Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship 2017/2018 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 the theory and practice of social change and entrepreneurship to Wesleyan undergraduates from all classes and majors.

gathering at New Profit in October 2017

Siri McGuire ’17, Taiga Arake ’17, Alvin Chitena ’19, AJ Wilson ’18, Makaela Kingsley, and Ferdinand Quayson ’20 at an October 2017 alumni event hosted by Sam Hiersteiner ’04 at New Profit in Boston. Siri, Taiga, Alvin, AJ, and Ferdinand were in Boston for the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) conference.

Now entering our eighth year, the Patricelli Center is a well-established fixture not just at Wesleyan, but also among our peer institutions. Based on student demand and pedagogical potential, increasing numbers of colleges and universities are offering social entrepreneurship programming. The Patricelli Center provides a successful model that combines academic and co-curricular programs, an array of project-based learning opportunities, and the rigor that characterizes a Wesleyan education.  

Through their work with the Patricelli Center, our students develop:

  • Problem-solving mindsets and skillsets
  • Creative confidence and competence
  • Addiction to lean experimentation (hypothesis –> test –> learn –> improve –> repeat)
  • Lived experience leadership

In order to teach and instill these traits, the Patricelli Center offers a year-long 2-credit fellowship, a 6-week 0.25-credit intro course, a nonprofit board residency, four types of grants, 1:1 advising and mentoring, and collaborative workspace on campus. These programs are made possible by our generous donors, including Propel Capital, Newman’s Own Foundation, the Robert and Margaret Patricelli Family Foundation, and the Norman Ernst Priebatsch Endowed Fund for Entrepreneurship.


In the seven years since it was founded, the Center has awarded a total of $305,000 in grants to 142 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)
  • six $2,500-5,000 internship grants (which fund an unpaid summer experience in the social sector)
  • one $10,000 Davis Projects for Peace grant (which funds a student-led summer project designed to promote peace or address root causes of conflict)
  • twelve conference grants of varying amounts (which provide financial assistance to students who wish to attend off-campus conferences or other events related to their social entrepreneurship work or career planning)

The Patricelli Center Fellowship — a year-long, project-based, cohort-style program for student entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, and changemakers — graduated its second cohort of twenty-six students. The Fellows worked on projects and ventures ranging from education access in Ghana to reproductive health disparities in New York to ideological diversity right here on campus. Fourteen students have already enrolled for 2018/2019, and five more will be selected in the fall.

Jaylen Berry and Nate Taylor

Jaylen Berry ’18 and Nate Taylor ’18 at the CT Entrepreneurship Awards

Current and past 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

Patricelli Center director Makaela Kingsley was invited to be on the Advisory Committee for CTNext’s Higher Education Initiative, which offers grants to foster collaboration among institutions of higher education and strengthen institutional capacity as it relates to innovation and entrepreneurship.

The Patricelli Center is working closely with the Middlesex Chamber of Commerce’s MEWS+, as well as the Connect Middletown project initiated by Alex Garcia ’17 and now led by Noah Kahan ’19. 


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 fifth consecutive 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 2018 Seed Grant winners are:

  • Cardinal Kids (George Perez ’20, Jessica Russell ’20, Jenny Chelmow ’19, Vera Benkoil ’18, and Katie Murray ’19) – a financially self-sustaining program that will bring affordable arts, tech, and literacy programming to Middletown youth.
  • Eat at the Table Theatre Company (Kai Williams ’20 and Emma Morgan Bennett) – E.A.T.T. is a non-profit theatre arts organization that is both founded and operated by and offers membership to actors of color under 22 years old. We are dedicated to creating theater opportunities for young actors of color in New York, as a means of combating discriminatory and racist practices within the theater industry, and to focusing on developing and centering the work of marginalized artists.
  • Young Achievers Foundation Ghana (Ferdinand Quayson ’20, Archibald Enninful-Yale University, Felix Agbavor-Drexel University, Derrick Dwamena-Michigan State) – YAF Ghana is a student-run initiative which promotes access to higher education for students in Northern Ghana through scholarship workshops and innovative in-school mentorship programs.

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

  • Jaylen Berry ’18 will spend the summer growing the Jaylen D. Berry Foundation, an organization that he created to close the opportunity gap and enable “pro-mobility” for underrepresented women, men and families in Connecticut.
  • Sarah Connelly ’19 will intern in the New York office of SHOFCO (Shining Hope for Communities), founded by Kennedy ’12 and Jessica ’09 Odede.
  • Frederick Corpuz ’20 will launch his project, SALIN Ed., which aims to increase access and implementation of online education in public school education in the Philippines.
  • Carly Gilmore ’19 will intern at CEPA (Center for Embodied Pedagogy and Action), a nonprofit in Puerto Rico founded by Melissa Rosario ’05.
  • Weiliang Song ’20 will intern with the Wesleyan Doula Project, a student-led reproductive justice organization that received seed funding from the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship in 2015.
  • Cat Wulff ’18 will be spending the summer working with the Middletown (CT) Youth Services Bureau and EveryoneOn, a national nonprofit that creates social and economic opportunity by connecting everyone to the internet.

The Rural Access team – Emanual Fetene ’20, Momi Afelin ’19, Nebs Daniel ’18, Betty Bekele ’19, and Lina Marzouk ’19 – received a Davis Projects for Peace grant to build a microenterprise in Ethiopia during summer 2018. Rural Access partners with rural communities to increase health education and access by providing resources and programs tailored toward community-specific needs.

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

  • Becca Winkler ’16, 2016 Seed Grant winner and founder of Walking Elephants Home, along with her colleagues at Mahouts Elephant Foundation (MEF), were approached by a local indigenous community seeking to generate income while protecting their land and elephants. Working together, MEF and this community launched a new ecotourism project called “LIFE: living in the forest with elephants.”  
  • Alvin Chitena ‘19, founder of ZimCode and winner of the 2017 Davis Projects for Peace grant, was named a 2018 Newman Civic Fellow.
  • 2014 Seed Grant winner Wishing Wells has partnered with a team of students at Middlesex Community College who are currently building and documenting Wishing Wells 2.0.


In 2017/2018, 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 (1.0 credit per semester, 2 sections in Fall, 2 sections in Spring)
  • CSPL280/CSPL281 Nonprofit Boards: Theory and Practice (1.0 credit per semester)
case study workshop in CSPL265

Patricelli Center Fellows learn social change theory and put it into practice in their own organizations. Here, Fellows learned about three nonprofits and documented their missions, goals, theories of change, and other attributes.

The Patricelli Center Fellowship (CSPL264/265) 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. 

You can read about them here and view the syllabus here.

Upon completion, Fellows gave feedback including:

  • “The fellowship pushed me to expand my knowledge as well as my comfort zone speaking publicly and talking to people in a professional context. The fellowship offered me further opportunities to continue my work in Middletown for the next few years. When I think about the courses I have taken at Wesleyan that will stick with me for the rest of my life, I know the Patricelli fellowship will be at the top of that list.”
  • “This course was my favorite because it is super hands-on, application-based, and great for embracing failure”
  • “Best course I’ve taken at Wes period.”

The Nonprofit Board Residency (CSPL280/281) is a one-year experiential learning opportunity. This for-credit course provides an opportunity for Wesleyan students to learn about the nonprofit sector and work closely with a local nonprofit board of directors. Students attend board meetings and complete a board-level project identified by the partner organization. Students also meet weekly for a seminar course taught by Clifton Watson, director of the Jewett Center for Community Partnerships, in which they learn about nonprofit management theory and practice.


It is important to note that the Patricelli Center works closely with numerous on- and off-campus partners to cultivate the social entrepreneurship ecosystem at Wesleyan. These partners include:

  • Digital Wes is the alumni network for startups, tech, and entrepreneurship
Ben Mahnke '94 from Room 40 Group

Ben Mahnke ’94, co-founder and partner of The Room40 Group, gave a lecture on social sector organizations in January 2018

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 Activism and Theories of Change taught by Leslie Gabel-Brett ’75, Participatory Design: From Helping to Solidarity taught by Barbara Adams, and Storytelling and Social Change taught by Stephen Friedman ’91.  

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.

2018/2019 PREVIEW

Next academic year, the Patricelli Center will continue to offer classes, grants, advising, and shared work space for students. We will also continue to engage alumni and community partners in all of our programs and seek increasing opportunities for collaboration with other Wesleyan departments. In all of our programs, we will infuse a greater degree of what we are calling “fearless experimentation” — opportunities for students and partners to test their hypotheses about social change in lean, intentional, and ethical ways. This approach will enhance student learning, apply knowledge from the classroom in real-world settings, normalize failure and growth mindset, and – in the best cases – create lasting social impact. 

Thanks to a grant from CTNext, the Patricelli Center will team up with reSET to offer a business incubator class through the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public life in fall 2018. Seats will be reserved in the course for students from Middlesex Community College who can enroll at no cost.

Also thanks to a grant from CTNext, the Patricelli Center will benefit from a new intercollegiate program hosted by UConn. Through this program, expert mentors will be available to advise Wesleyan student and faculty entrepreneurs, and Wesleyan faculty will be invited to workshops on entrepreneurship as it relates to their own research and scholarship.