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Meet the 2019-20 Social Innovation Fellows

From a varsity athlete to an app creator, a karate black belt to a doctoral candidate, and one-and-a-half sets of identical twins, we’re excited to welcome our newest cohort of the Social Innovation Fellows. In response to an unprecedented surge of fantastic applicants, each team will now have the strength of an additional Fellow. The vibrancy of this cohort is unparalleled— each student brings so much to the table in extraordinary academic and extracurricular achievement. We’re also proud to welcome four new ventures eager to match the passion brought from the Fellows. Joining them is the Haiti Goat Project who has decided to further it’s partnership with the SI Fellows for a third year. We invite you to meet our new team.

To stay informed about what the Fellows are doing this year, be sure to follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn.



700 Rivers is a startup founded by NC State alum Catherina Gomes to employ women who have escaped sex trafficking in Bangladesh. To support it’s mission, the company intends to create handmade artisan soaps using sustainable materials and packaging. Their Fellows plan to assist with business development and branding.


Deepti Chintalapudi

Deepti is a master’s student studying industrial and systems engineering with a B.S. in industrial engineering and a minor in innovation. She has worked on a number of socially impactful projects such as an activity tracker for wheelchair users, an energy harvesting parking garage and a more efficient healthcare lobby. Always seeking to learn, Deepti reflects deeply on all her experiences to help her become a better leader and innovator.

“Growing up in the Middle East, I have seen the positive effects of innovation and advanced infrastructure, and how they elevate in-country value and global access for trading and business. I strongly believe in the fact that a good education is absolutely necessary for all children and for us to develop as a society. I value the resilience and the spirit to push through hardships because the outcome of doing so could be spectacular.”


Haley Hall

Haley is a senior majoring in Environmental Science with a minor in Political Science. She makes waves on campus by being involved with the Climate Reality Project and the Student Government Sustainability Department. A driven student and activist, Haley is excellent at hurdling even the tallest of obstacles to move towards her goal of a more sustainable future.

“My biggest motivator in life is to create an impact that is bigger than myself– one that will outlive me once I am gone. I feel that nothing should deter me from creating my own legacy and I have the passion, determination, and persistence, so there is no reason why I would live a life below my potential.”


Michael Bowen

A senior majoring in Chemical Engineering and Economics with minors in Spanish and Accounting, Michael works as a student researcher to improve solar cells and make them more widely available to the public. He also serves as Co-Director of Wellness for NC State and works to help destigmatize mental health issues. He believes in working as hard as you can to improve yourself and the world around you and constantly demonstrates those values in his daily life.

“I live my life with a single goal: improve myself and the world around me in some way every day. My alarm goes off at 5 AM and I don’t stop working towards personal, social, or environmental progress until my head hits my pillow. The same thing that gets me out of bed in the morning gives me the confidence and drive to balance different obligations, pursue multiple courses of study and apply to be a Social Innovation Fellow.”


Meg Grant

A junior studying Business Administration with a concentration in Entrepreneurship and a minor in Nonprofit Studies, Meg hopes to be a force for good in the world. She is the Vice President of the eStreet College campus ministry as well as the Vice President of Communication for the Entrepreneurship Student Ambassador Program. One of her biggest passions is eliminating hunger and food insecurity and inequality that our world currently faces.

“One of the most meaningful things to me is investing in kids. I think of the people who took their time to listen to me and build a relationship with me when I was younger, and how those people deeply benefited me as a person and whose impact I will never forget. I have made it a priority to do the same for young people whenever I am able to.”


Adam Kaynan

Adam is a graduate student pursuing a master’s in Industrial Design. He has a background working in the nonprofit sector and hopes to utilize his design skills towards demarginalizing communities and creating more efficient systems. Having been tasked in previous jobs with anything from curating museum exhibits to relocating a multi-million dollar company, Adam is capable and adaptive when it comes to achieving his goals and aspirations.

“I think city life, after living in NYC for almost 10 years, has made it apparent to me that we are all in this together and can use some help or simply attention. Being good where possible, as often as possible, means a lot to me.”



The Haiti Goat Project is returning for a third year, building off of the successes of the past two cohorts of Fellows. A social enterprise led by Professor Char Farin from the NC State Department of Animal Science, this project helps support the Haitian agricultural community and provide nutritious school lunches to children from rural Haiti in grades Pre-K through 6th. The Fellows will be working to prepare the organization to serve more areas and broaden fundraising.


Grace Herndon

Grace is a graduate student pursuing her master’s in graphic design and works as a TA for undergraduate design classes. She has first-hand experience with the difference that a team of innovators can make and hopes to leverage that experience working with the Social Innovation Fellows.

“My first encounter with design for social impact was when I volunteered my summer to work with a team of designers and professors on creating a brand identity for a small town. The mayor allowed us to set up shop in an abandoned bank on the town square. Our space quickly became a home for community discussions, a place for people to share their stories about the town and to take ownership in something we created together. I saw change happen through unlikely community partnerships and creative collaboration. Today, our project space is a thriving community anchor and the work we began has led to the revitalization of almost every abandoned building on the town square.”


Isaiah Townsend

Isaiah is a junior majoring in Chemical Engineering. On-campus he is a constant role model, working as a Resident Advisor and a member of the Entrepreneurship Mentors group as well as the Black Male Initiative. He is passionate about quality education and uses entrepreneurship and leading by example to help students of all ages be more successful in their school work.

“The past year I was in the READ to LEAD mentors program where I would read weekly to underrepresented children from the Boys and Girls Club. I see these as opportunities to help children get to where they might not know they want to be yet. I want to instill within them the confidence and preparation that they will need for their future by getting to see people that look like them who have successfully gotten into college and continue to thrive there.”


Leah Flanders

A sophomore studying Sustainable Materials and Technology, Leah makes a difference on campus with the WISE village and as a CNR Environmental First Year Peer Leader. She is deeply passionate about homelessness and poverty and discovered her love of service volunteering at shelters and resource centers in her community.

“If each of us can explore the lives of others with an open mind, the opportunities for good are endless. Seeing different parts of the world enhances my global perspective thus helping me expand my personal development. I believe that going to a new place allows for a learning opportunity to see what I can improve within my daily life based on other cultural practices.”


Victoria Fuda

Victoria is a sophomore majoring in environmental science with an intended focus area of global Public Health. On-campus she has been involved as a CNR ambassador and student library assistant and stays active playing on an intramural soccer team. Her dream in life is to utilize her major to become an activist for impoverished communities locally and globally.

“I believe that it is our actions more than our words that make a difference. Leading by example is the most effective means of enlisting others in a cause. I find it is the intangible qualities of trustworthiness, empathy and kindness that draw others to leaders and their mission and I now understand that a truly effective leader is someone who is not only a visionary and a project organizer, but also someone who encourages sustained support for the cause.”


Yashmitha Lenin

A sophomore intending on majoring in business administration, Yashmitha is involved on campus with the Feed the Pack and Food Recovery Program and will be an RA in the upcoming school year. She is resilient and positive, always willing to push through a setback or cheer on a team towards her goal of eliminating food insecurity in her local community.

“Being involved in the community around me is very meaningful to me. I have grown up in the Triangle all my life, so I like to put a lot of my time and effort into giving back to the very community that has given me so much growing up. A large part of developing into the person I am today has been because of the service that I have been involved in because that service allowed me to learn a lot about myself and what I value.”



Our Wave, a nonprofit founded by NC State alum Kyle Linton, provides an anonymous online platform for survivors of sexual assault to share their stories and support one another. The Fellows team will be assisting them with outreach and spreading awareness.


Jackie Lanning

Jackie is a senior studying Biological Sciences and a minor in International Studies. She is heavily involved on campus as an RA, a peer educator at the Women’s Center and the Founding President of Period at NC State. Jackie is passionate about working to solve gender inequality and breaking the stigmas around issues of mental health.

“Everything I do is connected to my purpose of helping others. When I use my unique talents, share my personal experiences or follow my true passions, I inspire others to do the same. The first part of living my authentic truth is understanding my personal journey. I first must be honest with myself about my weaknesses but more importantly my strengths.”


Zach Hover

A senior studying communication with a concentration in public relations and a minor in biological sciences, Zach works hard as the Vice President of Finance for the University Activities Board and as an employer relations assistant for the Career Development Center. He is passionate about clean energy and diverse representation on campus and strives to always be a student leader that exemplifies his beliefs.

“In my lifetime, I have had a lot of diverse experiences in terms of discrimination. Through those experiences I gained the confidence to stand up for myself and eventually others as well. I have made sure to treat others how I want to be treated, and as simple and generic as that is, I believe I have done my best to truly live by that.”


Maddie Hornsby

Maddie is a senior studying Business Administration with a concentration in Entrepreneurship. She stays busy as a member of the Women in Business Club and works with a small local nonprofit called The Produce Project. Maddie strives for an empathetic leadership style and is excellent at motivating her team and driving enthusiasm into any project.

“When I was at my lowest point, I was constantly comparing myself to my peers and their accomplishments. The turning point in my life occurred when I decided that I was going to shift my focus from comparing myself, to celebrating the person I was and who I was planning on becoming. I have come so far and worked up the courage to believe in my thoughts, opinions and mindsets so that failure is no longer an option. I am still on the journey and am enjoying it more and more each day and I will continue to invest in myself.”


Mia Thillet

Mia is a junior majoring in Psychology and a player on the Women’s Varsity Soccer Team. A dedicated student and athlete, Mia hopes to be able to bring a multifaceted approach to problem-solving for social change and believes that childhood education is one of the most important areas of impact and influence.

“I am a firm believer that real, feasible change begins with how children are taught to view themselves and their role within multiple spheres of society. Education and other socialization techniques, therefore, can have deep-rooted and influential effects on development. These goals are at the center of what I believe is required to promote social steadiness.”


Rebecca Jones

Rebecca is a graduate student pursuing a Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine with a focus in Public Health and epidemiology. On-campus she is involved as an AWEbassador which is a program for the Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and as a Regional Leader of the Veterinary Business Management Association. Rebecca believes in and wants to help others understand the One Health Initiative: the concept that animal health, environmental health and human health are all interconnected and interdependent.

“Education is a huge part of maintaining healthy animals and can maximize economic and nutritional opportunities for at-risk communities. Approaching these educational opportunities in a way that increases gender equality is essential, because having control over your livestock is equivalent to having control over both your earning potential and food security, and often this role is sequestered by gender roles.”



A startup created by NC State College of Humanities senior Emily Neville, Reborn Clothing Co. reduces textile waste by upcycling unused garments into new products  The Fellows will be helping them to manage growth while still being an ethically-sourced and mission-driven business.


Sasha Pereira

Sasha is a junior studying biological sciences with concentrations in ecology, evolution, and conservation. Extremely involved on campus, some of her positions include research assistant for the NC State Department of Applied Ecology and the NC State Marine Ecology and Conservation Lab as well as Secretary of the Environmental Student Association. An avid volunteer, Sasha works incredibly hard to encourage students to be civically engaged and to ensure people are aware of how valuable our environment is and how badly we need to protect it.

“I have always had an interest in environmental justice, and as an aspiring marine biologist, my research has helped expose me to the necessity of improving and maintaining the health of not only our oceans but all bodies of water on the planet. Water is a necessity of life, and enabling access to clean drinking water should be a global priority.”


Katie Yoon

A sophomore majoring in Civil Engineering, Katie is involved with the Raleigh Civic Orchestra, the University Scholars Program, and the Benjamin Franklin Scholars Program. While she is aiming for a career solving infrastructure and environmental problems, Katie is constantly active in working to destigmatize a number of issues such as mental health and LGBTQ+ rights.

“Consistent efforts must be made to dismantle the stigma surrounding gender, sexuality and mental health. The worst thing about mental illness may not be the illness itself, but the stigma and shame that surrounds them. I see ignorance as the core problem and if I can communicate a sense of hope for any LGBTQ+ Koreans out there, I would be satisfied with my efforts.”


Jay Chen

Jay is a senior majoring in Business Administration with a minor in Women’s and Gender Studies. He is working on a business venture that merges business with philanthropy to create a coffee shop that is a safe space for LGBTQ+ individuals– using the profits to help fund transgender people with transitional therapy as well as homeless youth. In his private life, mindfulness has become a central practice for him and keeps him grounded as well as an active listener to others.

“With business comes power but it is up to the individual to use that power for the good of society. It is only through conversations and education that we are able to eradicate unequal pay, sexual violence, healthcare disparities and so much more. I value each and every conversation because everyone has a story and a different perspective to share.”


Pooja Lenin

Pooja is a sophomore majoring in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing and a minor in Nonprofit Studies. She constantly contributes to NC State working as a Summer Start Mentor, as a member of the Impact Leadership Village, and as a member of the Food Recovery Network Leadership Team. One of Pooja’s major goals is solving food insecurity and has been working since high school to help improve access to healthy food in North Carolina.

“I have tried to make a conscious effort to fight food insecurity in the past, but I feel as if most of my efforts worked toward alleviating the effects of food insecurity rather than attacking the issue at its roots. Food insecurity and food waste are complex and systematic issues, and although they may seem daunting to fight at times, I want to make a substantial and effective positive social impact in our region by working to develop and implement a solution to this social problem.”


Conner Borkowski

Conner is a sophomore majoring in Electrical Engineering with a concentration in Renewable Electric Energy Systems while also undertaking the Interdisciplinary Entrepreneurship certificate. He is a strong believer in using entrepreneurship to solve the world’s problems and correct unsustainable business practices. Putting his principles into practice on campus, Conner is a project team lead for Engineers Without Borders working on a renewable energy project in Sierra Leone.

“Seeing the signs that we are headed for devastation with climate change and extreme social unrest is frustrating. This frustration has spurred me to be incredibly mindful and conscious of how I can make a positive impact on all the communities I interact with. No-one but you can make the best decisions for yourself, and in the end, there is nothing more valuable than helping someone in need, whether it is yourself, a friend or a stranger.”



Part of a health program run by the NC Episcopal Farmworkers Ministry, the Water in the Fields project has the mission of alleviating the challenges of NC farm workers who work long hours in the sun with limited access to water. Their Fellows team will help test the efficacy of their water bottle program while offering ideas and planning for next steps.


Mariam Shah

A junior majoring in Chemical Engineering with a Biomolecular Concentration, Mariam is involved on campus with the Women in Science and Engineering group, the Society of Women Engineers group, and the Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers group. She is a firm believer in the power of education and intends to pursue it through doctoral programs to provide herself with all the tools she can to improve the world around her.

“Zero poverty is my biggest passion. Solving this would ensure that people everywhere in the world have food, clean water, shelter, and access to basic healthcare and education. This would eliminate a lot of the problems present in many countries around the world.”


Hannah Bain

Hannah is a senior studying Communication, Spanish, and International Studies with a minor in Nonprofit Studies. She is passionate about Public Health and the way emerging technologies can make better health care available around the world. On-campus, Hannah keeps us all in high-calorie shape by being heavily involved in the Krispy Kreme Challenge and is a member of the Park Scholars program and the University Scholars program.

“I love how people from all different backgrounds can come together in support of a great cause. I believe that education, especially young girl’s education, has the ability to make a huge impact in the world. A few years ago, I volunteered at a school in Guatemala. That experience made me realize how privileged I was to attend school in the U.S. where were told that we can be anything that we want to be. I want my career and life in general to be focused on creating social good.”


Pridhvi Gadiraju

Pridhvi is a senior studying biological sciences with a concentration in integrative physiology and neurobiology with minors in Spanish and business. If you’re a student, you may know him as your friendly neighborhood RA and Organic Chemistry TA. In the future, Pridhvi hopes to become an excellent dentist and an emotionally intelligent servant leader.

“I have seen countless impoverished families travel hundreds of miles just to drink clean water. I have seen little kids who had bloated stomachs due to diseases caused by dirty and polluted water. These images have been stuck in my head for years now and I want to be a part of the solution to this polemic issue.”


Suri Martinez

Suri is a junior studying fashion and textile management with a concentration in fashion development and product management. She inspires her peers as a Creative Team Member for Pack Fashion Magazine and a Student Ambassador for Wilson College of Textiles. Talented and driven, Suri pays forward her own experiences by empowering others with fashion and helping to make campus feel like home for new students.

“My parents have always reminded me to give back to others and help whenever I notice anyone in need. I would like to make an impact in other people’s lives while also making my parents proud. It would reassure them that their selfless acts were worth it. I would like to help people who were once in my parent’s position as immigrants in a new place.”


Olivia Merritt

Olivia is a junior majoring in fisheries, wildlife and conservation biology with a concentration in wildlife and minoring in natural resources policy and administration. On-campus she works to protect our students and the environment by working with the Climate Reality Project as well as the Food Recovery Network. A passionate nature lover, Olivia has spent a lot of time working with wildlife and gaining a deeper understanding and appreciation for our Earth and its needs.

“I have been passionate about sustainability and the environment for as long as I can remember. Since the age of 12, I have asked for a book about land conservancy or reducing waste every year. I am most passionate about natural resource use. Frankly, I fear the policies in place today that keep fossil fuels and disposable plastics cheap, food wasted in disturbing amounts as people go hungry, smart growth in cities and urban gardening not crazily encouraged.”


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