By | Innovation, People, Rochester

2018 Spring Review

By Ain CFE Staff

To build upon our busy Fall semester, the Ain Center launched a variety new programs and hosted a number of entrepreneurial events during Spring 2018. Below is just an overview of the competitions, talks, and entrepreneurial projects that happened this semester!


Business Competitions

Throughout this spring, the Ain Center offered three competitions to entrepreneurial students. The first, held in April, was the New York Business Plan Competition – Finger Lakes Regional Contest at St. John Fisher College. Teams from six local colleges participated. Three U of R teams won their category – Humans for Education in Social Entrepreneurship & Nonprofit, Pollinate in Services, and Solid Cell in Clean Technology; they went on to compete in the statewide finals in Albany.

Second, the Forbes Entrepreneurial Competition featured seven student teams with a focus on engineering innovation. Among the winning ideas were an app to connect seniors, a textbook swap platform, and an entrepreneurial project in Liberia. The winners were:

  • 1st Place: UR Connected – Allen Chen, Krista Pipho, Brandon Smart, Hetince Zhao
  • 2nd Place (TIE): BarterOut – Vlad Cazacu, Zixu Chen, Duncan Grubbs, Annmarie Hamburgen, Luis Nova
  • 2nd Place (TIE): HORN Empowers – Maria Christina Gil Diaz, Paula Guerra, Emmanuel Gweamee, Amie Laurent Twizerimana
  • 2nd Place (TIE): Uptick – Sidhant Ahluwalia, Obed Badillo Moreno

The Mark Ain Business Model Competition, our final contest of the semester, showcased the top entrepreneurial teams from the entire University. After making it through two preliminary rounds, five groups were able to pitch their ventures to a panel of distinguished judges on May 16. Winners were announced that afternoon:

  • 1st Place: CompreSure Medical – Alyssa Lopez, Gregory Dadourian, Meghann Meyer, Rachel Zimmer
  • 2nd Place: ADASI – Rebecca Amorese, Amanda Smith, Evan Sosnow
  • 3rd Place: Prosthesis for a New Syria – Ibrahim Mohammad, Omar Soufan
Student Organization Events

Meliora LaunchPad, one of the University’s student entrepreneurship clubs, hosted an Entrepreneurship Expo at the beginning of May. Only about a year and half old, the club created a fantastic event to highlight student innovators and to celebrate their graduating seniors. In February, we also co-hosted Club Rochester with other interdisciplinary groups on campus, including the Rochester Center for Community Leadership, iZone, and the Gwen M. Greene Career & Internship Center.

Ain Center Lecture Series

One of the University of Rochester’s defining aspects is its commitment to medical discovery and healing. Because the field of medicine is ever-changing (and at the U of R, becoming ever better), the Ain Center and the School of Nursing hosted Dr. Mattia Gilmartin of New York University. Dr. Gilmartin, a former health clinician and current faculty member, spoke to innovators from throughout UR. She shared her perspective as a practitioner, intrapreneur, and educator, with her talk zeroing in on the importance of taking risks and building on your experiences to create something worthwhile.

Ain Center Events

In addition to the formal competitions and lectures, we also hosted smaller, more granular workshops and events, which allowed all members of the UR community to grow their entrepreneurial skillset and mingle with experienced entrepreneurs in fields outside of their own. In March, we shuttled students to NextCorps at Sibley Square, where our Incubator is located. Students were able to network with real startups and see the new space for the first time.

We also started a number of online or indirect modes of collaboration. In March, we debuted our Entrepreneur Connector – a physical wall outside the Ain Center filled with postings for teamwork opportunities (students can submit in person or online). In May, the Ain Center became an admin in the newly launched Entrepreneurship and Innovation Group on The Meliora Collective, a platform for the UR community.

Buzz Lab Boot Camp

Designed for entrepreneurs, small business owners, and aspiring small business owners in the greater Rochester area, the Buzz Lab Boot Camp held its inaugural sessions this February. For four Saturdays, participants from the region gathered on River Campus to learn about a variety of topics – including Pricing, Marketing, and Human Resources Management. The wildly successful program was supported by a grant from the Economic Development Administration and is likely to run again next spring!

UR Next Gen Challenge

Each semester, the MS in Technical Entrepreneurship and Management (TEAM) program hosts the Next Gen Challenge. A think-tank style competition allows STEM students to solve real-world problems with professional scientists and engineers, as well as industry representatives. February’s competition took place at Ortho Clinical Diagnostics. These winning teams were awarded cash prizes:

  • 1st Place: Sherry Xiao, Sereen Assi, Lennard Emanuel, Aman Tugnawat
  • 2nd Place: Ivanah Desoloc, Devin Marino, Omar Soufan, Sarat Tirumala
  • 3rd Place: Joshua Ivery, Siqi Xiong, Diego Martinez, Obed Badillo Moreno, Hadi Wehbe
As the semester comes to a close, want to thank all of our wonderful partners and participants. This spring has inspired us to provide more opportunities for our students, build new relationships University-wide, and establish deeper roots in the Rochester community.
Keep up with our summer planning and adventures on our social media channels – we’ll be back with more stories in the fall!

By | Innovation, People, Rochester

Fulbright-RAF Scholar’s

Experience at U of R

By Vladimir Tanasiev (originally published on the Fulbright-Romania Webpage)

Via the Fulbright-RAF Scholar Award program, I had the opportunity, together with another five Romanian professors, to study Entrepreneurship at the University of Rochester. Although is difficult to sum up my whole experience, I will try to convey the essence of it. Entrepreneurial culture in the United States is growing and channeled around universities, with the support of the entrepreneurship centers. I have clearly understood that there are numerous possibilities to support entrepreneurship and it takes time to get the best results – success doesn’t come overnight.

I noticed that USA universities make considerable efforts – both human and financial – to help students think in terms of entrepreneurship, playing in this respect a crucial role in developing the entrepreneurship culture. This continuous effort is strengthened through countless events dedicated to technical, transversal and social topics, contests, debates with investors, etc. The atmosphere created at the university, around students not only helps them to use their imagination, but also offers them the support for turning their ideas into products or services with economic potential. Life on campus is also quite different from my experience back home. During the whole semester, the students are involved, alongside the theoretical and practical classes, in activities aimed at personal and professional development and networking.

One question I have come across quite often was “Can entrepreneurship be taught?”. And the answer is yes, it can be taught, but it’s difficult to measure its impact. An entrepreneur can follow this path only when he feels prepared and this decision can take time. I have also learned that many of the success stories are paved with the determination of those who faced several failures before. To understand the entrepreneurial ecosystem built around the university is one aspect of the problem, but in order to understand its mission and ways to develop, you need guidance. I will take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude to my mentors, Dennis Kessler and Duncan Moore, who helped me understand how entrepreneurship is cultivated and how it could be institutionalized. Furthermore, whether I was talking to a salesman at the weekly fair or to a university professor, I could always notice the kindness of the people. I had the same feeling when I was talking to colleagues from other universities and many others. During my whole stay I met nice and hospitable people, interested in our culture and open to future collaborations. Additionally, I really enjoyed meeting members of the Romanian community from Rochester who helped me and my colleagues adapt smoothly from the very start.

During my professional or leisure trips, I had the opportunity to discover the beauty of the USA, equally present in large cities, small towns and its national parks. These trips offered my colleagues – Dragos Vintila, Mihai Dragomir, Anca Nicolau, Corina Forascu, Alma Pentescu – and myself the context to get to know each other better, to become friends and to work together on future plans.

Vladimir Tanasiev was one of six Romanian professors in 2017 to receive a Fulbright-RAF research grant to learn about entrepreneurship at the University of Rochester. Tanasiev is an Assistant Professor within the faculty of Power Engineering at the University Politehnica of Bucharest, Romania. His Fulbright-RAF experience allowed him to develop an action plan to insert entrepreneurship into his projects, as well as to reflect on how he can help entrepreneurship flourish in Romania.

By | Innovation, People, Rochester

Talent Nyumbani:

A Social-Driven Project to Grow Africa’s Talent

By Joshua “Dewey” Bazirake

As a college student, with all of the assignments, course loads, and social life demands, how can you grow your entrepreneurial spirit and pursue the project of your dreams?

Talent Nyumbani is a social non-profit organization that I founded in Kampala, Uganda before arriving at the University of Rochester in 2016. This organization aims to bring out the best in the youth of Uganda. We continue to promote and showcase talents, as well as innovations in science and technology, art and photography, dance and music, and poetry and rap.

On a flight back home from United World College in Costa Rica, I was highly energized and motivated to start a new venture that would create impact in my home country. I first thought about setting up a house party for friends and charging a fee, but this idea was flawed. What value was I was creating for my peers in Uganda? As I thought deeper about it, I referred to a book that I pleaded with my brother to get me. This was The Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman, a concise guide on how to start and manage a successful business. The first chapter was about ‘value creation’, an element that gave purpose to a business. As I assessed my background & surroundings, I began to wonder why some students who were smarter than me in class weren’t recognized for their creativity and skills. I realized that there was a gap in giving opportunities to the youth and young people lacked an avenue to share their unique talents. From that moment, I knew that I wanted to create a “house party” that empowered the youth to bring out the best of who they are; this is where the idea of Talent Nyumbani stemmed from.The literal translation of “Talent Nyumbani” in Swahili means the house with talents – a welcoming place for youth to explore, discover, and share their talents. 


In the summer of 2016, I set out on an “undercover” search for the dream team: a team that displayed passion and a zeal for success. The quest to find the right team members is cumbersome, but the outcome of a great team who shares your vision is invaluable.  A common saying in the startup scene is, “ you would rather have a bad idea and a good team as opposed to a good idea and a bad team.” The team I found was able to share, criticize and objectively make decisions which steered Talent Nyumbani in the direction it is today.

Now and again, there are disappointments that arise with the expectations you have with some of the team members. An example is I found some team members interested in short term gains and quick profits. I approached the situation by being observant rather than judgmental to objectively identify the strengths and weaknesses of each team member. In the end, an entrepreneur retains the team members who add the most value to the project and passionately driven to achieve the mission/vision.


Our first event took place in July, 2016. My original idea was to have a month-long event with different activities on each day (such as workshops, performances and networking sessions). With advice from my team, we pivoted to a shorter period of one week. The first day was terrifying as we barely got any attendees. Painters and photographers came to display their work but no one had come to view it.

Was this a failure?

Had I wasted all my time and effort on something that wasn’t needed?

Resiliently, we waited for turn out. Over the course of the week, we had an increase in the number of attendees which boosted our confidence and, with appreciation for the idea, our team saw the need to hold a second event.

The second event was held on January 12, 2018. This event was a success with a turn out of 170 individuals, more than 100% increase from the last event. We also incorporated a hackathon that brought rise to technological ideas with a potential to disrupt the agricultural sector in Uganda. We had more partners on board this time such as the University of Rochester, Outbox Uganda, Innovation Village, FundiBotz, amongst others. This event was also graced by the presence of Dr. Elioda Tumwesigye, the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation in Uganda.


Failure is common when it comes to startups and it comes in so many forms: failure to secure funding, failure to get the team to agree on a particular direction to take, failure to get the right location and failure with the idea itself. For Talent Nyumbani, my goal of creating an open house seemed impossible to achieve when I failed to get a location and when we failed to advertise in time.

Day in and day out, I invested my time, effort and resources to make the impossible possible. I received feedback of all sorts, some saying that I didn’t have enough expertise to get the project going or that the idea wasn’t ready for a market like Uganda. The process of starting from an idea and working towards a finished product is what builds an entrepreneur through failure and continuous progress. The best way to deal with failure is by being calm in the most difficult situations, understanding the root cause of a problem and crafting solutions together as a team. Without the support structure of your team, a leader is destined for failure. Whenever an issue arose, I’d gather the team and we’d tackle the problem together. Each team member had a unique contribution and perspective. Problem solving requires robust brainstorming and immediate action in order to mitigate any future challenges. In the end, we encountered financial, logistical, management and service delivery problems. However, we conquered these because of our team spirit and vision for the project.


When starting up, it is advised to have the long-term vision in mind. We are currently working on improving our presence online in order to be more accessible to other youth in Uganda and surrounding neighbouring countries. It is our intention to conduct regular events at high schools and universities around Uganda in the upcoming year. With the growing partnerships we create, we are incorporating mentorship, skills development and outsourcing internships. We welcome anyone who is interested in empowering the youth and solving the issue of unemployment in developing countries.

Our long-term vision is to bring out the most outstanding talent in Africa and share it with the rest of the world.

Joshua “Dewey” Bazirake is a member of the class of 2020, studying Financial Economics. During his first year at UR, Bazirake founded Kwetu, a student organization dedicated to promoting and encouraging entrepreneurship and development on the African continent. Recently, Kwetu co-hosted the inaugural Africa Business Conference with Simon Business School. Bazirake has also participated in the NSF I-Corps Site grant and training program, to learn how to conduct customer discovery in his efforts to commercialize and idea to harness data to streamline group travel.

By | Innovation, People, Rochester

Experiencing Meliora

By Anca Nicolau (originally published on the Fulbright-Romania Webpage)

My experience as Fulbright visiting professor was an exceptional one for several reasons. First of all, it was not a lonely experience, but a group one as I was a Fulbrighter together with other five Romanians; each of us having a different background and representing a different university, but registered under the same program at the Ain Center for Entrepreneurship from the University of Rochester. The program, specially designed on the request of the Romanian American Foundation, aimed at introducing us to education on entrepreneurship. Step by step, I was convinced that entrepreneurship can be studied while learning some tools to filter ideas, understanding the market mechanism, studying how to transform a business idea into a company, practicing evaluation of startup companies and gaining business understanding from the stories of successful entrepreneurs. Therefore, from this point of view, it was a wonderful educational experience that I will use in the benefit of the Romanian educational system.

As our program involved meeting people from different institutions and organizations in town, I began to feel that I am no longer a visitor to Rochester, but one of its inhabitants. This was special too, as I was a Rochesterian when the town celebrated the bicentennial anniversary of the Erie Canal; prepared its rebirth after the failure of the Kodak Company and relocation of the Xerox Corporation to Norwalk, CT; reconfigured the highway crossing the town; worked hard to preserve the landscape designed by Frederick Law Olmstead in Highland Park; and started the moving process of its technology and business incubator (High Tech Rochester) from Henrietta (outside the town) to the Sibley building (downtown) in an attempt to become the supporter of the new Downtown Innovation Zone.

Secondly, it was an unforgettable cultural experience as well. I have to confess that it was pretty challenging to act in the multicultural U of R’s environment and the first lesson learned was to behave properly in multinational teams. Then, when I met the Romanian community, I was impressed to see how my co-nationals balanced the American customs with the Romanian traditions. Moreover, it was fascinating to celebrate Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve in America while enjoying the atmosphere and learning some recipes of dishes traditionally made on these occasions. My cultural experience was enriched by the variety of performances I have seen: “The Magic Flute” at MET, “Chicago” on Broadway, “The Nutcracker” with the Boston Ballet, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” with the music performed by the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra at Eastman Theater, the Songs of Erie Canal interpreted by the Brockport Symphony Orchestra and the Golden Eagle String Band, “When Shakespeare’s Ladies Meet” presented during the Rochester Fringe Festival, the rock of the ’80s in a local brewery, and music of Leonard Bernstein played by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra on New Year’s Eve.

Thirdly, it was a travel experience, as the Fulbright scholarship allowed me to go around Rochester and see spectacular places like Niagara Falls, Chimney Bluffs, Letchworth State Park, Watkins Glen and Taughannock Falls. Additionally, I was able to visit other prestigious universities as MIT, Harvard, Cornell and Miami, and to see three of the most beautiful cities in the US: New York, Boston and Washington. Long story short, my Fulbright experience was extraordinary because it was a multi-facet one, extremely rich and complex. Due to it, I am now a “Meliora” person, with nice memories of the people I met and places I have been.

Anca Nicolau was one of six Romanian professors in 2017 to receive a Fulbright-RAF research grant to learn about entrepreneurship at the University of Rochester. Nicolau is a Professor of Food Science and Engineering at Dunarea de Jos University of Galati. She currently studies food safety issues, including detection of pathogens in food and food processing environments, as well as the destruction of microorganisms using alternative technologies.

By | Innovation, People, Rochester

Growing in the US,

Changing Mindsets in Romania

By Mihai Dragomir (originally published on the Fulbright-Romania Webpage)

I have always been an admirer of the American way of life and I am glad the Fulbright-RAF (Romanian-American Foundation) Scholar Award gave me the possibility to spend a semester immersed in the academic environment in the United States. This period of time brought to our entire Romanian group excellent learning opportunities at the Ain Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Rochester, other universities across the USA, and various organizations involved in the entrepreneurial ecosystem of upstate New York. We had the opportunity to discover firsthand how entrepreneurship and innovation are transforming the region and giving it the competitive edge it needs for the 21st century.

The lessons we learned and the great models and practices we discovered will certainly guide our activity back home in our universities. One of the defining aspects of this program is the desire to infuse the same passion and courage into the young generation in Romania as the ones we have seen in the US. In a world that becomes very dynamic and uncertain, I consider it to be essential to have young people who are not afraid of work and risk taking and are willing to fight for what they believe in. I came back to Romania with a fresh and optimistic outlook about establishing new ways to deliver entrepreneurial education and foster into our students the desire to be innovative and create new ventures based around their engineering skills. So, I must confess I am really excited to contribute to this long but rewarding journey within Technical University of Cluj-Napoca.

I think living and working in the USA has a wonderful way of changing the way you feel about freedom and opportunity: infusing you with self-confidence and the desire to change the world around you. Getting to experience the American culture first hand, from food and drinks to arts and sports, and being able to travel and visit some of the spectacular cities and sites of the US – Niagara Falls, a natural wonder of the world, definitely comes to mind here – really put into context for me the sheer scale and complexity of this amazing country and its people.

Mihai Dragomir was one of six Romanian professors in 2017 to receive a Fulbright-RAF research grant to learn about entrepreneurship at the University of Rochester. Dragomir is an Associate Professor of Machine Building in the department of Design Engineering and Robotics at the Technical University of Cluj-Napoca. He enjoys investigating new product development, quality engineering, and computer-aided engineering.

By | Innovation, People, Rochester, Science, Social Entrepreneurship, Technology

Introducing the

Entrepreneur Connector

By Ain CFE Staff

WANTED: [you fill in the rest!]

On a regular basis, the U of R community asks us how to find teammates and fellow innovators. To give everyone a space to contribute, we have created the Entrepreneur Connector: an interactive wall that allows you to share what you need and/or what you are willing to give.

Inspired by the entrepreneurial spaces at universities like Harvard and MIT, our Connector wall serves as a touchstone for those who want to get involved, but may not know how to get started. Jot down your information for a short project or fill out a sheet to seek someone to co-launch your new venture… whatever you are looking for, you can find it on the Connector.

Click around on the picture below to learn more!

STEP ONE: Navigate through the tunnels or come in through Dewey Hall to visit the wall outside of room 1-211. (Tip: You can also come in through Carol Simon Hall!)
STEP TWO: If you are advertising a position in your startup or posting a want ad, grab a marker and find an empty board. Fill out what you are looking for and be sure to add your contact info.
STEP THREE: Are you hoping to join a team? Check out the listings and snap a photo of any projects you are interested in. If nothing catches your attention, write down your info so others can recruit you for their projects!
STEP FOUR: Postings will stay up for three weeks, unless otherwise asked. Feel free to stop by the Ain Center if you have any questions!

Want to make your mark?

Head over to Dewey Hall, right outside of room 1-211!

By | Innovation, People, Rochester

Meliora: A New Idea for Romanian Entrepreneurs

By Dragos Vintila (originally published on the Fulbright-Romania Webpage)

You learn, you try, and you apply. Education is continuous. We always strive for more, but reading every book ever written about rock climbing is nothing compared to reaching your first mountaintop. Nonetheless, that challenge would be impossible without some beforehand knowledge. Theory and practice are both required for success. Similarly, the gears of the entrepreneurial ‘engine’ work best when they are all nurtured. When we talk about entrepreneurship, we talk about knowledge, education, economy, innovation, R&D and people coming together, discussing and collaborating. The one thing I think is different and exciting in the United States and their entrepreneurial system is how these are all connected. Learning happens in classrooms and conference rooms. You discuss business plans with your partners and with your teachers.

There are countless ways one can learn about entrepreneurship. One of them is experiencing the U.S. way of life. Essentially a society developed by businesspeople and entrepreneurs, it is bright, bold and fascinating. I have had the pleasure of being a Fulbright-RAF award winner and spent one semester at the Ain Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Rochester. We participated in classes, attended business meetings, had wonderful discussions and traveled around the country for a while.

Being a teacher myself at the Ovidius University of Constanta, Romania, I have had the opportunity of placing myself both in the students’ and the professors’ seats during lectures. Here, the educational process is based on dialogue and is completed by self-study. The bibliography is flexible and most ‘assignments’ represent team projects with actual real-world applicability. The feedback is rich and valuable, and there are moments when you feel like you have transcended the lecture and landed in the middle of a business meeting. Students also have frequent mentor meetings, where they communicate with affluent businesspeople, hear their success stories, previous failures and advice for their future endeavors. It is an environment that stimulates, engages and fascinates everyone, inside and outside the University.

Furthermore, we took part in the pitch sessions at Excell Partners, where entrepreneurs present their design, concept and business approach, and gather the feedback and critique of the board. These weekly meetings gathered professors from all fields of study at the University of Rochester to discuss, analyze and eventually finance private ventures. As visiting professors, this was an invaluable process and learning experience, evaluating enterprises from diverse domains (e.g. medicine, navigation) while understanding the development strategies of American companies, allowing all that fit the criteria to participate, while choosing to finance only the best ideas and business plans.

We also had the opportunity to travel, visiting landmarks like Niagara Falls, the Statue of Liberty and the National Mall, as well as other prestigious institutions like the MIT Innovation Initiative, the Harvard Innovation Lab, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs. We met inspiring people, had productive discussions, visited magnificent places and ate mountains of pancakes each morning – providing energy for the day. Everything is connected.

Dragos Vintila was one of six Romanian professors in 2017 to receive a Fulbright-RAF research grant to learn about entrepreneurship at the University of Rochester. Vintila is an Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering at Ovidius University of Constanta. His research focuses on structural stability, safety analysis, spatial planning, and – of course – entrepreneurship.

By | Innovation, People, Social Entrepreneurship

MLP Travels to

Social E’ship Conference

By Sidhant Ahluwalia and Angela Zou

From February 10th to 11th, Meliora Launchpad (MLP) – one of the University’s undergraduate entrepreneurship organizations – attended the Harvard Social Enterprise Conference at Harvard Business School and Harvard Kennedy School. Six of MLP’s eight executive board members (Sidhant Ahluwalia ’18, Sharfuz Shifat ’19, Sara Anis ’19, Marc Haddad ’21, Cherine Ghazouani ’21, and Angela Zou ’18) had the pleasure of attending this conference that garnered entrepreneurs from across America. The conference’s mission “to educate participants about Social Enterprise’s potential in solving the world’s most pressing problems and to inspire meaningful discussion around the key challenges with the field” focused on four pillars – build, scale, fund, and innovate.

Altogether, Meliora Launchpad members attended over twelve workshops and receptions with speakers from Google, McKinsey & Company, and Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. Workshops included Early-Stage Startup Funding: How to Land Your First Investment; Pitch Competition; Innovating Solutions in Emerging Markets; and Universal Basic Income: What Is It Good For? Marc Haddad, Public Relations Chair, stated, “I am someone who has a lot of ideas about what to do and how to be entrepreneurial, but I don’t know how to execute them. They told us the methods of how to successfully market the idea, how to go on with it and actually start executing.” He went on to say that at the University of Rochester, everyone has a vague idea about what entrepreneurship is, however they are not familiar with the right way to execute; this conference tackled all aspects of this. MLP’s Vice President, Sharfuz Shifat exclaimed, “It was an inspiring atmosphere, out of my usual bubble, in which I was able to dedicate my whole weekend for entrepreneurship. It opened my horizons to explore the various aspects of entrepreneurship.”

The members of Meliora Launchpad didn’t hold back on networking with panel speakers. During the conference, they also met with University of Rochester alums, Max Goodman ’12 and Alysha Alani ‘15 , who claimed that it was great to see the University and the Meliore Launchpad take such initiatives. MLP’s Marketing Chair Angela Zou said, “Even though the conference was themed for social enterprises, there was a takeaway for everyone”. Ahluwalia, who also serves as a campus ambassador for Venture Capital firm GroundUP ventures, claimed that he picked up on great tips for reviewing pitches and hopes to encourage students to learn more about public speaking and presenting ideas.

Moving forward, Meliora Launchpad would like to bring this spirit to campus and focus on developing social entrepreneurship learning for students. Because of the gap mentioned by Haddad (of students having the idea of entrepreneurship but not being able to go forward with these ideas), Meliora Launchpad will strive to be the platform to equip students, relay what was learned at the conference, work with them and put their ideas out there on the market. Shifat declared, “I believe Launchpad will be able to apply the learning from the conference, and build the entrepreneurial potential of undergraduate students here at the University of Rochester.”

Sidhant Ahluwalia is a member of University of Rochester’s Class of 2018. He is working toward a Bachelors of Arts degree in Computer Science, track in HCI. A student in the Hajim School of Engineering & Applied Sciences, Ahluwalia is also a campus partner for GroundUP Ventures and co-founder of Meliora LaunchPad, an entrepreneurship club for innovative students.

Angela Zou is a member of the University of Rochester’s Class of 2018. She is working toward a Bachelor of Science degree in Business, with a focus in Marketing. With experience in advertising and marketing, Zou strives to promote entrepreneurship across campus, through Meliora LaunchPad. 

By | Innovation, People, Social Entrepreneurship

CGI U 2017 – A Youth Movement of Change

By Xueying “Shelley” Chen

In November 2017, I had the opportunity to join 1,000+ change-makers at Northeastern University for the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U). CGI U brings together world leaders to take action on global challenges in five focus areas: Education, Environment and Climate Change, Peace and Human Rights, Poverty Alleviation, and Public Health. Each year the meeting brings together students who are devoted to their “commitment to action,” defined as new, specific, and measurable initiatives that address pressing challenges on campus, in local communities, or around the world.

My commitment to action is to provide sustainable eye care to the Tibetan refugees who currently live in Northern India. My team competed in the 2017 Tibetan Innovation Challenge and we were one of the global finalists in the competition. We created a business plan to host a writing competition among all the Tibetan refugee high schools; for our plan, the Tibetan high schoolers  submit children’s stories to the competition and we select the best ones and publish them on Amazon. The revenue generated from the book sales is then used to provide modified sunglasses to prevent an eye disease called “black eye” that is prevalent among Tibetan refugee children in Ladakh.

Xueying “Shelley” Chen ’19 with mentor Jean Laurent (founder of Unspoken Smile Foundation) at CGI U 2017.

Before I went to Boston, I started chatting with CGI U attendees on Facebook. Some of them are in the early stage of initiating their social venture. Some of them already have a successful operating non-profit or social enterprise. I was also assigned a mentor, who is the founder of Unspoken Smiles Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides dental critical dental health issues in developing countries.

The first day at CGI U, I attended two keynote speaker panel sessions and two small-group discussions. The keynote speakers were former President Bill Clinton, Ibtihaj Muhammad (Olympic medalist, activist, and entrepreneur), David Miliband (President and CEO of International Rescue Committee), and Anndrea Moore (Founder and CEOBlack Tech Women). The topics covered were climate change, immigration policy, human rights and the opium crisis. At the end of day, there was a networking event where student displayed their projects through oral or poster presentations. The second day, I was assigned to a community service site to paint murals for a family center. From the community service project, I had a better understanding of the communal engagement in Boston. Through CGI U, I had a fruitful experience exchanging ideas with like-minded student entrepreneurs, with whom I am still in touch.

CGI U was a confirmation to the world that young people are striving to make a positive change through their commitment to action. It is a global community that came together to improve 180 million lives in 180 countries. I am grateful for my CGI U experience because it opened my eyes to resources that are out there to help students start their social entrepreneurship projects. I was able to connect with like-minded student entrepreneurs from all over the globe. Now, it’s your time to join this movement of change!

Xueying “Shelley” Chen is a junior double-majoring in International Relations and Business at the University of Rochester. She is an aspiring social entrepreneur and an social innovator; Chen is always looking for ways to create a positive impact in her community and around the globe. She is an avid advocate for human rights and gender equality. In the past, she led a team to compete in Tibetan Innovation Challenge and was one of the global finalists. This spring, Chen is competing in the Hult Prize Competition, the world’s largest social entrepreneurship contest, with a team of global citizens hoping to commercialize nano-membrane toilets. She believes there is a way to bridge the gap between the public sector and private sector, and ultimately wants to empower youth to make a positive difference in the world. 

By | Innovation, People, Rochester

Fulbright-RAF Experience

at University of Rochester

By Alma Pentescu (originally published on the Fulbright-Romania Webpage)

Last year a “new chapter of my life” was to be written. As a proud winner of a Fulbright-RAF award, I had the opportunity to spend a semester in the United States of America. As a teaching assistant and marketing Ph.D. at the Lucian Blaga University of Sibiu – The Faculty of Economic Sciences, I teach marketing and trade related subjects. However, this opportunity emerged due to the fact that my colleagues and I work on developing entrepreneurship education at our university. Thus, in order to find out more about how an entrepreneurial ecosystem works, how to build one and how to adapt to an ever-changing environment, I went to the Ain Center for Entrepreneurship – University of Rochester, NY.

During my stay in Rochester I did so many interesting things. I took the Upstate New York National Science Foundation I-Corps short course as well as two other courses, spoke with different professors; attended pitching/business plan competitions and various speaker series; been to conferences on entrepreneurship topics; took part at the meetings of Excell Partners, Rochester Angel Network, the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council; attended different events (organized by students, alumni or the community), both professional and for leisure. I traveled to New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Illinois and beyond, and have seen several entrepreneurship centers, as well as incredible places. I had a glimpse of the American life by attending different events such as the Clothesline Festival, Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra’s concerts, The Blue & Gold Gala, Thanksgiving and others.

The United States of America are well known for entrepreneurship, entrepreneurship education and research. Being able to learn from such experienced people about how they started their entrepreneurial initiatives, how they’ve grown, what worked for them and what didn’t was a huge opportunity for me and my colleagues (the ones in this program as well as the ones at my university). But it wasn’t just about the things I’ve learnt. The main benefit came from the people I’ve met. Kind and willing to share their knowledge, ideas and experience. Thus, I want to thank all the inspiring people I’ve met thanks to this award and to all the wonderful people who made this opportunity possible. This is not the end of the story, but, hopefully, the beginning of a fruitful collaboration.

Alma Pentescu was one of six Romanian professors in 2017 to receive a Fulbright-RAF research grant to learn about entrepreneurship at the University of Rochester. A Teaching Assistant at Lucian Blaga University of Sibiu, she is located in the Department of Management, Marketing, and Business Administration. During her time at the U of R, she pursued the project, “Entrepreneurial Education: The Foundation of an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem.”