Veronika Scott makes a difference.
Published March 25, 2015
After a winter of record-setting cold, the undergraduate Academies plan to heat things up with a visit by social entrepreneurship icon Veronika Scott.
Named one of Forbes’ “30 Under 30 Social Entrepreneurs,” Scott is CEO and founder of the Empowerment Plan, a nonprofit that hires formerly homeless women to create self-heating coats that double as sleeping bags for the homeless.
Scott will share her journey and insights with the UB and Buffalo communities as the 2015 Civic Engagement Keynote Speaker.
The event, “Spread the Warmth,” will take place at 7 p.m. March 31 in the Drama Theatre in the Center for the Arts, North Campus.
The lecture is free and open to the public. Guests are encouraged to RSVP.
“Veronika is young and her own social entrepreneurship sprang from a classroom project,” says Barbara Bono, associate professor of English and academic director of the Civic Engagement Academy.
“This is an amazing trajectory for a student. She is an inspirational model of what they could do to improve their community by the time they’re 30 years old.”
The product behind the Empowerment Plan, the EMPWR coat, was imagined during a design course Scott enrolled in as an undergraduate at the College for Creative Studies. There, she crafted sleek models of everyday products, such as toaster ovens and dishwashers.
It wasn’t until a professor challenged her to approach her designs differently that Scott realized she could create products with a greater social purpose.
“This one class truly changed my life and, subsequently, the lives of thousands of homeless individuals across the nation,” says Scott. “I think so many students feel there is a disconnect between their academic courses and the real world they are about to enter.
“Now, more than ever, I encourage students to take what they learn and to apply those core principles to greater problems facing neighborhoods, communities or society as a whole. It is up to us to make a difference.”
The Empowerment Plan already has expanded beyond Scott’s hometown of Detroit to 29 states and three Canadian provinces. To date, the company has produced more than 9,000 coats and employs 20 formerly homeless people.
In addition to her lecture, Scott will spend two days meeting with UB students, faculty and staff.
She will participate in a panel discussion that will allow faculty and staff to pick her brain on ways to tie together education and community engagement, coach a workshop for students on creating social change and meet with the leaders of the Design Innovation Garage (dig), 43 North, the Innovation Center and several Buffalo social startups.
“Detroit is a city much like Buffalo, a Rust-Belt city on the rise,” says Hadar Borden, administrative director of the Academies. “Veronika’s visit in the community might offer the momentum needed to make progress on an initiative or highlight the good work being done by service providers working to support and empower the homeless community in Western New York.”
“Spread the Warmth” is sponsored by the Academies, UB Sustainability, Office of Student Engagement, Intercultural Diversity Center and University Honors College.