By Jayla Moody
MACON – Mercer University alumnus Kyle Bligen contributed to Mercer and Macon in a number of ways during his time as a student at the university. Since graduation last May, he has continued to take strides toward bettering communities.
Bligen was selected this year as a Clinton Foundation Fellow, along with junior Rebecca Braun and senior Danielle Acosta.
The trio is creating an organization called Isourced, an international venture capital firm that connects entrepreneurs to nonprofit needs and human aid opportunities. They were invited to attend the Clinton Global Initiative Conference Oct. 19-21 at the University of Chicago to network and help create solutions to global problems.
“If there are entrepreneurs in the U.S. that need grants and loans for their business, Isourced will have a board that gives out those loans,” Bligen said.
A negotiated percentage of the revenue received by the business will go to an international humanitarian initiative of the business owner’s choice.
“We’re breaking down the notion that charity and entrepreneurship can’t coexist,” Bligen said. “We recognize that individuals have large needs across the world.”
Prior to graduating, Bligen, who was crowned last year’s Homecoming King, made history as one of the most decorated debaters in the University’s history. In April, he and fellow member of the Class of 2018 Jaz Buckley became the first African-American team to ever win the National Parliamentary Debate Association (NPDA) championship.
This semester, he returned to the team to serve as its assistant coach, a role that he is not taking lightly.
“My job is to assist the team with strategy, argumentation and increase in-ground performance,” he said. “One of the crucial things about this team is that the leaders of this current team were able to come with us to nationals last year. They were able to see the amount of work it took for Jaz and me to put together the body of work to win.”
Bligen said his responsibility is to not just take the team somewhere that he’s already been, but to take them even further. His goal is to show Mercer debaters that they can compete with the very best and to display the value of a Mercer education.
A big opportunity to do so came during the last weekend of October, when the team competed for the first time at Yale’s annual Inter-Varsity Debate Tournament.
“I’m excited about this current team because they’re showing off at the highest level,” he said. “They’re not intimidated. They’re not shying away from competition.”
Apart from his work with Mercer’s debate team, Bligen is currently deciding between two highly competitive national fellowships funded by the U.S. Department of State. Both the Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship and the Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Fellowship fund the pursuit of a master’s degree in preparation for fellows to enter the U.S. Foreign Service.
Depending upon his decision, Bligen will either pursue a Master of Public Administration degree at Columbia or a Master of Public Policy degree at Harvard beginning next fall.
Furthermore, Bligen has continued to cultivate his nonprofit organization based in Macon, the Bligen Family Foundation.
“Last semester, we set up a male mentorship program though the Office of Community Engagement and Ballard Hudson Middle School,” he said.
The partnership creates a pipeline for successful male students at Mercer to mentor and provide encouragement for young men in the Macon community.
Bligen hopes to someday expand his foundation to cities all over the world and provide everything from health screenings to homeless shelters, financial services and community centers to assist families in need.
“It would be a one-stop shop for families and communities to come and be served well in the community,” he said.