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Lauren Burdick - 4/15/2015

enFocus, a talent incubator and social innovation engine based out of South Bend, is tackling brain drain head on. Its fellowship program encourages recent area graduates to stay and help develop St. Joseph County by giving them resources to solve real community problems. In addition, a partnership with the St. Joseph County Chamber of Commerce and Indiana INTERNnet is creating more internships in the area than ever before.

For Kathleen Ryan, first-year fellow at South Bend’s enFocus, a college internship was the key to discovering what she truly wanted out of her career.

“It is because of an internship with a community health outreach organization during my senior year of college that I pursued an enFocus internship,” she remarks. “At that time, I fully intended to continue on to medical school post-graduation. Through this experiential learning, however, I found I was more drawn to community development.”

This type of career exploration is the cornerstone of enFocus’ mission in St. Joseph County. The organization works to curb brain drain with a two-pronged system. The first step involves consulting with local organizations and offering time and resources to its fellows, who work to find solutions for regional industries. Following the program, enFocus works to place fellows in jobs in the area.

Founded in 2012, enFocus and its fellows have facilitated regional projects like SB150 (South Bend’s 150th birthday celebration) and the Regional Cities Initiative, which seeks to attract talented people to Indiana through regional collaboration.

As part of its initiative, enFocus partners with the St. Joseph County Chamber of Commerce and its internship program, InternSJC. Ryan says this collaboration expands enFocus’ reach.

“Through InternSJC, we offer consultative services to local companies, working with them to make internships more valuable, efficient and exciting for company staff and students seeking employment in the area post-graduation,” she explains. “We also help facilitate a summer community engagement program for interns in the area, seeking to improve the student experience and perception of our region’s opportunities through social programming, networking events and community service opportunities.”

All of the organization’s facets come together for a common goal: making St. Joseph County a better place to work and live.

“We expose students and graduates to real-life issues felt by our regional partners and challenge them to alleviate those pain points,” Ryan notes. “This enables them to develop professionally and gain experience while providing invaluable service to the community.”

She adds that enFocus intends to grow and encourage people all over the state to plant roots in Indiana.

“We realize that Michiana is not the only region in Indiana that could rally around talent and youthful leadership to grow,” she asserts. “We want to expand our model across the state to make Indiana an even more preferable place to start a career, business or family.”