informational website about the Uganda entrepreneurial project, find operational funding, and make connections between the entrepreneurs in S.D. and Uganda.  He will also travel to Uganda to meet with entrepreneurs there and then share details about his experiences on a blog.


After completing his education at BHSU, Lynn plans to go to graduate school and utilize his degrees by continuing this project and start other ones like this one to help others around the world.  Ultimately he would like to be able to turn his project into a sustaining nonprofit organization and share his experiences through writings, possibly in a blog format. 


Through this experiential learning project, Lynn says that it has had a very positive impact on his future plans. “It has helped me change my focus and use the media in a less traditional way,” notes Lynn.


To learn more about the project or to get involved contact Lynn at Devin.Lynn@YellowJackets.BHSU.edu.