August 6, 2015

Whitney N. Yarber, Communications Specialist

VSU First Year Convocation to Focus on 21st Century Leadership and Discovering Purpose through Service

Pictured is Adam Braun, a New York Times best-selling author and founder of Pencils of Promise, an award-winning organization that has built more than 300 schools for children in poverty around the world.

VALDOSTA – Valdosta State University will officially welcome first-year students to campus during the First Year Convocation at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, Aug. 13, in the P.E. Complex. The keynote speaker is Adam Braun.

Braun is a New York Times best-selling author and founder of Pencils of Promise, an award-winning organization that has built more than 300 schools for children in poverty around the world. He will share his experience on the path from college to career and the lessons learned in starting as a young person with $25 and converting that into more than 300 schools around the world.

“Adam Braun shows the innate potential of any person,” said Dr. Lai-Kent Orenduff, dean of Undergraduate Studies and assistant vice president for Academic Affairs. “He got the idea after asking a young boy in India what he wanted, and the child said, ‘a pencil.’ He gave the child his pencil, but the event sparked a larger idea and resulted in an extra-ordinary achievement. He is an inspiration to all of us because he never gave up his dream to help others.”

According to Orenduff, every first-year student entering VSU in the fall received a copy of Braun’s book, The Promise of a Pencil: How an Ordinary Person Can Create an Extraordinary Change, during summer orientation. It will be used by a variety of VSU faculty in their class assignments.

“…his message is so compelling,” Orenduff continued. “He applied the skills and knowledge acquired through his college education to start a project more expansive than just finding a job. He felt there was more to life than just his career and that the business skills he had learned were not limited only to his high profile job. He took those skills, also taking advantage of technology and social media, to pursue something greater than himself. He demonstrates how the values of hard work, dedication, and purpose can help anyone achieve his or her goals.”

Braun received a Bachelor of Arts in economics, sociology, and public and private sector organizations from Brown University. He is the director of the Global Education Platform, an initiative conceived by the United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education to identify and accelerate breakthroughs in learning innovation. He has been featured as a speaker at the White House, the United Nations, and the Clinton Global Initiative. He has been named to Business Insider’s 40 Under 40 and Wired Magazine‘s 50 People Who Are Changing the World, and he was selected as one of the World Economic Forum’s first 10 Global Shapers.

Braun was honored with the 2015 Greatest Public Service Benefiting the Disadvantaged Award by the Jefferson Awards Foundation, America’s most prestigious and longest standing organization dedicated to activating and celebrating public service, for his work building schools and training teachers through his Pencils of Promise organization.

“He is a very humble person,” said Orenduff. “He could have maintained his successful career, but he felt there was more to life than just acquiring material things. Although he now deals with very important and influential people all over the world, he remains true to his mission to show the power of education.”

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Valdosta State University’s 2013-2019 Strategic Plan represents a renewal of energy and commitment to the foundational principles for comprehensive institutions.

Implementation of the plan’s five goals, along with their accompanying objectives and strategies, supports VSU’s institutional mission and the University System of Georgia’s mission for comprehensive universities.

The story above demonstrates VSU's commitment to meeting the following goals:

Goal 1: Recruit, retain, and graduate a quality, diverse student population and prepare students for roles as leaders in a global society.

Goal 3: Promote student, employee, alumni, retiree, and community engagement in our mission.

Goal 4: Foster an environment of creativity and scholarship.

Goal 5: Develop and enhance Valdosta State’s human and physical resources.

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