CSM Newsroom

Students Win $, Laptops for Hawk Pitches that Improve Access, Momentum, Mobility at CSM

June 24, 2024

College of Southern Maryland (CSM) student DaShawn Rustin sees herself as a connector of people, ideas, and opportunities. So, when the Media Studies major decided to submit an idea into CSM’s Student Hawk Pitch competition, she focused on how she could create bridges between different groups.

The result was her idea, ‘Soaring Together: CSM Alumni Directory,’ which was recently announced as the first-place winner of the 2024 competition. Rustin’s prize included $500 cash, a scholarship award for a three-credit class and, most importantly, funding to implement her project.

“One thing I always hear about CSM is that we’ve literally helped everyone,” Rustin explained. “It would be useful to the current students to be able to connect with alumni in their fields. I think what really set my pitch apart is that not only does it help students, but it also helps faculty and the CSM Foundation to know where our alumni end up.”

Her next step is to meet with campus leaders to work through the best ways to implement her project, but her idea is already drawing praise from around campus.

“DaShawn’s idea would put easily accessible and centralized data about our CSM alum in place so that students can glean insights from alumni experiences, seek mentorship, and gain advice,” said CSM President Dr. Yolanda Wilson. “This database would then bridge gaps and boost a sense of community and CSM pride among students and alumni.”

“At many colleges and universities students rely on alumni to get their foot in the door for their first job, and there’s no reason CSM can’t provide those kinds of connections, too,” agreed Gretchen Hardman, assistant director of Strategic Initiatives and leader of the College Innovation Work Group, which hosts the Hawk Pitch each year. The competition invites students to put their imagination and knowledge to work to make suggestions that alleviate hurdles on campus or improve the student experience regarding campus processes, programming, or any services at CSM.

Hardman said that Rustin’s idea was just one of an especially strong trio of thoughtful pitches that were recognized at the Student Government Association banquet last month.

“This year’s Hawk’s Pitch contest participants embraced our strategic plan efforts to stay centered around making improvements and removing barriers with student access, momentum, and mobility at the core of our efforts,” said Wilson.

In second place was Natalie Filbey’s pitch, 'Little Free Textbook,' which would create a designated location at each campus where students can drop off and borrow used textbooks instead of having to purchase them on their own.

Filbey received $300 in prize money, a laptop pre-loaded with Microsoft Office, and a CSM swag bag for her entry.

Sarah Sbordone’s third place pitch, 'Hawk Tales: Library Expansion,' would create access at CSM’s library to reading material ‘banned’ or ‘challenged’ in other areas of Maryland. She received $200 and a CSM swag bag.

Participants, and Hardman, emphasized that submitting an idea to Hawk Pitch is easy, support is available for any students working on their pitches, and that it’s a great way to potentially make a big impact on campus.

“For a student considering entering Hawk Pitch next year, I would advise them to go ahead and submit an idea, even if they don't think it's a great one,” said Filbey. “There's no harm in submitting, and they might even end up with a winning idea!”

Learn more about CSM's employee and student Hawk Pitch program at https://www.csmd.edu/hawkpitch/index.html.


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