Thoughts on 10 Years of Acara with Co-Founder Fred Rose
A decade ago, Fred Rose, Julian Marshall, and Erin McDowell founded Acara as a leadership incubator program to support student ventures. Since then, Fred has been an integral part of Acara’s success. He recently received the well-deserved UMN President’s Award for Outstanding Service, and he continues to impress us with his innovation and ability to make a positive impact.
In honor of 10 years of student-led changemaking, we asked Fred about his experience with Acara and how it has grown over the years:
Thinking back to when you first co-founded Acara, what expectations and goals did you have for the program?
Our goals and expectations were around creating opportunities for students to look at social and environmental problems, and figuring out how to solve these problems in a financially sustainable way. We wanted to provide the opportunity for students to start social ventures, whether they were nonprofit, for profit, or something else.
How has Acara grown over the years since it was first founded?
It’s grown in the sense that we’re able to reach so many more students than we initially thought about. We’ve definitely grown in terms of curriculum offered at the University, offering classes that students across the University can take. Some of those students may want to go on to more specific classes afterwards to pursue their idea.
I also think our expectations and ambitions have become more realistic. Our idea of only focusing on startup ventures has changed; we realize that there is a wide range of opportunities available for students who want to create change. Students may use ideas on their current path, others will completely change their career trajectory.
What challenges have you faced in supporting student-led changemaking?
I think the biggest challenge has been trying to fit into the scope of what students are coming to the University for. Students come to the University to get a degree in a specific thing and we have to adapt to fit into that objective, which is not easy across such a massive University.
Students also have a lot going on in their lives. They’re trying to figure out things regarding their personal lives, not just school. On the other hand, students have time and flexibility. They can go off and live somewhere else for six months to work on a project and that’s okay. With this sort of journey that’s about making change, we try to find a balance, and we’ll go as far as a student wants to go in working on a project.
What are you most excited about for Acara’s future?
Eventually, Acara’s mission and philosophy will become integrated into other programs rather than existing on its own. For example, we are seeing a great urgency to think about holistic and resilient systems in this age of COVID-19, and the Acara curriculum and philosophy are all about thinking this way. The University will continue to play a major role in Minnesota’s response and recovery, and I’m excited to see how Acara’s community can contribute to these efforts.
Is there anything you wanted to add about Acara’s 10th anniversary?
Thank you to all the people who have participated in Acara over the years. There have been many people sharing their time and talents by mentoring students and teaching classes. And thank you to the students who have put so much effort and passion into their plans and ideas. I’m very grateful to them for putting their trust in Acara.
It’s good to see that Acara is still going and that people are still participating. I’m proud of what we’ve done. We’ve created a community around the world of like-minded people who love what they do and are working to make positive change in the world. What could be better?