Andrew Sullivan ’07
“Hey Andrew, come into my office,” Rev. Esther Jadhav, now director of Intercultural Programs at Asbury University, said to a student who was passing by her door.
As Andrew Sullivan ’07 pulled up a chair, Jadhav told the junior Business major about a new grant opportunity that would allow a select number of Asbury’s students to pursue overseas internships in their majors. She pointed to a large map of the world that hung on the wall of her office. “Andrew, do you realize you could go anywhere in the world you want to go?” she said.
Even now, Sullivan gets choked up thinking about it. He remembers the conversation as a turning point in his college career and in his life — one moment in a chain of events that would propel him from a vague desire to work in business to a laser-focused career dedicated to ending world hunger.
Today, Sullivan is the global impact director for Rise Against Hunger — an organization that mobilizes volunteers to package meals for distribution around the world. Meals contain rice, soy for protein, a dehydrated vegetable mixture and a micro-nutrient sachet containing 23 vitamins and nutrients. Using these simple ingredients, Rise Against Hunger packaged more than 60 million meals in 2016, serving more than a million people in 43 countries worldwide.
Through his work with Rise Against Hunger, Sullivan is making a global impact — but like many Asbury alums, his journey began in Wilmore, Ky. He credits his Asbury experience with giving him the leadership skills, cross-cultural experience and well-rounded education he needed to make a positive difference.
A member of the Transforming Class, Sullivan quickly became involved in leadership opportunities at Asbury. He served as president of the freshman and sophomore classes, as well as vice president of Student Activities for Asbury Student Congress.
“Being able to focus on those types of things really helped shape me as a leader, and taught me some critical skills for my career,” Sullivan said. “It was very positive for me to get out there in leadership roles — it was a kind of training ground.”
Cross-cultural engagement was also a crucial factor in Sullivan’s Asbury experience. In 2006, after his conversation with Jadhav, Sullivan applied for and received a grant to spend eight weeks in India, working with Gospel Friends Ministries. He developed his proposal with the help of Dr. Sandra C. Gray, who was his accounting professor at the time. Sullivan’s eight-week experience in rural India — working with a small business initiative to empower women — radically changed his life.
“Before that experience, I had really never ventured outside the suburbs of Philadelphia,” Sullivan said. “It was really eye opening for me, and going into my senior year, it was very clear that the calling on my life was in international development work.”
After graduating in 2007, Sullivan began to realize the full impact of a third element in his Asbury experience — liberal arts education.
“As I got out into the ‘real world’ I really started to appreciate the background I had in the liberal arts,” Sullivan said. “I had a lot of friends and colleagues who didn’t get that. Since Asbury, I’ve appreciated it so much because it set me up for a lifetime of loving to learn and gave me a great foundation to be well-rounded.”
The flexibility and love of learning Sullivan discovered at Asbury became important shortly after joining the staff of Rise Against Hunger in 2008. When he was first hired, the organization only had 10 employees and had only recently launched its meal-packaging program. Today, Rise Against Hunger operates 20 U.S. facilities, five international locations and mobilizes hundreds of thousands of volunteers every year (376,211 in 2016 alone).
“Asbury equipped me, not only to be able to handle that kind of growth, but also to set myself up to grow with the organization,” Sullivan said. “The skills I gained at Asbury helped me be prepared for that opportunity.”
After working for a couple of years at the headquarters in Raleigh, N.C., Sullivan convinced leadership to allow him to open an office in Philadelphia. Just three years out of college, he opened an office in Philadelphia and expanded into New England, Pittsburgh and New York City. By 2014, Sullivan was opening offices overseas, as well. When he opened a location in India, he knew it was another pivotal moment.
“I felt my life came full circle,” Sullivan said. “I thought about the experience I had with Esther Jadhav and Dr. Gray that allowed me to go to India. It changed my life. But then, here I was in 2014, able to start a locally run organization in India to end hunger. I was so privileged. I think that’s going to be a highlight of my life, even though I’m still young.”