Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship 2018/2019 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.

The Patricelli Center Fellowship — a year-long, project-based, cohort-style program for student entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, and changemakers — graduated its third cohort of twenty students.

Now entering our ninth 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
  • Comfort with lean experimentation (hypothesis –> test –> learn –> improve –> repeat)
  • Lived experience leadership

To teach and instill these traits, in 2018/2019 the Patricelli Center offered a variety of programs with varying levels of breadth and depth:

  • a year-long 2-credit fellowship, including custom-matched alumni mentors for each fellow
  • a 1-semester Startup Incubator course
  • a 6-week 0.25-credit intro course
  • a nonprofit board residency (offered through the Jewett Center for Community Partnerships)
  • four types of grants, including coaching from volunteers and an entrepreneur-in-residence
  • 1:1 advising and mentoring
  • collaborative workspace on campus and free access to a Middletown co-working facility

These programs were made possible by our generous donors, including Propel Capital, Newman’s Own Foundation, the Robert and Margaret Patricelli Family Foundation, the Norman Ernst Priebatsch Endowed Fund for Entrepreneurship, and CTNext.


Wesleyan was once again named the #1 “Impact School” by The Princeton Review

In the eight years since it was founded, the Center has awarded a total of $370,000 in grants to 165 students or student-led projects. This year, we gave:

  • four $5,000 seed grants (which fund the launch or early stage growth of a project or venture)
  • five $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 third cohort of twenty students. The Fellows worked on projects and ventures ranging from improving outcomes for children in foster care to tackling the wealth gap through financial literacy education to suicide prevention through storytelling. In May, they gave public reflections on their learning journeys and outcomes. One student said “the Patricelli Fellowship has inspired me to be a lifelong action taker and problem solver!” Another wrote, “The Patricelli Fellowship remains the most authentic learning experience I have ever had. I continue to draw on the lessons you shared with us, as somewhat of a bridge between academia and the messy reality we face. And, it continues to fill in the why’s and the how’s of the issues I hope to spend a lifetime addressing. I say lifetime, because I now realize that change is not a race and is instead a slow grind.”

The Center featured fifteen alumni and local professionals in its spring 2019 speaker series. Topics included: An introduction to the social sector (Ben Mahnke ’94, Room 40 Group), Bi-Directional Workforce Development: the role of the workplace in fostering social change (Jordyn Lexton ‘08, Drive Change), Equity and Inclusion Strategy: a participatory workshop (Melinda Weekes-Laidlow ’89, Beautiful Ventures), Philanthropy from a funder’s point of view (Nicole Rodriguez Leach ’97, Aprendes Foundation) and Breakthrough leaders and systems change initiatives (Sam Hiersteiner ’04, New Profit) 

A pilot Startup Incubator course ran in Fall 2018 thanks to support from CTNext and reSET. This experiential learning program was designed to teach and enable student entrepreneurs to develop sustainable business models from their ideas. Eighteen students w

Nicole Rodriguez Leach ’97 of the Aprendes Foundation gave a talk entitled “Philanthropy from a funder’s point of view”

orked independently or in pairs to incubate 15 ventures. At the conclusion of the course, one student reported “It’s really exciting to be learning something with the intention of putting it into practice beyond the classroom.”

The Patricelli Center partnered with UConn and others to host an entrepreneurship bootcamp for faculty and professionals from across the state interested in commercializing their research.  

AJ Wilson ‘18 served as the Patricelli Center’s inaugural Entrepreneur-in-Residence 

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

Patricelli Center director Makaela Kingsley served on the Advisory Committee for CTNext’s Higher Education Initiative, as a Mentor for the MEWS+ (Middletown Entrepreneurship Workspace Plus), as a guest speaker for Connecticut College’s Fast Forward program, as a facilitator at Mount Holyoke’s Social Impact Entrepreneurship in the Liberal Arts: Curricular & Co-Curricular Innovations & Connections conference sponsored by AALAC (The Alliance to Advance Liberal Arts Colleges).

Seven Wesleyan students pitched at the CT Business Plan Competition in April. Left to right: Babila Fomuteh ’21, Ferdinand Quayson ’20, Ray Peters ’18, Leslie Maldonado ’19, Aaron Stryker ’19, Raphael Goldstein ’21, Tyler Lederer-Plaskett ’21

Patricelli Center students received a variety of external recognition, including:


2019 PCSE Seed Grant recipient Downstream Podcasting, founded by Alli Fam ’19, aims to diversify the podcasting industry by providing workshops for underrepresented students and the opportunity for these students to work on Downstream’s own podcast series, “Act Local, Be Vocal.”

Four $5,000 Seed Grants were awarded to fund the launch or early-stage growth of a Wesleyan-connected project, program, or venture. For the sixth 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 2019 Seed Grant recipients are:

  • Accessible and Affordable Sanitation for Women (Sydney Ochieng ’22 and Ziyaan Virji from Aga Khan Academy Mombasa) – A student run initiative that seeks to increase access to proper sanitation for young school girls in Mombasa Kenya. AASW empowers girls globally to self-produce their own menstrual materials sustainably and aims to break down the social stigma of menstruation locally. Our goal is to provide a safe, cost effective, eco-friendly and long-lasting alternative for menstrual care.
  • Dharma Gates (Aaron Stryker ’19, Miles Bukiet ’11, Nicholas Antonellis ’17) – Dharma Gates offers a semester of intensive training at a Zen Monastery in the US, bridged by workshops on compassionate activism, contemplative neuroscience, and Buddhist environmentalism. Our curriculum is designed to train a generation of compassionate leaders and offer an affordable alternative to traditional gap year programs.
  • Downstream Podcasting (Alli Fam ’19 with support from Ben Saldich ’19 and Isaac Price-Slade ’19) – Downstream podcasting aims to diversify the podcasting industry in terms of teams and content by providing workshops for underrepresented students and the opportunity for these students to work on Downstream’s own podcast series, Act Local, Be Vocal. The series highlights the work of local activists and non-profits, allowing them to reach potential donors, volunteers and people who can benefit from their services and message with greater ease.
  • Foster Care Support Project (Luke Lezhanskyy ’20, Katerin Osorto ’20, Ruby Lu ’19, Angela Duong ’21) – The Foster Care Support Project (FCSP) is an effort to support and empower foster children of all ages by connecting them with students and young adults. Our work is guided by an ambitious goal — to ultimately reach all of Connecticut’s foster children.

The 2019 $10,000 Davis Projects for Peace Grant was awarded to Ferdinand Quayson ’20 and his team for Young Achievers Foundation (YAF) Ghana’s 2019 summer programs. YAF Ghana “makes it possible for disadvantaged students to access scholarships and funding avenues available to them to pursue higher education.” 

Five students received summer grants from the Patricelli Center to pursue internships, research projects, or entrepreneurial ventures:

  • Emelio Weber ‘20 will intern at Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid (TRLA), which provides civil legal aid to 23,000 low-income Texans every year, ensuring low-income individuals in need of justice have access to advocates. He will work with TRLA’s Director of Analytics and Research, Lizzie Shackney ‘17. Emelio writes, “Data is vital to decision making and evaluation in most organizations, but it is somewhat new to the non-profit world. Collecting data through academic research and analyzing it effectively to improve access to justice is key to helping nonprofits like TRLA work more effectively and efficiently.”
  • Emma Roush ’21 will be a Strategic Marketing Intern at American Program Bureau, Inc. Emma writes “The company values the expression of diverse opinions through open forum, a mission which I find extremely captivating. APB prioritizes social justice, and seeks out opportunities to collaborate with youth entrepreneurship and gender equality organizations.”
  • Joshua Reed ’21 will use his summer grant to work on his venture, The College Application Fairness (CAF) Project, which aims to “lessen the difficulty of college admissions for several marginalized demographics, namely low-income and international students, by maintaining several directories of scholarships, interviewing admissions officers at reputable universities, and giving talks to high school students in impoverished communities.”
  • Stephanie Aquino ’20, a CSS and Italian Studies double major, will spend the summer conducting senior thesis research on the cooperative economy in Bologna, Italy, and volunteering for Libera, an anti-mafia NGO whose objective is to redistribute land that had originally been illegally seized by the mafia and form cooperatives on these lands and other assets entrusted by the government to local communities for social reuse.
  • Aiti Rai ’20 will travel to the Kiryandongo Refugees Settlement in Uganda, where she will organize a soccer tournament and storytelling workshop in partnership with a local NGO called Windle International Uganda while also conducting research for her senior thesis. Born and raised in a tiny refugee camp in Nepal, Aiti aspires to become “a voice for refugees around the world, especially those refugees who are discriminated against by society.”


Julia Adler ’20 and Eunes Harun ’20 attended the 2019 NextGen Summit in NYC.

Twelve students received support from the PCSE Conference Grant fund. With coaching from the Center on how to leverage these experiences to network and learn, these students attended off-campus conferences presented by Net Impact, Afrotech, Girlboss, Consult Your Community, Grace Hopper, and other national and international organizations.

Several Patricelli Center students received support from the new Jewett Center Innovation Fund including Anthony Price ‘20 (Be The Change Venture); Noah Kahan ‘19 (Beyond Bus Cuts); Jordan Bonner ‘19 and team (Cardinal Community Classic);  George Perez ’20, Jessica Russell ’20, Jenny Chelmow ’19, and Katie Murray ’19 (Cardinal Kids); and Kriti Narayanan ‘20 (Moving Conversations/Making Community) 


In 2018/2019, the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship offered courses through the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life:

  • CSPL239 Startup Incubator: The Art and Science of Launching Your Idea (1.0 credit, fall semester, syllabus)
  • CSPL262 Introduction to Social Entrepreneurship (0.25 credit, 2nd and 4th quarter, syllabus)
  • CSPL264/CSPL265 Patricelli Center Fellowship (1.0 credit per semester, fall and spring, syllabus)
  • CSPL280/CSPL281 Nonprofit Boards: Theory and Practice (0.5 credits per semester, fall and spring, taught by the Jewett Center Director, information)

Patricelli Center students share their advice and encouragement with their peers

The Startup Incubator (CSPL239), offered in partnership with reSET with support from CTNext, is an experiential learning program designed to teach and enable student entrepreneurs to develop sustainable business models from their ideas. The program brings together an ambitious, committed, and diverse group of individuals from all classes and majors who are passionate about developing successful solutions to challenges; identify as entrepreneurs, disruptors, and thought leaders; and have the tenacity, work ethic, and ability to succeed. All participating students have a promising business idea and take the course with the intention of launching or running their own venture.

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.

The Nonprofit Board Residency (CSPL280/281) 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:

  • The Patricelli Center, Jewett Center for Community Partnerships (JCCP), Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life (ACSPL), Service-Learning, and Civic Engagement Certificate collaborate as a hub of civic engagement theory, research, experience, and practice. We are all housed together in Allbritton Hall in the heart of campus.
  • Academic programs such as IDEAS, Education Studies, and QAC are natural feeders for the Patricelli Center.
  • The Gordon Career Center’s job and internship databases, resume service, and workshops complement PCSE programs.
  • Kai Entrepreneurship Wesleyan, The Wesleyan Consulting Group, The Wesleyan Doula Project, Be The Change Venture, and other impact-driven and entrepreneurial groups on campus offer experiential learning opportunities for students.
  • Digital Wes is the alumni network for startups, tech, and entrepreneurship
  • The PCSE Advisory Board and alumni volunteers provide invaluable advice and support for the Center. Special thanks go out to the alumni, parents, students, faculty, staff, and friends who served as presenters, mentors, advisory board members, and grant judges in 2018/2019.
  • Key partners across Connecticut inform and support the work of the Patricelli Center including the Tsai CITY at Yale, reSET, The Entrepreneurship Foundation, and the Connecticut Conference of Independent Colleges.
  • Social entrepreneurship colleagues from other institutions come together through AshokaU and the Alliance to Advance Liberal Arts Colleges (AALAC) to share ideas and resources.

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 included SOC246: Social Movements, WRCT250 Storytelling and Social Change, CGST121: Contemporary Social Issues, Leadership, and Scholarship, CSPL235: Activism and Theories of Change, and GOVT326: Political Consulting for International Business.

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.

2019/2020 PREVIEW

Next academic year, the Patricelli Center will continue to offer classes, grants, advising, and shared work space for students. We will offer a second Startup Incubator course, incorporating feedback from last fall’s pilot. Instead of the Fellowship class, we plan to offer a Project-Based Learning Lab connected to a course or academic department outside the PCSE. We are also considering offering a Systems Change Leadership course in which students will study the systems that shape social issues and understand the current solutions landscapes and power relationships before seeking solutions.

We will 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 continue to infuse “fearless experimentation” — opportunities for students 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.