Students Display Creativity in Franklin Innovation Challenge

Alumni judges included (l-r) Mark Kuhn ‘85, Chris Fuhrmann ‘76, Stefanie Langer ‘88 and Steve Ehrlich ‘87.

In the Great Room of Brooks College House, a group of F&M 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 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. “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.”

(l-r) Assistant Professor Bryan Stinchfield and Zachary Adam ’14 help Aradhana Mahtani ’12 and Dipti Balwani ’11 set up their presentation.

The finals marked the culmination of several months of competition, which began with more than 150 students submitting 89 proposals in four categories. Approximately 30 alumni served as mentors, helping the students 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 proposals that made the final round represented 20 different majors and minors.

Fifteen judges, mostly F&M alumni, visited campus to judge the final round. Winners received $1,250, while those finishing in second place ($750) and third place ($250) also received prizes.

The first-place winners were:

Improving F&M: Nicole Martino ’12,
Ahmed Shaishab ’11 and Steve Tolliver ’11
(Shades of Green Tree Farm)

Environmental Sustainability: Zach Foster ’11 and An Tran ’11 (Sustainable Institute Consulting)

Social Entrepreneurship: Eloisa Almaraz ’11, Christine Vaughan ’11, Julia MacDonald ’13, Melissa Sandoval ’13 and Tiffany Lockridge ’13 (Gallery of Hope)

Open Category: Eric Feinberg ’11 and Justin Thacker ’11 (FirstStep Investment Partnership)


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