A MESSAGE FROM THE PATRICELLI CENTER DIRECTOR
As I write this, I am sitting in my office on the ground floor of Allbritton Hall, where the WesStation mailroom was during my undergrad days in the mid-1990s and where the Patricelli Center opened in November 2011. Through my window I see the PAC renovation underway, and just across Church Street there’s evidence that the Science Center project is about to begin. After two years of what has felt like constant destruction — from the COVID-19 virus and the strategies we used to mitigate it, to divisive culture wars in America, to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and ongoing conflicts in Yemen, Myanmar, Ethiopia, and elsewhere — I’m choosing to look at these construction sites as a symbol of renewal.
That spirit of optimism provides a foundation for all the work I do as director of the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship. As a Wesleyan graduate and 22-year veteran employee, I have come to see entrepreneurial thinking as the perfect complement to critical thinking. While the latter helps students interrogate the world they inhabit — to dissect concepts and see their component parts through multiple perspectives — the former helps students build out of that rubble. Entrepreneurial thinking offers a sense of pragmatism, hope, and agency in a time when those are in short supply.
Two weeks ago, Wesleyan awarded an honorary degree to Gloria Steinem. She has spent her lifetime interrogating the patriarchy and observing injustice — in other words, practicing critical thinking — but she has also been a builder — an entrepreneurial thinker. She co-founded Ms. magazine, helped establish the Ms. Foundation and the National Women’s Political Caucus, produced conversation-shifting films such as Multiple Personalities: The Search for Deadly Memories and Better Off Dead, and so much more. Her journey to understand society’s ills led her to acts of construction, not destruction.
In her speech to the 793 members of the graduating class of 2022, Ms. Steinem said “As you may have guessed by now, I am a hope-a-holic. I believe that hope is a form of planning.” Anyone who knows me well will understand why this made me smile: hope and planning are two of my very favorite things.
As we wrap up from the 2021/2022 academic year and look ahead to 2022/2023, I encourage all of us to practice both critical thinking and entrepreneurial thinking in tandem — to recognize systems-level and symptom-level problems, understand their histories and root causes, engage with the people and places most affected by them, and construct solutions. In doing so, we will cultivate hope in ourselves and our communities.
Warm wishes from Wesleyan,
Makaela Kingsley ’98
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.
Now entering our twelfth 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 skill sets
- Creative confidence and competence
- Comfort with ambiguity
- Ability to translate theory to practice
To teach and instill these traits, in 2021/2022 the Patricelli Center offered a variety of programs with varying levels of breadth and depth:
- a 1-semester Startup Incubator course (fall and spring)
- a 1-semester social entrepreneurship course called the Patricelli Center Fellowship (fall and spring)
- a 1-semester, for-credit, semi-independent study program called Engaged Projects (fall and spring)
- a 0.5-credit System Mapping course (spring only) and participation in the Map The System global challenge
- four types of grants
- participation in regional collegiate entrepreneurship events and Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U)
- mentorship and coaching by faculty, staff, alumni, and community partners
Patricelli Center programs are made possible by our generous supporters, including Propel Capital, the Robert and Margaret Patricelli Family Foundation, and many individual donors.
2021/2022 NEWS & HIGHLIGHTS
In the 11 years since it was founded, the Center has awarded a total of $537,700 in grants to 237 students or student-led projects. This year specifically, we awarded $83,100 to 36 grantees.
- three $5,000 seed grants (which fund the launch or early-stage growth of a project or venture)
- nine $3000-5,000 internship grants (which fund an unpaid or low-paid summer experience)
- two $20,000 Davis Projects for Peace grants (which fund a student-led summer project designed to promote peace or address root causes of conflict)
- twenty-two $200 micro-grants for student creatives and innovators
We welcomed a new Patricelli Center Intern (Itzel Valdez ‘23) and 30 new Patricelli Center Fellows this year. Fellows enroll in a 1-semester course (CSPL262) where they study a social or environmental problem, map the existing solutions landscape, and design and pitch an innovative solution. Their ideas range from new for-profit, non-profit, or hybrid ventures to policy changes, activist movements, and “intrapreneurial” endeavors to create impact from within an existing institution. Their challenge is to propose an intervention that, as Roger Martin and Sally Osberg explain it, “targets an unfortunate but stable equilibrium that causes the neglect, marginalization, or suffering of a segment of humanity… and ultimately affects the establishment of a new stable equilibrium that secures permanent benefit for the targeted group and society at large.”
When asked what they learned or how they grew as a result of the Fellowship experience, this year’s Fellows reported:
- I was forced out of my comfort zone and learned important life skills.
- I can operate with less direction than I previously thought, and I should ask for help when needed.
- I learned to be patient and trust the process; there is more than one way to solve a problem and I’ve learned to rework, reshape, and restructure ideas to create change.
- I can be a much more effective problem solver than I would have expected. It’s cool to be stuck on an issue for a while and then finally figure out a solution that was never even on your radar at first.
- I learned that I am a lot more capable of success than I thought; even during times when success feels impossible.
- I appreciated being given the time to research in-depth a problem that means so much to me.
For students who want to build and launch an idea, the Patricelli Center also continued to offer the Startup Incubator course with 13 students in the fall and 13 students in the spring. Ventures included:
- Burdick Genetics & Fertility (Tyler Burdick ’22) — curing monoallelic genetic diseases prior to conception
- Emergent Bars (Jon Hollister ’22) — pre & probiotic, amino acid & vitamin-rich energy bars designed for people working in the fast-paced emergency healthcare field
- ReFloat (Quin Steinmetz ’24) — environmentally conscious pool toys
- DORM (Malcolm Davol ‘24) — DORM provides affordable, quality wooden dorm furniture
- Givables (Lars Delin ‘22) — a decentralized community of artists and creators aiming to re-write the narrative of web3.0 in the art world
- Moments (Kiona McCormick ‘22) — a mobile app that provides guided movement exercises to support mental and physical well-being
Rounding out the Patricelli Center’s academic offerings was Engaged Projects, a semi-independent educational endeavor that empowers students to study a topic of their choice and produce a final product for a public — not academic — audience. The 18 students who enrolled this year reflected on what made the learning experience unique for them. Their comments included:
- This experience has changed me by showing me how difficult yet fulfilling it can be to start a project from scratch.
- I learned how to meet a community that had no intention of seeking an outside perspective and slowly get to know them. The process of engaging with a new community is one that takes time, care and generosity from both sides. I leave this project having a more clear understanding of how to join a new community as a visiting catalyst for change.
- I learned how important attention to detail is in order to portray an accurate and impactful narrative.
- I learned to push through adversity and keep working when technical difficulties presented themselves. Overall, I have learned how rewarding it can be to create a meaningful project that can help others.
Although the Patricelli Center’s programs are largely directed at students, we are occasionally able to offer opportunities for faculty and alumni as well. In November, we co-hosted the 29th Annual Dwight L. Greene Symposium which featured 6 alumni exploring the topic of Black Entrepreneurship. In April, we offered a session on patents and commercialization for faculty in Division 3 (natural sciences and mathematics) featuring Dr. Mostafa Analoui, Executive Director of the Technology Incubation Program at UConn, and Sherri Dente, Esq., director of the Bauer Innovation Center at the University of Bridgeport. In May, we hosted a panel entitled “Funders and Founders” for alumni. The panel was co-hosted with WeSpark!, a new alumni group that aims to ignite innovation and entrepreneurship in the Wesleyan community. To get involved, contact WeSpark! co-founder Marisa McClary ‘94.
As in past years, dozens of alumni and local partners volunteered as guest speakers, mentors, pitch coaches, and grant judges in 2021/2022. Special thanks to Frank LaMonaca ’79 for coordinating connections with mentors from SCORE of Southeastern Connecticut, Matt Sorkin ‘15 for repeatedly offering his design facilitation expertise, and to Greg Lewis for offering our students free support from the CT Small Business Development Center for. Monthly updates for volunteers are shared on the ENGAGE blog.
This year, Patricelli Center students and faculty received a variety of external recognition, including:
- Geoff Byrne ‘23 and Izzy Durcan ‘22 were finalists in the Connecticut Collegiate Elevator Pitch Competition. Izzy won first place in the Main Street Business category for her startup, Flowspace.
- At this year’s CT Entrepreneurship Awards, Nimra Karamat ‘23 and Ashley Cardenas ‘23 won first place in the Student Startup category, and the Startup Incubator course — taught by Rosemary Ostfeld ‘10 — won first place in the Program category.
- Aldrean Alogon ‘23 and Leonard Majaducon ‘23 were selected for Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) 2022 for their program, Handom.
- Aaron Leong ‘25 was selected for the Map The System global finals for his research on healthcare for migrant workers in Malaysia. Unlike most social impact competitions which reward students for creating new projects or ventures, Map The System challenges participants to research social or environmental problems and study the current solutions landscape, including the power dynamics of stakeholders.
Finally, partnerships continue to be a top priority for the Center. We collaborate with units across campus including the Resource Center, the Gordon Career Center, IDEAS, and Education Studies. PCSE director Makaela Kingsley ’98 serves on CTNext’s Higher Education Initiative advisory committee and as a guest speaker for programs such as the MEWS+ business accelerator, the Athari Group’s nonprofit incubator, and Connecticut College’s Fast Forward program. We look forward to building on these relationships and adding others in the future.
While the Patricelli Center Conference Grant Fund was on pause this year due to pandemic-related travel limitations, we piloted a new grant program: the Entrepreneurship Microgrant Fund. These $200 stipends encourage makers, artists, and freelancers to create, test, and commercialize. They are intended to incentivize “learning by doing” and may be used for prototyping, customer discovery, purchasing supplies, paying staff, e-commerce platform fees, and more. During this pilot year, we awarded 22 microgrants to photographers, filmmakers, fashion designers, coders, musicians, and chefs. Grantees reported that this unrestricted money helped their “vision come to life.”
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 eighth consecutive year, this grant was administered in a competition format, and winners were selected from a strong pool of finalists who pitched live to an audience of judges and guests. Applicants were assessed on their project design, leadership qualities, and potential for social impact. The 2022 Seed Grant recipients are:
- Handom (Aldrean Alogon ’23 and Leonard Majaducon ’25) Handom connects exceptional yet underserved Filipino elementary school students to better education opportunities. As scholarship recipients from underserved communities themselves, the founders’ vision is to identify, mentor, and mold students – inspiring them to be leaders in their communities.
- Nebula (Kya Lloyd ’22 and Jahmir Duran-Abreu ’20) Black owned businesses are 4x more likely to fail in the first 18 months than white owned businesses. Nebula is a digital marketplace that empowers ambitious and underrepresented entrepreneurs with resources to grow their businesses to make more profit.
- Outspoken (Akansha Singh ’23, Khushi Jain, and Pratishka Poona) Illiteracy is a social disease that needs attention. The current state of literacy for girls and women in rural areas in India is dire and perpetuated by predefined gender roles set by a patriarchal society who believe that “A woman belongs in the kitchen”. Through our interactive, online educational platform, Outspoken aims to impart real world, practical and experiential literacy to rural and peri-urban women to cultivate a future where gender does not determine one’s ability to give themselves a dignified life.
For the first time since 2013, two separate Wesleyan applicants were awarded $10,000 Davis Projects for Peace grants. One grant went to Diana Kimojino ‘25 who will launch Nailepu Girls’ Empowerment, a program in her hometown of Narok, Kenya, that aims to break down fundamental barriers to education and economic empowerment for girls. The other went to Alice Musabe ‘22 and Constance Hirwa ‘25 for their project, “Healing Through Poetry by Us,” which will address mental health issues among youth in Rwanda by sharing poetry and encouraging dialog.
Nine students received summer grants from the Patricelli Center to pursue internships or entrepreneurial projects:
- Debbra Goh ‘24 (Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship Internship Grant) is a Cultural Strategy Intern at sparks & honey, a technology-led cultural consultancy delivering innovative growth and transformation strategy for global organizations. “My area of focus as an intern will include: Interpretation and comprehension of client strategy and research questions, and able to turn their uncertainty into a compass for investigation (able to formulate productive questions; robust and diligent research and intel gathering from across the web and with resources, pulling disparate signals together to make sense of cultural change; lead the design of cultural discussion guides, conduct interviews, and produce crisp analysis; produce fresh data driven insights on cultural trends; presenting, and discussing the application of strategy work with other institutions, organizations and corporations.”
- Shasekh Augustin ‘23 (Patricelli Summer Grant Fund) is building his startup, Atomic Jest, a Black-owned brand dedicated to accessorizing our customers with fashionable urban-style jewelry. “At Atomic Jest, we are committed to endorsing and centering Black creatives by employing predominantly Black models, influencers, photographers, and graphic designers. This business is an outlet for me and other Black creatives to express our creativity and contributes significantly our liberation.”
- Sarah Bernstein ‘24 (Patricelli Summer Grant Fund) is a Political Affairs Intern at The Borgen Project, which combats global poverty at the forefront of the US foreign policy agenda. “I will meet with Representative’s offices, Senators, talk to classes about volunteer opportunities, teach people how to call and email Congress, raise money, and attend networking events. I am pursuing this to improve my experiences in politics and explore if this is an area I would like to pursue further after graduation.”
- Chih-Yu Chao ‘24 (Patricelli Summer Grant Fund) is building a custom, interactive website for the computer science community at Wesleyan. “My goal is to create a space for students to connect and support each other. “Ultimately, I hope this website can serve as a template for all Wes students who want to create an online space for their communities.
- Kaitlyn Hale ‘23 (Priebatsch Fund for Entrepreneurship) is spending this summer on an independent exploration of multimedia content creation. “To demonstrate the power of the internet and the entrepreneurial doors that have opened for people through platforms such as Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube, I will attempt to market myself through social media and documenting the process of doing so through my content itself.”
- Yuchao Wang ‘24 (Priebatsch Fund for Entrepreneurship) is building his company Han Chung Classics Co., which exports classic VWs from China to North America and Europe. “As the main worker of our company, I will be responsible for everything involved in getting our business operations up and off the ground this summer. My responsibilities will include business, technical and marketing. I’ll take care of all the logistics of ﬁnding, inspecting, and making potential repairs on cars in China, as well as exporting them, shipping them and doing the paperwork for US ports.”
- Kathryn Machanic ‘22 (Jessica & Josh Goldin ACG grant) is using this summer to design a collection of clothing. Her goal is to develop the practical skills needed to be a designer (concept development, draping, pattern making, sewing, etc.) and to decide whether fashion is a field she would like to pursue after college. “My ultimate dream for the future is to design or source clothes for girls and women who are struggling with bodily trauma or their identity to help them be better able to express themselves.”
- Stella Guggenheim ‘23 (Jessica & Josh Goldin ACG grant) is teaming up with 20 other people to found The Ashmere Project, a community retreat for people with and without disabilities. “I will run focus groups, come up with camp activities, and express my ideas for art classes and workshops. At the camp I will be running art classes, cooking, cleaning, and providing physical and mental care to my friends and community.”
- Daniela Monteys ‘24 (Jessica & Josh Goldin ACG grant) is spending the summer as a medical volunteer in Guatemala. Her duties may include measuring patients’ vital signs, organizing the clinic’s pharmacy, conducting health and hygiene workshops in rural schools, assisting in patient diagnosis, participating in medical outreach campaigns in villages, and teaching families in rural areas about basic health measures and nutrition. As a pre-med student at Wesleyan, Daniela sought a summer experience “where I could do something clinically related, while also being able to help the greater community.”
In 2021/2022, the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship offered three faculty-taught courses and one student forum 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 and spring)
- CSPL262 Patricelli Center Fellowship (1.0 credit, fall and spring)
- CSPL/CGST480 Engaged Projects (1.0 credit, fall and spring)
- CSPL420 System Mapping for Social and Environmental Change (0.5 credit, 3rd quarter)
PCSE PARTNERS & COMMUNITY
The Patricelli Center works closely with numerous on- and off-campus partners to cultivate the social entrepreneurship ecosystem at Wesleyan. On-campus partners include:
- The Patricelli Center, Jewett Center for Community Partnerships (JCCP), Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life (CSPL), Sustainability Office, Service-Learning, and Civic Engagement Minor 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.
- Impact-driven and entrepreneurial student groups on campus offer leadership opportunities.
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, and grant judges in 2021/2022.
Local partners include Tsai CITY at Yale, reSET, The Entrepreneurship Foundation, the MEWS+, and the Connecticut Conference of Independent Colleges, SCORE of Southeastern Connecticut, and the Connecticut Small Business Development Center (SBDC).
Social entrepreneurship colleagues from other higher education institutions come together through forums like AshokaU Exchange and the Social Impact Educators listserve to share ideas and resources.
Finally, nearly 300 students and colleagues 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 teaches problem-solving mindsets and skill sets, creative confidence and competence, and the ability to navigate ambiguity. We provide opportunities for our students to translate theory to practice — with all the uncertainty and messiness that entails. During the past two years, as our students faced a once-in-a-century pandemic and series of civil rights challenges and global emergencies, it has been abundantly clear that these competencies are more important than ever.
Next academic year, we will offer the Patricelli Center Fellowship, the Startup Incubator, Map The System, Clinton Global Initiative University, Seed Grants, Internship Grants, the Davis Projects for Peace Grant, Entrepreneurship Microgrants, Conference Grants, advising, mentorship, and workspace. We will work to advance the University’s new strategic plan — Towards Wesleyan’s Bicentennial — in particular its emphasis on civic engagement and establishing Wesleyan as “an axis for ideas, innovative thinking, and connections.” We will collaborate with the Jewett Center for Community Partnerships on their three focus areas: K-12 education, sustainability, and criminal justice reform. Lastly, after a few pandemic-related postponements, we hope to finally mark the tenth anniversary of the Patricelli Center with a celebration on campus.
In all of our work, we will be guided by an ethos of “fearless experimentation.” We will create opportunities for students to test their hypotheses about social change and innovation 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.