Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship 2015/2016 Year in Review

Part of the mission of Wesleyan is to provide “an education in the liberal arts that is characterized by boldness, rigor, and practical idealism.” Those attributes come to life at the Patricelli Center, where students and alumni find real-world applications for their idealism, hone their skills as entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs, and join the legions of trailblazing changemakers who have come of age at Wesleyan.

Established in May 2011 through a gift from the Robert ’61 and Margaret Patricelli Family Foundation, and with ongoing support from Propel Capital, Newman’s Own Foundation, and a number of Wesleyan alumni and parents, the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship just celebrated its fifth birthday. Demand for services has grown steadily during our first half-decade, and the Center has become a hub of social impact and entrepreneurship activity on campus. It has engaged scores of alumni with the University, with students, and with each other. Wesleyan’s “changemaker mafia” is increasingly connecting and collaborating, supporting each other and amplifying their collective impact worldwide.


In 2015/2016, the PCSE offered its first ever .25-credit courses, hosted 25 workshops, trainings, and networking events featuring 46 presenters, awarded 27 grants to 48 applicants, provided 259 advising sessions and professional connections to 114 students and alumni, supported the launch of Wesleyan’s Nonprofit Board Residency program, and added 17 alumni volunteers to our growing network.

Forbes named Wesleyan #9 on their list of the Most Entrepreneurial Colleges.

The Wesleyan Social Impact Summit (2015 Shasha Seminar) drew more than 120 people for a first-of-its-kind conference. 

PCSE’s first academic course (.25-credits) Introduction to Social Entrepreneurship was offered in both fall and spring.

The Allbritton Fellows program was launched through the Admission Office this year. Four incoming freshmen were selected as Fellows to receive funding for independent projects and mentorship from Allbritton Directors. Some of these students have become core members of the PCSE community.

The Wesleyan magazine profiled the PCSE, writing “The Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship is developing a community of innovators both on campus and among alumni who are effecting change around the world.”

The Non-Profit Board Residency Program, hosted out of the Jewett Center for Community Partnerships, was piloted in 2015/2016 and will run again next year.

In conjunction with University Relations, the PCSE launched two successful fundraising campaigns in 2015-2016. The Propel Capital Challenge has raised $670k in commitments towards a $700k goal, which will ultimately yield $1.4M for the PCSE endowment. The PCSE Indiegogo campaign raised $16,820 — 112% of its goal.


Three $5,000 Seed Grants were awarded to fund the launch or early-stage growth of a Wesleyan-connected project, program, or venture. For the third year in a row, this grant was administered in a competition format, and winners were selected from a strong pool of six finalists who submitted written business plans and pitched live to an audience of more than 100 judges, Trustees, and guests. Applicants were assessed on their project design, leadership qualities, and potential for social impact. The three 2016 Seed Grant winners are:

  • Kindergarten Kickstart (Stephanie Blumenstock ’16, Meg Narwold ’16, and Natalie May ’18) Kindergarten Kickstart is an innovative research-based, summer pre-K program for children in Middletown, CT who could benefit from extra preschool experience before beginning kindergarten. Through a partnership between university-based research labs, Middletown Public Schools, and local community organizations, Kickstart aims to bridge the research-to-practice gap and improve participants’ school readiness skills through a short-term, high-impact, low-cost preschool program.
  • TRAP House (Bashaun Brown ’18, Will Barr ’18, Irvine Peck’s-Agaya ’18, and Gabe Weinreb ’18) TRAP House is a startup incubator that operates in neighborhoods with high rates of drug activity.  TRAP stands for Transforming, Reinventing, and Prospering.  Recognizing that hustlers are entrepreneurs starved of opportunity, we will help them recognize their talents, identify their passions, and launch micro-ventures in the formal market.  We will provide the financing, technical assistance, and network that our clients need to succeed.
  • Walking Elephants Home (Becca Winkler ’16) The Mahouts Elephant Foundation (MEF) is a non-profit that supports elephants and their Karen mahouts (owners) in Thailand. The goal of Walking Elephants Home is to collaborate with indigenous people and prove that alternative forms of ethical tourism are possible through a business model that allows mahouts who free their elephants to earn a better income through sustainable ecotourism. Returning elephants to their natural habitat not only drastically improves their well-being but also enhances biodiversity and prevents further deforestation.

Past PCSE Seed Grant winners continued growing their enterprises, including the Wesleyan Doula Project, Wishing Wells, and Let’s Be Clear (formerly known as Assk).

Three students received summer internship grants from the PCSE. Like all of our grantees, these students will report on their experiences via ENGAGE blog posts.

  • Leneil Rodrique ’17 will work for the US Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights this summer, whose mission is to “ensure equal access to education and promote educational excellence through vigorous enforcement of civil rights in our nation’s schools.” Leneil wrote, “As someone who has dedicated their studies to education and civil rights, this opportunity will give me real life experience with how our government agencies operate – understanding its significance, its flaws, and it’s areas of improvement. Working with policy research and analyses will also enhance my engagement with social, cultural and critical theory that will ultimately prepare me for my future endeavors in law school.
  • Rachel Kaly ‘17 has created her own summer project: a pop-up comedy theater, workshop, and performance space called ABSURD. It is specially designed for female-identifying people of color in New York City, a group that is historically underrepresented and excluded from opportunities like this. Rachel was inspired to create this program by her positive experiences as a member of the Wesleyan community “and its encouraging atmosphere.” She says that “students’ activist tendencies are what drew me to Wesleyan, and what continue to propel me into my career and post-graduate plans.”
  • Mariah Guarnaccia ’17 will intern with GLIDE, a San Francisco non-profit whose mission is to “create a radically inclusive, just and loving community mobilized to alleviate suffering and break the cycles of poverty and marginalization.” Mariah thinks she wants to work for a place like GLIDE when she graduates from Wesleyan. “The idea of doing the most you can, where you are, with the community you are surrounded by is so inspirational. GLIDE exemplifies this. They do not do large dramatic acts of charity, but simply strive to help their community lead safe, happy lives.”

Alvin Chitena ’19 received the prestigious Davis Projects for Peace grant to launch his new social enterprise, Zim Code, at five high schools in Zimbabwe this summer. Zim Code provides Zimbabwean youth with free access to resources they need—computers, internet access and instruction—to learn computer programming and how to apply their new skills in their community.

As part of Wesleyan’s response to the refugee crisis, the Patricelli Center was able to secure additional grant funding to support a project run by Fritzgi Dessources ’18 in his home country of Haiti this summer. Fritzgi is learning about the refugee village of Anse-à-Pitres and looking for ways to innovate solutions that will become sustainable economic engines for the community. He plans to partner with local fisherman to purchase and install a solar icemaker, filling a great need in that community.

PCSE Enrichment Grants allowed 17 students to pursue opportunities or attend conferences including the Saha Global Fellowship, the Landmark Forum, and the International Society of Tropical Foresters conference. The Patricelli Center also helped two alumni attend SOCAP,


Having experienced a decline in non-credit workshop attendance in recent semesters, the Patricelli Center experimented with a new model this year. We offered fewer workshops but added a 6-week, .25-credit Introduction to Social Entrepreneurship course which ran in both fall and spring.

Workshop reviews continued to improve over previous years (average overall rating was 9.2 out of 10 compared to 8.6 in 2013/2014 and 9.1 in 2014/2015), and students’ course evaluations were at or above the average for .25-credit classes (82% favorable for the course compared to the average of 82%, and 96% favorable for the teaching compared to the average of 87%).

Some of this year’s workshops were:

  • Startup Weekend
  • YearUp’s Model: From Poverty to Professional Careers (Scott Donohue ’86)
  • Crowdfunding Bootcamp (Hyungsoo Kim ’02)
  • Successful Leadership: A Crash Course for Wes Students (Strauss Zelnick ’79)
  • Major Trends in the Non-Profit World (Lee Bodner ’91, Julie Meyer ’79)
  • Shasha Seminar for Human Concerns: Wesleyan Social Impact Summit
  • Education & Career “Next Steps” for Entrepreneurs (Shereem Herdon-Brown ’96)
  • Learn to Commit: a free one-day coding bootcamp for women and girls
  • Social Entrepreneurship & Law (Cristhian de Jesus Escobar ’00)
  • “Build With, Not For” (Laurenellen McCann ’09)
  • Fundraising, Communications, and Leadership for Nonprofits (Gerald Richards ’90, Syed Ali ’13, Sharon Greenberger ’88 P’19) 


The Patricelli Center began curating a list of Wesleyan classes that relate to social entrepreneurship. We hope this will further assist students in connecting their curricular and co-curricular social impact work. This year’s list was especially robust, including Nonprofits and Social Change co-taught by Jeff Shames ’77 and Rob Rosenthal, and Design for Social Change taught by Ric Grefe. 

More than 50 constituents have 24/7 ID-card access to the PCSE Board Room. This space is a hub of social innovation on campus, used for idea and venture incubation, service-learning course TA sessions, peer advising, and more.

The Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship continues to rely on these key partnerships:

2016/2017 PREVIEW

Next year, we are excited to offer a Patricelli Center Fellowship, a project-based, cohort-style, for-credit learning opportunity for social entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, and changemakers from across majors and class years. Under the leadership of incoming PCSE Advisory Board co-chair Ellen Jewett ’81 P’18 and returning co-chair Lara Galinsky ’96, we will also continue to look ahead and envision the future of social entrepreneurship at Wesleyan.


To learn more or find out how you can support the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship, visit or contact