When the Social Impact Lab joined Lynn roughly one year ago, it was expected to provide students the opportunity to embrace experiential learning with the help of two experts: Director Jerry Hildebrand and Associate Director Erina McWilliam Lopez.
Together, they brought years of experience to Lynn’s campus, prepared to hit the ground running. For Hildebrand, though, coming to Boca Raton was more than just another of his many international projects.
Prior to spearheading the local social impact effort, Hildebrand spent extensive time at both the University of the Pacific (UOP) in Stockton, Calif., and the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, Calif. At each location, his passion for change led to widespread impact worldwide.
“At UOP, we started one of the first centers of social entrepreneurship at any university in the country,” said Hildebrand. “We started 22 programs there with only a staff of myself, a full-time associate of mine and a handful of students engaged in work-study programs.”
After spending eight years in Stockton, Hildebrand made the move to Middlebury where he would meet his eventual associate director, McWilliam Lopez. There, he furthered many of the same initiatives that he began at UOP, deepening his reach within both graduate and undergraduate programs.
“The opportunities we gave students in California, they called it transformative,” said Hildebrand. “We placed students in more than 40 different countries to change lives. That was what we were looking for when we came here.”
After initially meeting President Kevin Ross while at Middlebury, Hildebrand was offered a position at Lynn with hopes of making social impact the cornerstone of both the university and the new strategic plan. While leaving California had never entered Hildebrand’s mind, Ross and his team put together an offer that could not be refused.
“I came to visit, liked what I saw and heard of the potentiality of the third floor of the [Christine E. Lynn] University Center being solely devoted to social impact,” said Hildfebrand. “After I finished my contract, I came to Boca with the mission of making our program’s message clear early on.”
With that, Hildebrand and his team have led Lynn to the Fair Trade designation it received in the spring, plus a variety of other movements within the department. From Ambassador Corps to the more recent addition of the Civic Impact Corps, the social element of the Lab’s vision has been realized in short order.
“After spending his life devoted to making a change and impacting the world around him, Hildebrand is now devoting his time to students,” said Megan Selfridge, senior and Social Impact Lab special projects associate. “He is instilling his abundant positivity, passion and ambition in us.”
While his organization creates massive potential for the community at-large, many have pointed to Hildebrand’s passionate efforts when helping Lynn students as the focal point of his success thus far.
“When we first met, he didn’t know that much about me, but I knew he had immense faith in my abilities,” said Gabby Monahan, graduate student and former Social Impact Fair Trade Fellow. “Even now that I’m no longer working in the Lab, I know I’ll always have a home there because of the welcoming atmosphere.”
Much like President Ross and the rest of Lynn’s leadership structure, Hildebrand is an individual continuously on the cutting-edge of innovation. Keeping this mindset at the forefront, he is sure to leave an impact both domestically and across the globe.