Students Display Creativity in Franklin Innovation Challenge

  • Justin Thacker ’11 (l.) and Eric Feinberg ’11 (r.) present their winning proposal in the Open Category of the Franklin Innovation Challenge in the Great Room of Brooks College House.  

In the Great Room of Brooks College House, a group of Franklin & Marshall students presents a proposal for a community-owned restaurant in Lancaster. Next door, in the Brooks seminar room, two students champion the development of an English language program for Lancaster’s refugee population. And in Bonchek College House, a group pitches a new international-mentoring program at F&M.

The presentations were just three of 24 proposals in the finals of the inaugural Franklin Innovation Challenge, sponsored by the Department of Business, Organizations & Society (BOS). The final round took place in Bonchek and Brooks Houses on Friday, April 15, featuring 56 students from eight countries—and an abundance of creativity and innovation. The event was co-sponsored by the Great Teaching, Great Learning committee.

The contest was created and organized by Trex Proffitt, assistant professor of organization studies; Bryan Stinchfield, assistant professor of business, organizations & society; and Keith Jones ’89, executive in residence and Harris Center Fellow.

“We’re amazed by the response,” Jones said during the final round. “We thought it would be great if we got 20 proposals, and we got 89. The students don’t get course credit for this, but they’re gaining valuable experience. They’ve been so focused, and so thorough in everything they’ve done. And it’s given them the ability to connect with alumni.”

The finals marked the culmination of several months of competition, which began with more than 150 students submitting 89 proposals in four categories: improving F&M, environmental sustainability, social entrepreneurship and an open category. Approximately 30 alumni served as mentors to the students, helping the contestants develop ideas into business plans and preparing them for each round of the competition.

“Trex, Bryan and I began talking about the contest last fall,” says Jones, who spent the past 18 years working on the business side of the health-care industry. “We thought it would be great to have an innovation center at F&M where students could apply their ideas and bring their projects to the market. But we thought we should start with something smaller, a contest, to get people thinking about being entrepreneurial.”

The contest was open to all F&M students. The students whose proposals made the final round represent 20 majors and minors across the curriculum, including BOS, public health, physics, government and English. The finalists also included one high-school student who will enroll at F&M in the fall.

Fifteen judges, mostly alumni of the College, visited campus to judge the final round. Among the judges were Trustee John F. Burness ’67, former interim president, and Trustee Tony Kreisel ’66. The Office of Alumni Relations, Office of College Advancement and a host of alumni also supported the contest.

The following is a list of award winners of the inaugural Franklin Innovation Challenge, by category. Winners received $1,250, while those finishing in second place ($750) and third place ($250) also received prizes. For more information on the contest and the students’ proposals, visit the event’s website.

Environmental Sustainability
First Place: Zach Foster ’11 and An Tran’11 (Sustainable Institute Consulting)
Second Place: Kevin Sonnet ’13, Alec Regulinski ’13, Dong Joo (Mike) Shin ’13 and Mike Sisco ’13 (Co-Generation Plant)
Third Place: Klariobaldo Zavala ’14 (Alternative Energy)

Improving F&M
First Place: Nicole Martino ’12, Ahmed Shaishab ’11 and Steve Tolliver ’11 (Shades of Green Tree Farm)
Second Place: Bradford Greaves ’15 (Grown Here)
Third Place: Dipti Balwani ’11 and Aradhana Mahtani ’12 (International Mentoring)

Social Entrepreneurship
First Place: Eloisa Almaraz ’11, Christine Vaughan ’11, Julia MacDonald ’13, Melissa Sandoval ’13 and Tiffany Lockridge ’13 (Gallery of Hope)
Second Place: Madison Kille ’11 and Kim Trageser ’14 (English as a Second Language Program for Lancaster’s Refugees)
Third Place: Adrian Heredia ’11, Argemira Florez ’13 and Mandy Tsang ’11 (Friends for Friends)

Open Category
First Place: Eric Feinberg ’11 and Justin Thacker ’11 (FirstStep Investment Partnership)
Second Place: Matthew Woods ’12, Georgi Dochev ’12 and Hristo Mitrovsky ’11 (You Drink We Drive)
Third Place: Alex Gao ’12, Curzio Okado ’12, Shane Zhao ’13 and Steve Rosso ’11 (Lancaster Community Owned Restaurant)

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