Erin Burns-Maine '04 wins “The Big Idea” Contest at Clark University

Clark University senior Erin Burns-Maine '04 recently took first place in Clark University’s first annual “Big Idea�� Contest. The contest, sponsored by Clark’s Innovation & Entrepreneurship program, was created to encourage students to help make improvements to the Clark campus community.  Students who entered the contest filled out a questionnaire describing their “idea,” how they would implement it, and why it would help the Clark community.  Burns-Maine and fellow students Deena Zakim of Newton, Mass., and Caitlin Hanson of Reading, Mass., are receiving $5,000 and the guidance they need to bring their idea to life.

The long-term goal of their winning Big Idea, titled “You Are Here,” is to educate Clark students about the role they play in the local community and the influence they have on the local economy. The project description states, “By re-structuring and, in the long run institutionalizing, incentive structures that push students to utilize local businesses and get involved in the community, we hope to change the way students navigate the difference between being a student at Clark and a resident of Main South.  Whether Clark students view themselves as Main South residents or not they have a lot of weight in the local economy.”

This summer, the three-member team will focus its attention on adding a stronger Worcester focus to Clark’s Week One programming (the orientation for First-Year students).  They hope to introduce First-Year students to their new home, help acclimate them to the area, and help them to venture out into the community soon after they arrive on campus. Other components of the “You Are Here” idea include developing a website business database, distributing local business walking maps to new and returning students, and holding dialogue sessions (focus groups and other meetings) for the purpose of gathering information about perceptions and challenges that might exist between Clark students and local businesses.

“Our project is a holistic approach to promoting community cohesion among the Clark community and the Main South neighborhood,” said Burns-Maine.  “By teaming up resources and ‘user guides’ for incoming students with programs to promote dialogue between the two partners, we are hoping to change the mindset of Clark students regarding Main South and their role within it.”

Burns-Maine majors in sociology at Clark, with a concentration in urban development and social change. She is a member of the Gryphon and Pleiades Honors Society, the Fiat Lux Honors Society and the International Sociology Honor Society Alpha Kappa Delta.  She served as treasurer of Community Action Reform Education (CARE) Initiative as well as being a resident advisor.  She is also the recipient of the Alumni and Friends Scholarship and the RLH Community Builder of the Year Award (2005-06). Burns-Maine spent the Spring 2007 semester abroad at the Center for Global Education in Namibia, funded by a scholarship from the Marshall Geer McKim Memorial Fund.

Burns-Maine was accepted to Clark as a Making A Difference (MAD) Scholar, recognized for her outstanding commitment to community service. During her time on campus, she worked as an intern at the Central Mass. Housing Alliance, served as a Sociology Department research assistant, and volunteered at the Francis Perkins Shelter and the People in Peril (PIP) Shelter.

Burns-Maine will receive her bachelor of arts degree at Clark’s Commencement exercises on Sunday, May 18.  She has been selected to receive a Department of Sociology Addams-Mills Award, an award given annually to honor graduating sociology majors who exemplify the community service ideas of Jane Addams, a founder of community-based social work and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, and the intellectual tradition of C. Wright Mills, an outspoken sociologist and critic of American power structures. Burns-Maine plans to pursue a master’s degree in community development and planning through Clark's Accelerated B.A./Master's Degree Program. 

Clark’s Innovation & Entrepreneurship program  is designed to provide students an opportunity to merge their passion with an ability to make that passion economically sustainable as they plan their careers. The mission of this program is to provide a set of rigorous entrepreneurial experiences for undergraduate students, shaping graduates who are economically literate, and have explored and participated in the process of starting something new. The I&E minor can be combined with any major at Clark.