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Introducing the 2018 Social Innovation Fellows

Social Innovation Fellows

The beginning of the 2018 school year ushers in the second cohort of Social Innovation Fellows.  Each Fellow has demonstrated exceptional accomplishments and was selected because of their outstanding academic and extracurricular achievement. This group of students has brought immeasurable, positive impact to their local communities and abroad. We invite you to get acquainted with them and get inspired by their passions, interests, and feats in spite of their struggles. We’re excited to see what they will create next.



The Farmer’s Garment Challenge will partner a Fellows team with NC State College of Textile faculty and researchers to explore sustainability, cultural issues and cost solutions for a protective garment created for migrant farmers in rural North Carolina.


Alyssa Cox

Alyssa is a junior studying Mechanical Engineering. Growing up across the United States, Germany, and China, Alyssa has a global perspective that she uses to identify problems that others may not see. Her work as a Park Scholar has personally defined community service which she’s honed through leadership opportunities as a Shelton scholar.

“I have a strong drive to enact social change and feel that I am in a position of privilege that I want to use to serve others. I want to get hands-on, gain experience leading and working with a diverse group to tackle a real-world problem, and see the innovation process through to ultimately come one step closer to making a positive impact on the lives of others.”


Anna Petrova

Anna is a Master’s student studying Industrial Design. Her experience as a first-generation American has inspired her to work hard and push herself further. She has worked as the Assistant Vice President at an international banking company but has decided to “jump ship from the corporate world” to pursue a career in the creative field.

“Having experienced two different cultures and I see how differently food waste is processed between two countries, Russia and the US.  I am interested in discovering ways to limit food waste. I am a first generation American which means I will forever forge my own path.  I am a dreamer, constantly sharing my passion for giving back to the community and want to work with an interdisciplinary venture team to develop new methods to solve society’s greatest challenges.”


Nikolas Mihaliak

Nikolas has used what he’s learned from being a sophomore in Computer Engineering to form creative solutions to big problems. He is independent: learning to lead projects and problem solve from being an Eagle Scout and becoming determined by founding his own film and photography business. No matter the context, he always leads with purpose for social and positive change. 

“Through the Social Innovation Fellows, I hope to gain stronger entrepreneurial skills along with my own leadership skills that can help me visualize and analyze current problems around the world and to find ways to resolve them. I’m excited to join a community of others who all share the same goals and mindset as I, and that can work as teams to help identify key issues around the world.”


Samantha Sharp 

Sam is senior studying Textile Technology with a medical concentration and a Nonprofit Studies minor. She hopes to use what she has learned, along with her research and proactive work in developing countries, to develop low-cost, disposable alternatives to medical textiles such as gauze and band-aids. She is eager to provide care to anyone who needs it and hopes to participate in global health reform.

“I want to learn as much as I can by working with a team to improve the lives of people around me through a nonprofit and hope to gain the skills to eventually have the courage, like the people we are working with, to start my own nonprofit one day.”



In partnership with the Global WASH faculty cluster that seeks to solve challenges of water and sanitation, a Fellows team will work on the Flexcrevator Project. NC State researchers have invented a machine to solve the challenge of emptying pit latrines, a process done manually in many parts of the world. The team will work on refining the technology, cross-cultural acceptance and scaling, and sustainability.


Allison Williams

Allison is a sophomore studying Chemical Engineering with a minor in Spanish. Once she graduates, she is excited to pursue a career that pairs engineering with the health and medical fields. She finds that empathy and her sense of humor have helped her most when approaching challenges. 

“Science and engineering excite me, however, the application of these areas to actually help people is what I care about. I specifically like the idea of intersecting economics, policy, and technology to solve problems. I am very interested in connecting my engineering background with problems related to global health, especially the health of communities that contain socioeconomic or location barriers. [The Social Innovation Fellows] will help me to explore the less technical skills necessary to solve social issues. This program seems like it can be a very good learning tool for me to forge a nontraditional career path as a chemical engineer.”


Daniel Choi 

Daniel is a senior in the College of Natural Resources studying Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology with a concentration in Wildlife Science. He prides himself on being able to synthesize multiple disciplines to come to a more creative, holistic outcome. 

“I am passionate about solving complex problems in innovative ways, using knowledge and resources from many different fields.  I love to learn different things, and I always search for the links between seemingly unrelated fields and ideas.”


Odai Mansour

Odai is a sophomore studying Human Biology and is currently creating an interdisciplinary, self-design major in Global Health and Justice. He is the co-founder of the business 321 Coffee that provides fulfilling engagements to persons of intellectual and developmental disabilities. Working to help the local community is important to him and hopes the Social Innovation Fellows will give him a greater reach of positive impact.

“With the privilege I have today, I know responsibility lies on my part to use it to help others, and becoming a Social Innovation Fellow is a perfect way to develop on that.”


Raunak Mahtani

Raunak is studying for his Master’s of Industrial Design. He is a volunteer designer at the Helping Hand Project where he has helped a specific child by designing and 3D printing a prosthetic limb. Raunak loves prototyping ideas out and generating divergent ideas.

“I want to do good! I find meaning in involving myself in projects which lead to social benefit and make our world genuinely better.  I am fortunate to say that I have had the opportunity to work on work that I truly find meaningful through my Industrial Design journey so far”



Haiti Goat Project will return this year to continue the great momentum from last year’s team. A social enterprise led by Animal Science faculty member Char Farin, the Haiti Goat Project educates and trains Haitian agriculture producers to breed more robust goats. The goats are harvested to create a high protein chili that feeds several thousand Haitian school children. The Fellows will work on scaling vocational and culinary training to additional sites in Haiti and create US-based sustainable operations.


Jordan Bowman

Jordan is a junior studying Business Administration with a concentration in Entrepreneurship and a minor in Nonprofit Studies. He is deeply connected with the triangle area and has nurtured its entrepreneurial spirit first-hand. He is president of Journeymen Triangle, a mentoring and leadership development nonprofit for young boys, and he works for Innovate Raleigh to foster local entrepreneurs.

“I want to build a bridge between businesses that are for a purpose and those that are for a profit. I care about creating a future that is sustainable and rich in connection and compassion.” 


Marcie Laird

Marcie is a senior studying Graphic Design. After working hands-on with the community of a small island in Greece, she has strived to make her work meaningful and impactful. Currently, Marcie fulfills this personal goal by working with a nonprofit devoted to women’s rights. She is enthusiastic about human-centered design and supporting collaboration.

“I’m passionate about design as a tool for understanding and supporting people. To me, this means thinking about design as a means to create change and considering how the problems we solve impact cultural identity at the individual and community levels.”


Nimet Degirmencioglu 

Nimet is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Textile Technology Management. Her work has always focused on having a positive impact and the betterment of society within the scope of business. She co-founded a fair trade apparel brand that is popular in India and was a chair on the NYC Fair Trade Coalition. She has gone so far as to organize a fashion show around fair trade clothing and principles.

“I believe the more businesses are successful and profitable by being social enterprises, the benefits for the society would be noticeable.”


Paige Swanson 

Paige is a sophomore double majoring in Science, Technology, and Society and Applied Nutrition with a Nonprofit Studies minor. Founding the NC State chapter of Challah For Hunger, she is engaged in the fight against food insecurity. 

“I have a deep appreciation for interdisciplinary work and believe that is important for social entrepreneurship.  I believe that through collaborating with a group of highly motivated students, who share my passion for social innovation, we can have the greatest impact on the local and global communities.”



Root Bioscience transforms phytocannabinoids such as cannabidiol (CBD) into premium health and wellness products using processes that combine specialized cannabis industry technology with advanced bio-manufacturing techniques. The Fellows team will study the public health implications of this emerging field and tackle problems of access and agriculture waste.


Catherine Chirichillo

Catherine is a sophomore studying Industrial Systems Engineering. Going into the Social Innovation Fellows, she hopes to bridge her enthusiasm for building close-knit communities with the challenges around the water crisis. She has radically changed her day-to-day life in response to the water crisis and hopes to educate others.

“One thing I have always prided myself in is my ability to push myself out of my comfort zone. Being surrounded by others who possess similar values and interests to me would inspire me to rise above standard expectations and push past boundaries, but more importantly, I know that the diversity in mind, discipline, and experience of my peers will allow me to expand my perspective. I hope to foster personal growth through intellectual and reflective discourse with others in the program.”


Haley Pratt

Haley is getting her Doctorate in the College of Veterinary Medicine. She is passionate about being an entrepreneur especially in her field where pushing the boundaries and exploring are encouraged and may lead to benefiting humans. Having welded sculptures and crafted chairs, she likes to work with her hands. Her greatest creative accomplishment to-date is a teardrop camper than she built ground-up from recycled materials.

“As I move through my career in veterinary medicine, there will be more and more situations where I need to act as a leader. Now I know that as long as I am driven to achieve, I can provide a path that allows others to achieve with me.” 


Rebecca Popov 

Rebecca is a senior in International Studies with a concentration in Global Cultural Studies. She works hands-on with a wide breadth of people every day and her time living abroad has given her a new understanding of cultural competency and sensitivity. She is passionate about people sharing their stories and hopes that she can foster an environment that allows her to learn from others and gain insight into their community.

“Majoring in International Studies, I have a broad overview of social and political issues worldwide. My hope is that, by becoming a fellow, my experiences and ideas will be welcomed and cultivated in a meaningful way, encouraging me down a fulfilling path personally and professionally. It is important for me to find a thread that links all of humanity, to find a connection. This has led me to travel and live abroad repeatedly, of which I am proud.”


Trent Haire

Trent is sophomore in Fashion and Textile Management. He wants to take command of the future, not settle, and is determined to fight housing and food insecurity. Graduating high school early taught him this independence which he is inspired to carry through into the Social Innovation Fellows and as a growing entrepreneur.

“Being an entrepreneur is something I have wanted since I was five years old, and no matter what has changed I have still kept that at the forefront. I feel this is the time where I can definitely define a path not only for myself to grow, but to grow and help grow with others.”



In partnership with NC State Extension in Richmond County, the Fellows will work on the Sandhills School Markets Project. With the goal of reducing farm waste and getting fresh produce into public schools and local food deserts, the team will work to develop new markets and distribution channels and create methods to educate recipients on the importance of fresh, healthy food.


Alysa Buchanan

Alysa is a Master’s student studying Graphic Design. She is passionate about helping people by making them feel more confident, strong, and resourceful. Being a teacher’s assistant on campus, starting her own business designing for veterans, nonprofits, and the disabled, and fostering kittens are among the many ways she fulfills this passion. 

“I am excited about my exploration in the realm of entrepreneurship. Using design to influence positive change in my community provides a sense of purpose and connection. Designers are visual storytellers, creative communicators, loyal researchers, and synthesizers of information. The opportunity to work on an interdisciplinary team of diverse students is an exciting opportunity. Cross collaborative and diverse groups of people often present the most robust solutions to conflicts.”


Laura Schoeck

Laura is a sophomore in Sports Management with a minor in Nonprofit Studies. She is very interested in social development and sustainability, especially in developing countries. After seeing and experiencing the lack of clean water and proper nutrition in Haiti directly, Laura hopes to continue to build her awareness of international social and justice issues so that she may lend a helping hand.

“That is my goal: constantly encouraging others, constantly making a difference, and constantly showing people that I care. I always love doing that and however I do it, I will try my best to be the best encourager and motivator.”


Craig Prince 

Craig wants the Social Innovation Fellows to help give context to his studies. As a senior in Electrical Engineering, he wants to infuse creativity into his work and match faces with equations. His dream job is to meet the needs of others- often defined as installing microgrids in developing South American nations. 

“I am very passionate about sustainability and taking care of the future. People and the improvement of human life have always been core motivators for me. I am deeply interested in learning how to discover, understand, and fulfill the needs of others. How can you expect to see through the eyes of others when you don’t understand how to widen your own perspective?”


Sierra Jones

Sierra is a senior in Business Administration with minors in Spanish and Nonprofit Studies. She is passionate about helping impoverished communities, especially domestically, and revolutionizing efficient business practices.

“I desire to be a social entrepreneur: someone who is thinking of innovative ways to change the world, someone who can get directly involved with a major social issue and bring a new perspective, someone who can tackle age-old problems with simple solutions. Not all of our world’s major accomplishments come from new technological discoveries, but some of the world’s greatest improvements can come from simply facing something similar, but seeing it with a fresh perspective and enabling us to gain new insights into old problems.”


Click here to learn more about the Social Innovation Fellows program.