Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship 2016/2017 Year in Review

In his inaugural address on September 21, 1831, Wesleyan’s first President Willbur Fisk said “Education should be directed with reference to two objects—the good of the individual, and the good of the world.” Today, the University’s mission is to provide “an education in the liberal arts that is characterized by boldness, rigor, and practical idealism.” These foundations inform and inspire the work of the Patricelli Center, which teaches practical skills, builds a community of changemakers, and forges pathways for student entrepreneurs and innovators from all classes and majors.

The Center is only six years old, but thanks to leadership of the Patricelli Family Foundation, Propel Capital, and many individual donors, we are now an endowed program and a permanent fixture at Wesleyan University. We are poised to grow while remaining nimble and responsive to increasing student interest in social entrepreneurship and rapidly changing conditions in the world around us.


In the six years since it was founded, the Center has awarded a total of $250,000 in grants to 120 students or student-led projects. This year, we gave three $5,000 seed grants (which fund the launch or early stage growth of a project or venture), two $4,000 internship grants (which fund an unpaid summer experience in the social sector), and twelve sponsorship grants of varying amounts (which support entrepreneurship ecosystem-building events and programs at Wesleyan).

Thirty-seven undergraduates enrolled in the inaugural Patricelli Center Fellowship course

The Patricelli Center launched a Fellowship — a year-long, project-based, cohort-style program for student entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, and changemakers. Thirty-seven students enrolled and worked on projects and ventures ranging from peer mentorship in Atlanta to health access in rural Ethiopia. Eighteen students have already enrolled for 2017/2018, and at least twelve more will be selected in the fall.

2016/2017 Patricelli Center Fellows received a variety of external recognition, including:

89 alumni, students, faculty, staff, and local professionals volunteered as speakers, mentors, pitch coaches, grant judges, advisory board members

Princeton Review named Wesleyan the #1 school for “making an impact” for the second time.

Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) named the Patricelli Center a “Murphy’s Innovator of the Month”.

Patricelli Center director Makaela Kingsley participated in the statewide effort to catalyze Entrepreneurship & Innovation in Higher Education, was a panelist at the AshokaU Exchange conference and the Impact Hartford Design Lab, and served as a Coach for the AshokaU Commons in both Fall and Spring.

Wesleyan’s strategic plan was updated in Beyond 2020. With its emphasis on “teaching students to become translators and innovators as they explore problems and opportunities that matter to people inside and outside of academia,” Beyond 2020 highlights the relevance and importance of the Patricelli Center at this particular moment in Wesleyan’s history.


In April 2017, Wesleyan alumni and students were recognized during the CT Entrepreneurship Awards held in Branford, CT. Pictured left to right: Ben Florsheim ’14, Gregory Makoul ’82, Momi Afelin ’19, Nebiyu Daniel ’18, Devon Feuer ’20, and Makaela Kingsley ’98

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 fourth year, this grant was administered in a competition format, and winners were selected from a strong pool of finalists who submitted written business plans and pitched live to an audience of judges and guests. Applicants were assessed on their project design, leadership qualities, and potential for social impact. The three 2017 Seed Grant winners are:

  • Appalachian Scholar Project (Dennis White ’19): Appalachian Scholar Project believes our futures lies in education. We intend to transform rural American communities by improving access to our nation’s best universities.
  • Dream Chasers (AJ Wilson ’18, Rhea Drozdenko ’18, Julian Payne, and Celina Cotton): Dream Chasers is a three year old registered non-profit organization that is dedicated to closing the academic and opportunity gaps in the South and Midwest through peer mentorship, events and workshops, and community engagement.
  • Move and Connect (Shingo Umehara ‘18, Kotaro Aoki ’16, Kaito Abe ‘15, Eiko Otake): Move and Connect is a platform in Tokyo, Japan, where people across different occupations and over different generations learn through liberal arts education, especially artistic expression, body movement, and critical engagement with history and culture. We believe that liberal arts education combined with creative art workshop can create active agents and unite people with different backgrounds.

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

  • Government and Romance Language Studies double major Andrea Weires ’19 will spend her summer at the Latin American Working Group (LAWG), a DC-based nonprofit coalition, specifically working with their “Mexico, Border and Migration Program.” Andrea writes, “LAWG maintains relationships with lawmakers, relationships which they in turn use to connect Latin American social activists to the legislative process. The group is committed to just foreign policy  toward Latin America, and the first hand perspectives they lend to policy debates have affected change in legislation, especially toward Cuba.” Through this experience, Andrea hopes to gain insight into effective advocacy for foreign policy issues, build connections with advocates affecting foreign policy in DC,  and gain practical experience in observing and influencing the foreign policy process. She notes, “I also hope that this internship will help me be more active in campus social justice. I would like to bring some of the ideas about advocacy and Latin American issues back to Wesleyan, and I hope to lead other students to action on them.”
  • Film major Ruby Lanet ’18 is using her grant to do both an internship and an independent project. She will be a film production assistant at Working Theater Disorder, a professional collective weaving performance and film, and she will complete a documentary that she began working on this year. The documentary explores the line between the Deaf and the hearing world, specifically, Ruby writes, “The question of assimilation into the hearing world – a highly controversial debate amongst educators and Deaf folk. My interest in exploring Deafness, hearing assimilation, and sign language in the form of a documentary film comes not just from my personal connection to these issues, but also from various American Studies courses that I’ve taken (Health, Illness, and Power and Popular Culture and Social Justice) that examined disability culture and questioned assimilation tendencies as erasure.” Wesleyan connections abound in Ruby’s summer plans: Her internship supervisor is Marianna Ellenberg ’99, co-founder of Working Theater Disorder, and her documentary film advisors are Theater professor Marcela Oteiza, visiting Film professor Oksana Kazmina, and video services manager Melissa Sullivan Rocha.

Shantelle Brown ‘19 received a Davis Projects for Peace grant to launch Sisters for Empowerment & Equality (SEE), which aims to address gender inequality in Jamaican culture through an art-based mentorship program for girls age 13 to 16.

Meanwhile, past PCSE grantees continued growing their enterprises. Some recent milestones include:

  • Becca Winkler ’16, founder of Walking Elephants Home, and her team at Mahouts Elephant Foundation (MEF) won the 2017 European Outdoor Conservation Association (EOCA) grant.
  • Let’s Be Clear, founded by Rachel Verner ’15, raised $25,924 on Kickstarter.
  • Claudia Kahindi, who created an English language education program in her hometown in coastal Kenya, was named a 2017 Newman Civic Fellow.
  • Kindergarten Kickstart, a Middletown-based initiative and past winner of the PCSE Seed Grant, just began its sixth year, and ZimCode, a coding school in Zimbabwe and past Davis Projects for Peace grantee, began its second.
  • The Wesleyan Doula Project is beginning to replicate its unique model at colleges such as Carleton College in Minnesota and Oberlin College in Ohio.


Alok Appadurai

Alok Appadurai ’00, founder of Fed By Threads, A Beautiful Body Project, and Good Elephant, gave a talk called “10 Vital Tools for Change Makers” to Allbritton Center students

In 2016/2017, the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship offered courses through the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life:

  • CSPL262 Introduction to Social Entrepreneurship (0.25 credit, 2nd and 4th quarter)
  • CSPL264/CSPL265 Patricelli Center Fellowship (0.5 credit per semester, 2 sections in Fall, 2 sections in Spring)

The Patricelli Center Fellowship, a new course in 2016/2017, is a one-year, project-based, cohort-style program. Fellows are a self-selected, committed, and diverse cohort of individuals or teams from all classes and majors who are passionate about innovation, creativity, and problem-solving; identify as entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, changemakers, activists, disruptors, designers, inventors, and/or thought leaders; and have tenacity, empathy, interdisciplinary thinking, strong work ethic, and the ability to work independently. Some Fellows launch or run their own project or venture, while others find alternate paths to social impact.

Before launching the program, we expected 10-15 students to enroll in this pilot. We ended up with 37. You can read about them here and view the syllabus here.

Upon completion, Fellows gave feedback including:

  • “As it was the pilot, I sometimes felt lost with what I was supposed to be doing, but quickly found that that was the beauty of the course. We create it, and we benefit from it.”
  • This class “gave me time to figure out how to tell my story, which is invaluable.”
  • “It was a transformative moment in my Wesleyan career where I was able to propel an idea into action to create something tangible. Now…I feel compelled to do the same with other things I’ve been meaning to do – I’ve been inspired to start writing more and putting myself out there in ways I’ve been too afraid to in the past. Thank you.”


The Patricelli Center continues to curate 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 numerous key partnerships, including:

2017/2018 PREVIEW

Next year, we will ramp up the Patricelli Center Fellowship, incorporating many lessons learned from our pilot year. To recognize the rigor of the program and the commitment shown by Fellows, the course will increase from 0.5-credits per semester to 1.0-credit per semester.

PCSE will also initiate a partnership with Wesleyan’s new design and engineering program, IDEAS, and consider possibilities for external partnerships with other colleges and universities across the state of Connecticut.


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