There’s no question that midwest has faced extensive “brain drain” in the late 20th century.
As cities stopped growing and their cores withered, college grads with a hunger for a life less dreary left in droves. Companies -- the backbone of the cities -- followed them. South Bend, IN, home of the University of Notre Dame, was no exception.
Two years ago, Notre Dame’s ESTEEM Master’s Program and South Bend business leaders decided to take matters into their own hands. They developed the enFocus program, a fellowship for science, engineering, and technology (STEM) graduates hired on for one- or two-year terms. The Fellows work as social entrepreneurs to revitalize the community, streamline processes and find savings for municipalities and organizations.
Brett Ensor, a 2013 ESTEEM graduate, came into enFocus as a Fellow in the second year of the program. Ensor says that enFocus is essentially a group of management consultants -- but with a unique 70/30 split -- 30% of the groups’ hours are spent working for the good of the community, and that work is paying big dividends for the Michiana area.
The program has been so effective that in its first year the Fellows were able to find cost savings of over $3 Million for the City of South Bend, money that can now be spent on essential services like education and emergency personnel.
At the “Meet the Fellows” night -- a chance for local stakeholders to meet the enFocus fellows in an “unplugged” setting -- South Bend’s Mayor Pete showed up to show his appreciation for the fellows and the work they’ve done for the city.
The enFocus idea it seems, is living up to its motto: “Smart People, Bold Ideas, Greater Good”. And Ensor gets to be right in the middle of it. “I get to do work that no one gets to do right out of school,” he says. The ESTEEM Program made it possible.
Prepared for an Uncertain Future
A chemical engineering undergrad who attended Notre Dame, Ensor found what he was looking for in the ESTEEM program. “It seemed like the two paths laid out for me were working for a big chemical company or entering academia,” Ensor says. “I wanted the path less traveled.”
He found ESTEEM, and decided that enhancing his technical skills with business savvy was that path.
“I didn’t know what I was in for,” Ensor laughs. “I was drawn to the entrepreneurship component of the program, but had no practical experience with business.”
Ensor quickly settled in. He loved the small classes, the professors with real world experience and the tight-knit team environment. The Capstone Thesis, the project which all ESTEEM students work on throughout the 11-month program, was “an empowering experience.”
The ESTEEM program was so valuable because it offered him a confidence-building environment where he could hone foundational entrepreneurial skills. Ensor lists time management, goal setting, financial management, teamwork -- all of these he took away from the program.
Most importantly, Ensor says, ESTEEM trains the student’s mind to see that we are surrounded by needs -- problems, pain points, inefficiencies -- and that you, the ESTEEM graduate, have the power to solve them.
As a Fellow, Ensor continues to work with enFocus to solve the problems that surround him -- and South Bend -- and is preparing for his next challenge.