10 Questions with Patrick Odoyo

Rollins’ new staff director of the Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship Hub rose from poverty when someone invested in his future. Ever since, he’s been helping others bring about meaningful change—in their own lives and their communities.

Patrick Odoyo collaborates with students and faculty at the Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship Hub. (Photo by Scott Cook) Patrick Odoyo collaborates with students and faculty at the Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship Hub. (Photo by Scott Cook)

Growing up in Dago Village, a small mountainous community in western Kenya’s sugarbelt, Patrick Odoyo learned at an early age the importance of health and education.

In his corner of the world, those two things were often a matter of life and death.

By the time Odoyo graduated from high school in 2000, the HIV/AIDS epidemic had ravaged much of his village, tearing apart families and leaving little economic opportunity. Working at an orphanage and women’s resource center built by the Peace Corps, Odoyo began to wonder what more could be done for the people he loved.

That’s when fate intervened.

In 2005, a priest from Michigan who lived nearby took note of Odoyo’s potential and paid for him to attend U.S. International University-Africa in Nairobi. Odoyo quickly dedicated himself to generating international support for Dago Village—and he’s spent much of the past 12 years developing sustainable business programs that teach villagers everything from microfinancing to beekeeping.

(Photo by Scott Cook) (Photo by Scott Cook)

“The priest who came to my village, all he wanted me to do in return was sponsor one other kid in the community,” Odoyo said. “But I thought, how about I just build a system where everyone can grow their passion? At that moment I realized I could do it for more than one kid—and that’s what drives me.”

In January, Odoyo left the University of Evansville in Indiana (where he served as the social innovation consultant) to become the first full-time staff director of Rollins’ Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship Hub. As a champion of community engagement and service learning, he’s charged with equipping and empowering changemakers committed to building a better world—from the streets of Winter Park to Dago Village and points across the globe.

(Photo by Scott Cook) (Photo by Scott Cook)

Rollins360 recently stopped by the Hub—located in the festively adorned International House—to catch up with Odoyo and learn about his ideas to advance social innovation and entrepreneurship.

What attracted you to Rollins? “I knew their vision as a university was moving toward the Ashoka U Changemaker Campus model, and that’s the kind of space I wanted to be in. Also, I liked how the College values human-centered design thinking—where students go into the community with a blank mind about what’s needed, then learn firsthand before helping to develop solutions.”

What does “changemaking” mean to you? “It’s about embedding social innovation as a core value … creating an ecosystem within the university environment where students not only learn business concepts but, on the human side, support and create projects with the community in mind.” 

Why has social innovation become such a popular field of study? “It’s just a mind change for Millennials. Students don’t want to be in a traditional classroom setting all the time; they want to see some form of human-centered design thinking. They’re asking, ‘What can I accomplish in addition to getting my four-year degree?’ Students feel there’s a need to integrate internships and community projects into their classroom learning, and the Rollins administration is doing a great job embracing this change.”

What drew you to this line of work? “I love the concept of bringing people together—students, the community, churches, individuals, families—anyone who wants to cross-share and support worthy causes. My father was an English teacher and my mother was a community organizer, so that certainly sparked an interest, too.”

Who can use the Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship Hub? “It’s here as a great resource for everyone in the Rollins community, be it someone from the science department, business department, Crummer, Holt, or wherever. It’s a space for professors, students, and staff … an environment where students can come and sit and think and design—whether they want to do a social venture project or find solutions to a community challenge.”

What are your plans for the Hub? “We have three events coming this spring (Changemaker video competition, Ideas for Good pitch, and an ethical fashion show), and I see a lot of opportunities with the projects I’m already doing, as well as the projects the students and professors are doing. I’d also like to get engaged with area high schools and bring them into our Changemaker program—similar to what the College has in place with Upward Bound.”

Will you be doing any classroom teaching? “Not officially, but I do have professors inviting me to speak and create awareness around social innovation and changemaking. Overall, my focus is to make sure we find a way to integrate the social innovation vision into every part of the college, so that will take many forms.”

You played rugby for the Kenyan national team, and you were an assistant college coach in Indiana. Any plans to bring the game to Rollins? “I hope so. Rugby is kind of a family, so it’s an easy way for you to get into the community. There’s a team in Winter Park called the Orlando Griffins, and they only play a few minutes from campus. Once I settle in, I think I’ll approach the intramural sports department and try to get something going. At this point, I just want to get immersed and understand the Rollins culture and Orlando/Winter Park environment.”

Where’s your favorite spot to hang out? “My wife and I have been to Daytona Beach a couple times already. It’s just so calming listening to the water flow and seeing kids having expressions of joy. It’s a peaceful integration of land to human.”

Do you have a personal motto or credo? “On my website, there’s a quote from Thich Nhat Hanh (a Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist): ‘We are very good at preparing to live, but not very good at living, we have difficulty remembering that we are alive in the present moment, the only moment there is for us to be alive.’”

(Photo by Scott Cook) (Photo by Scott Cook)

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Hub Happenings

Three ways to get involved with the Social Innovation & Entrepreneurship Hub this spring

Ideas For Good Challenge
In this social entrepreneurship pitch event, students pitch innovative solutions to social challenges and win up to $1,000. The event will be held on March 23 at 5:30 p.m. in the SunTrust Auditorium. Students can receive help with their ideas during training sessions at the Hub from February 13–17 and 20–24. February 27 is the application deadline. Email changemaker@rollins.edu for an application.

ReThinking Fashion Show
Students will model sustainable and ethical fashions from three local businesses— Deux Mains, Ten Thousand Villages, and Eileen Fisher. The event, which will be held on March 28 at 7 p.m. in the Galloway Room will also feature a poster session. Interested in modeling? Send an email to ngaye@rollins.edu by February 24.

Ignite Retreat
Students will learn and develop skills to become agents of change at The Algernon Sydney Sullivan Foundation’s Ignite Retreat. The three-day retreat, which will be held April 7–9 in Raleigh, North Carolina, is filled with exciting workshops and opportunities to connect with like-minded changemakers. Email changemaker@rollins.edu for an application.