For Andrew Wiand ’11, ’12 M.S., South Bend is home. Both his grandparents and parents live in town, and his parents even taught in the South Bend Community School Corporation, the same local public school system that Wiand rose through before coming to Notre Dame as a student in 2007. He took advantage of everything Notre Dame had to offer, from joining the biology club, to being a part of the chamber music trio, and even playing on the Fighting Irish varsity baseball team.
So, Wiand knows how many special people there are in both communities. He also knows that few of them stay in the area once the tassels on their graduation caps flip from right to left.
Almost from the moment he completed his second degree at Notre Dame — a master of science from the ESTEEM program after obtaining his bachelor’s in biological sciences — Wiand has strived to change that. He currently serves as executive director and director of operations for enFocus Inc., a 501(c)(3) organization “with a charitable purpose to attract, develop and retain talent, and currently focused on the South Bend-Elkhart region, which includes St. Joe, Elkhart, Marshall County, and Berrien County,” says Wiand.
The program works with recent Notre Dame graduates, offering them a two-year fellowship with one of more than 100 local business technology and entrepreneurship projects that partner with enFocus each year. The goal is to “pair fellows with existing startups” — innovation projects that aim to improve the greater South Bend region while providing a meaningful experience for graduates, lending them the necessary tools and resources to potentially transform their ideas into a startup of their own.
In turn, Wiand has developed both professionally and personally alongside the organization. Originally joining enFocus as a fellow himself in 2012, Wiand rose to senior fellow just a year later, becoming director of operations in 2014 and then executive director in 2015. Since then, the program has grown in size, now supporting about 100 projects a year with Wiand at the helm of a staff of over 60 people. Wiand feels especially fulfilled to accomplish this in his own hometown.
“Relat(ing our) different goals, targets and objectives, huge growth areas, impact metrics, and the subject matter and relationships all across that has been really exciting, and to see all the things that we've done,” Wiand says. “(But) there's a people aspect outside of the job … For the nature of what we do, it's very people-oriented. Fellows, whether you're an industrial engineer, an economist, or a computer science major, masters level, Ph.D., or undergraduate, everybody has personal motivations for why they do what they do. And I hope that in our organization, we can connect them with real-world impacts, to challenge them to use their skills and critical thinking to really help somebody.”
While its mission may be local to the South Bend region, enFocus casts its net wide. One moment, Wiand may be working to renovate a recently purchased manufacturing center into a music hall and community education center. Next, he could be partnering with the South Bend Fire Department to help save it and the community money so that its employees can do their jobs more effectively. In fact, the latter situation was depicted when Wiand and enFocus were featured in a “What Would You Fight For?” campaign spot in 2013.
The ability to mentor students today is a full circle moment for Wiand, who expresses gratitude for the help of his own mentors — two of whom came from his time at Notre Dame. Wiand credits enFocus co-founder David Murphy, now Assistant Provost in the Office of Innovation/IDEA Center, with presenting the vision of what enFocus has become and helping the organization establish itself and grow over the past 11 years. Likewise, Notre Dame Associate Vice President for Public Affairs Tim Sexton has also served as a “really great resource at the university to navigate community relationships,” according to Wiand.
Wiand enjoys helping to shape the minds of the next generation of leaders.
“I think one (important thing is) to be a change agent,” Wiand says, “(which) is a term we use for people to basically use their skills to persuade something to be better. You have to have some courage to share your ideas and don’t resort to the status quo.”
No matter one’s career aspirations, having a strong, well-developed plan is vital, but it takes an added ability to step up to turn that plan into action. As Wiand says, “the best plans go through with courage.”
Many more talented people will make their way to South Bend and Notre Dame over the years to come. Not all will stay, of course. But the work being done by Wiand and enFocus aims to ensure that talent will continue to make both places thrive.
Originally published by weare.nd.edu on May 02, 2023.at