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Social Innovation Fellows

Welcome Our Newest Cohort

Get to know the 2021-22 Social Innovation Fellows

NC State Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship is excited to welcome the 2021-22 Social Innovation Fellows. This group of 30 students represents nine colleges at the university, along with a wide range of personal and academic backgrounds, and have all demonstrated remarkable resilience and leadership throughout this past year. Our fifth cohort of Fellows joins a strong group of social impact ventures to become problem-solvers and changemakers, diving into six of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals as a part of NC State’s Sustainable Development Goals Initiative. Their passion and energy is inspiring and we’re looking forward to seeing their accomplishments this year.

To stay informed about what the Fellows are doing this year, be sure to follow us on Instagram and sign up for our newsletter.

Decent Work and Economic Growth

Goal 8 is to promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all. This year, this goal is represented by Karma Wallet, a digital platform that empowers users to be truly conscious consumers and use their capital for the greatest social and environmental good.

Lily Morrell

Growing up in a family at the epicenter of the struggling American textile industry pushed Lily to double major in economics and business administration and minor in German. She wants to learn the problem-solving and teamwork skills required to ensure decent work and economic growth around the world. A senior, Lily has spent her time on campus aiming to make a similar impact locally, including leading the Campus Conversations Project and participating in NC State’s Women in Business and Feed the Pack Food Pantry.

“I am really passionate about supporting and developing communities. Specifically, I am interested in building microeconomic infrastructure in developing communities to foster prosperity and alleviate poverty. Through the Social Innovation Fellows, I hope to learn leadership styles and effective thinking patterns that will help me pursue this goal.”

Olivia DeJesus

Olivia is a senior double majoring in political science and international studies and minoring in Spanish and Japanese. In 2017, she traveled to Ciudad Santa Maria in the Dominican Republic through a leadership and service project where she helped local children realize their aspirations. She continues this work with WomenNC, a local nonprofit organization that strives to empower women to advance gender equality in North Carolina. Based on these experiences, she hopes to one day start an organization of her own that would help minority females reach their full potential.

“This program really embraces the mindset that it does not matter how old you are, where you’re from, what your major is, or what your nationality, ethnicity, or race is— if you have the desire to make a difference in the world, you can. All of us have our own expertise that we are developing during our time at NC State, but the chance is rarely given to work with others outside our program to create something together. This is something I firmly believe in and what drives me to achieve my own (some would call audacious) goals.”

Grace Gould

Grace is a junior studying environmental engineering and philosophy with a concentration in philosophy in law and a minor in French. Her work in the classwork has included researching the ethics of sustainable development, particularly the development of clean and affordable renewable energy globally. Coming from both a STEM and social sciences background, Grace is comfortable approaching a challenge from a variety of perspectives.

“One of my main goals is to keep learning and improving myself as a person. This drives me to pursue my passions of environmental justice, sustainability, gender equality, and any other interests I discover. What I do and what every individual does counts and we can make a difference in this world. The Social Innovation Fellows will encourage and support me to be the change I want to see.”

Shane Fogarty

Currently in his second year studying environmental design in architecture with a minor in landscape architecture, Shane is determined to push the field in a more sustainable direction. He wants to explore how architects can lessen their carbon footprint, lessen their waste and end their consumption of limited resources. 

“I view my future career as an opportunity to design systems that make sustainability equally convenient for everyone. Everyone must be equally capable of living a sustainable lifestyle, no matter their income, location, or demographic. Finding a solution to these problems requires a broader understanding of the community and the impacts that architecture has on the environment, society, culture, and more. I hope that being an NC State Social Innovation Fellow will allow me to make connections between my future career and my passion for community service, while providing me with an opportunity to grow my problem-solving skills.”

Vedant Dulori

Vedant is a senior studying computer science with a concentration in entrepreneurship and a minor in business administration. Born in a small town in India, he is committed to making change in his home country. As a Teach For India fellow, he followed the “teaching as leadership” philosophy which empowered him to solve issues in the Indian education system and organize a Rubella vaccination drive for underprivileged children.

“I am deeply passionate about being able to serve society and create a meaningful positive change with all the resources available to me, and I strongly believe that becoming a Social Innovation fellow is simply a stepping stone for helping me solve bigger real-life social problems. Being a Computer Scientist, I want to use my skill to solve problems with technology and be able to utilize my skills to provide a more sustainable solution and make things happen by working with a group of talented people with the same mindset.”

Climate Action

Goal 13 is to take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts by regulating emissions and promoting developments in renewable energy. This year, this goal is represented by NC Interfaith Power & Light, a nonprofit organization that mobilizes and inspires faith-based communities to promote a variety of solutions to mitigate future climate change, including energy efficiency and conservation, increased renewable energy use, and collective low-carbon lifestyle changes.

Constance Smith

A junior studying biochemistry with a minor in global public health, Constance’s primary goal is to give back to her community. With her background and academic expertise, this takes the form of closing the gap of health disparities for people of color. Constance is moving the needle on this wicked problem with her work as a Goodnight Scholar and as the president of NC State MANRRS (Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences).

“Despite the abundance of innovative research and the discoveries of modern treatments, people of color are still disproportionately suffering from both communicable and non-communicable diseases that their white counterparts do not. I wish to combine my love for public health with the current lack of effective and affordable treatments for people of color. I believe that the Social Innovation Fellows would be an amazing opportunity to bring my goals to fruition by allowing me to work with talented students and knowledgeable professionals.”

Faisa Aden

Faisa is a sophomore studying political science with a concentration in international politics and sociology. She is a Pre-McNair scholar, volunteers at Islamic Relief USA and works with Sunrise, a climate organization advocating for national action towards climate change. She is also on the path to discover what it means to be Somali-American, a personal journey that was galvanized during a year in Egypt.

“From being unaware to the suffering and injustices that plague the underprivileged back in America, Cairo gradually showed me the power of what I’ve been told were weaknesses: being a Black, Muslim female. While Western culture systematically oppresses these kinds of people, the strong women in Egypt taught me how to take prejudice and use it as a motivating force for my future endeavors;…understanding the complexities of this world will only guide me closer to becoming a version of myself dedicated to promote needed change, equality, and liberation.”

Jessica Tran

Jessica is a senior studying biological sciences with a concentration in molecular, cellular and developmental biology and nutrition science with minors in psychology and microbiology. Her long-term goal is to receive a master’s degree in public health, go to medical school and work with Doctors Without Borders to attend to those who don’t have medical access.

“What I am extremely passionate about is the future of medicine and healthcare. I believe that healthcare is a right, not a privilege. I want to be able to improve our healthcare system through establishing ways to make healthcare more accessible, affordable, and other ways to reduce the disparities that exist. I hope that the Social Innovation Fellows will allow for me to explore this passion even more and make an impact step by step.”

Justice Cass

Justice is a senior studying criminology with a minor in English who deeply cares about genuine justice for all regardless of race, class, gender, or sexuality. She has volunteered at a restorative justice program for youth who had been in legal trouble where she learned and applied the strength of empathy and resilience. 

“I am incredibly passionate about justice and equality. I believe strongly in giving those who have been ignored a platform that allows their voices to truly be heard as well as calling for change among the institutions that treat them unfairly. I hope that the Social Innovation Fellows will provide me with the resources to help create positive change within the communities that have been put at a disadvantage.”

Lauren Burnham

While Lauren is currently a graduate student studying graphic design, she began her academic career with the dream of becoming a doctor. After graduating with her undergraduate degree, she realized that the best way to make true change was to lean into her strengths— a person who is comfortable exploring the creative process who wants to focus on the “why” versus the “what” or “how” of a problem area. Growing up with a close relationship to nature and working with the Triangle Land Conservancy in Durham ignited her passion for climate action, particularly in the accessibility of green spaces. 

“Climate change is heating up our cities and our most vulnerable populations. So often, the goals of the corporate or business environment are fundamentally at odds with the wellbeing of individuals, families, and communities. The pandemic has only served to highlight how harmful this de-emphasis on community and human connection and interdependence has been. However, the reality right now is that society and business ventures are deeply interconnected. The next generation of problem solvers, of which I hope to be a part, need to work within and leverage this system to nurture community and foster human interconnectedness.”

Life Below Water

Goal 14 is to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development. This goal is represented by NC Sea Grant, a second year partner with the SI Fellows. Their mission is to enhance the sustainable use of ocean, coastal and watershed resources, benefiting local communities, economies and ecosystems.

Anna “Rosie” Rose

Anna is in her final year studying communications with a media concentration and minors in cognitive science, science communication and journalism. She is passionate about fostering a sense of community and does so in many avenues of her life. She hosts a weekly radio show on NC State’s WKNC station and is deeply involved with the NC State Rotaract. Above all else, Anna wishes to uplift women in business, as well as those pursuing entrepreneurial pursuits.

“As a Fellow, I would love to bridge the gap between polarizing gender politics in business by creating cultural connections and appreciation. I believe that by endorsing conscious, intersectional education, we can bridge intellectual gaps around the world and create more compassionate, understanding, and educated human beings.”

Luis Jimenez

Luis is a graduate student getting his master’s in mechanical engineering with a concentration in dynamics and controls. As an immigrant and first-generation college student, he understands firsthand the feeling of isolation in unfamiliar environments, but he has used this experience to empower others. Luis is a Goodnight Scholar, a mentor with the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and has even made steps toward founding his own program focused on connecting high school and community college students to professional mentors. 

“I am passionate about mentoring, tutoring, guiding, and encouraging first-generation, immigrants or non-traditional students like myself to archive their academic goals. As a student, I have developed the belief that education is not only for those that have opportunities and funding, but also for those that only have the talent. I am sure that as a Fellow, I am going to be surrounded with so much positive energy and that will encourage and inspire me to grow, learn and make a small impact in the life of others.”

Kendall Zorn

As a senior studying environmental engineering, Kendall has fully devoted herself to ensuring the quality and access of clean water across the world. She is a Grand Challenge Scholar with the College of Engineering focusing on the cause, participates in the Water, Hygiene and Sanitation club at NC State and is currently working as a research assistant modeling the human health risk associated with contaminated drinking water. Additionally, Kendall is the vice president of projects for NC State’s Engineers Without Borders and a member of their Guatemala Water Systems Project.

“I believe that working to further social innovation, in whatever form that takes, is a critical field of work and study that requires thinking outside of the box, being uncomfortable, and challenging current systems and beliefs. It is work that requires us to look at the worst parts of humanity. This work takes a toll, whether that be physical, emotional, or mental, but a toll nonetheless. Therefore, it requires hope, the ability to dream, and positivity.”

Matt Slaughter

Growing up regularly visiting the New England Aquarium in Boston and more recently seeing firsthand the degradation of marine ecosystems worldwide influenced Matt to try and make a difference. Now a senior studying chemical engineering with a concentration in sustainable engineering, he wants to apply what he’s learned in his studies to make change and become an active participant in the environmentally conscious entrepreneurship community.

“I look forward to working alongside my teammates, solving problems, creating new products and solutions, and presenting them to other professionals. I am excited to make new connections and grow alongside a team. We all have incredible ideas that have a common goal in mind: to help the planet. I want to learn about their passions, bounce ideas off of them, and open my mind to all the possibilities that are in the realm of sustainability.”

Sindhu Polavaram

Sindhu is a senior studying biological engineering with a concentration in ecological engineering and Spanish language and literature. She believes that balance is the best approach to sustainability. Her studies are at the intersection of the man-made and the natural, her projects between creativity and stability and her work at NC State’s ​​Sustainability Stewards program as the Outreach and Education Team Leader between innovative and practical. Sindhu sees this balancing as a strength and that intersectionality is the key to resilience. 

“While exploring my interest in sustainability, I learned that real institutional change begins with participating and paying attention to the local economy and politics. What happens at a local level more directly affects myself and the community around me. The SI Fellows’ approach to entrepreneurship embodies this philosophy at its core. As an NC State Social Innovation Fellow, I will be able to explore the intersectionality of my passions for sustainability and equity while refining my skills as a professional and academic.”

Affordable and Clean Energy

Goal 7 is to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. This goal is represented by second-time SI Fellows partner All We Are, a Raleigh-based nonprofit founded by social entrepreneur Nathan Thomas that helps provide clean solar energy for community-oriented buildings like hospitals ab schools in Ugandan villages.

Allison Starling

Allison is a junior studying international studies and political science with a minor in French. With the Social Innovation Fellows, she is hoping to become a better member of the global community and fortify her leadership skills to help others. She is particularly passionate about gender equality and how it influences other systemic challenges.

“Gender inequality is like a tree with roots deeply ingrained in societal beliefs and is connected to many other global issues. By attempting to mitigate gender inequality, the global community can hopefully grow in a positive and sustainable manner. My hope for the Social Innovation Fellows is to connect what I learn in the classroom and apply it to the outside world. I’m hoping this experience will shed light on the process of problem solving such intricate global issues.”

Asher Zhang

A senior in sociology and psychology, Asher is interested in making change at the societal level, especially regarding the health and sustainability of cities. His research interests in the classroom revolve around reducing health disparities in urban areas through city planning but he’s looking to apply what he’s learned for social good with a group of multidisciplinary students.

“I am excited for the relationships facilitated through the Social Innovation Fellows program. I barely get to interact with students outside my major, so this program is a great way for me to reach outside of my bubble and gain experience relating to other students with different educational backgrounds.”

Jenni Mangala

Jenni is a sophomore studying electrical engineering with a concentration in renewable electric energy systems and a minor in business entrepreneurship. Her passion for sustainable energy systems, particularly in developing countries, motivates her professionally, academically and personally. She works with NC State’s Solar Pack and Engineers Without Borders, where she helps assess the infrastructure of a secondary school in Sierra Leone to design electrical systems for solar panel installation and computer usage. She is also a Park Scholar and a member of the National Society of Black Engineers.

“My family immigrated to Raleigh from the D.R. Congo, in which only 9% of the nation has electricity access. Understanding the role power distribution plays in infrastructural growth and the industrialization of developing countries, my life goal is to expand renewable energy resources in sub-Saharan Africa. The SIF’s program mission of impact-focused innovation to transform existing structures aligns perfectly with my personal calling.”

Sarah Smart

A senior studying agricultural science with a specialization in animal science and agriculture business, Sarah is the embodiment of giving back. She’s developed elementary curricula for agriculture education and is currently forming a foundation based on her previous work supplying personal hygiene products to her local community. Eventually, she’d like to build a business that uses agriculture not just to provide food and fiber for her community but also to provide fair jobs, sustainable energy through anaerobic digestion and tackle issues of inequality.

“My faith fuels my desire to help and serve others. When I am dead, I do not want anyone to remember me, but I want people to feel an everlasting impact from my work; when I was diagnosed with cancer two times while at NC State, this statement became a very real thing. I want to use my agriculture-based and organizational leadership-based strengths to positively influence the world. This year I hope to work together to build something that can last after we are gone and that can combine the power of the industry with the heart of charity.”

Tatum Kellum

Tatum is a senior studying biological sciences with a concentration in molecular, cellular and developmental biology with a minor in nonprofit studies. As a Park Scholar, she is passionate about fostering a sense of community— a passion she discovered while working as an English teacher in Hanoi, Vietnam. During the pandemic, Tatum was instrumental in continuing NC State’s Krispy Kreme Challenge virtually as their Race Director while also successfully earning her EMT license.

“My dream career is to help people. I know that no matter what career path I choose to follow, I will be dedicated to helping others. While I have good intentions about nonprofit work and creating an impact, I still have a lot to learn in terms of project planning and execution. I am hoping that the Social Innovation Fellows program will be able to help me develop the skills necessary to create the change that I aspire to generate.”

Responsible Consumption and Production

Goal 12 is to ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns globally. Our partner for this goal for the second year is NC State’s Compost Facility and Research Cooperative, a campus unit that handles nearly all of its organic waste and strives to provide a space for students, faculty and community members to better understand the environmental benefits of composting.

Niambé James

Since Niambé was a little girl, she’s had a passion for sustainability. It’s no wonder that she’s a senior in the College of Natural Resources studying sustainable materials and technology, as well as minoring in environmental science. While she is learning the technical aspects of sustainability in the classroom, she is approaching the challenge holistically as a Goodnight Scholar through mentorship and engagement. Living her day to day trying to make the world a better place, Niambé hopes to be the change she wants to see in the world.

“My studies have mainly focused on the environmental and economic sides of sustainability issues. I hope the Social Innovation Fellows will help me address all three pillars of sustainability – including the social aspect – as I work to address problems plaguing our environment.” 

Noah Retarides

Noah is a graduate student in the Wilson College of Textiles concentrating in fashion development and product management. Not surprisingly, Noah enjoys tie-dyeing and working on apparel design projects in his free time. He’s an avid outdoor enthusiast and his deep love for nature has influenced his passion for sustainability and his work with NC State’s Greater Good Textile Group.

“I am extremely passionate about sustainability but have not had the opportunity to work on a project that results in real change. I hope that with the help of program mentors and industry partners, our team can create an innovative solution that results in positive change.”

Prathik Velagapudi

Prathik is a sophomore studying computer science who is passionate about finding connections between different fields and disciplines. From his summers exploring rural India to his involvement in Raleigh’s Global Climate Strike and the NewGen Peacebuilders program, he believes that transdisciplinary collaboration is the key to creating real change for the environment.

“In the Social Innovation Fellows, I hope we can use our different passions and skill sets to solve issues. I want to meet people with diverse backgrounds and similar goals. By working with peers that share similar goals, I hope to enact real change towards issues that I am passionate about— including environmental issues and technological issues.”

Varunya Karthikeyan 

Varunya is a senior studying business administration with a concentration in entrepreneurship, international studies with a concentration in global development and sustainability and a minor in French. She is driven by the interconnectedness of entrepreneurship, social causes and creativity. She founded The Happy Thoughts Project that creates and delivers individualized care packages and notes of encouragement to patients in hospitals and care facilities. She also works to fundraise for nonprofits, ventures for social good and small businesses.

“This program is the one that holistically covers and acts as a catalyst for my future plans for running a non-profit organization and working with the UN in policy for representation. The aspects of creativity, teamwork, engagement, and leadership that are present within this program truly encapsulate my strengths and passions. I hope to develop them even more through this year-long project.”

Zara Pandite

Zara is a junior in food science pursuing a certificate in interdisciplinary entrepreneurship. New to NC State, she was previously a student at a culinary school where she studied food allergens and intolerance. On the path to starting her own sustainable food production company, Zara puts her adventurous spirit to use in other ways including running her own food blog and scuba diving.

“One of the factors that initially caught my attention about SIF is that the program focuses on creating both national and global impact, which is ultimately my goal. I see SIF as a way for me to further my social entrepreneurial knowledge and skills through immersive experiences. Since I strongly believe in learning through doing, I know SIF will help me learn how to create the change I want to see.”

Zero Hunger

Goal 2 is to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture. This year, this goal is represented by Sankofa Farms, a venture founded by NC State doctoral student Kamal Bell that aims to provide healthy options for those in food deserts and break down educational barriers for young African American men. 

Connor Golden

Connor is a senior studying industrial design. As a designer, he is motivated by and passionate about creating systems and innovative solutions that will better communities. With a sense of responsibility to give back to his community, Connor has volunteered with various organizations, one of which being the Raleigh Rescue Mission where he helped deliver meals for people in need. 

“As a designer, I am passionate about finding creative ways to shape people’s experiences so they may enjoy a better quality of life. I believe that participating with this group will deepen my understanding of different perspectives and challenge me to find ways to use my skills in a meaningful way.”

Hattie Altmann

A junior majoring in media communication and minoring in global leadership and team decision-making, Hattie is interested in using the media as a positive influence on social issues. She’s excited for the opportunity to use the resources available at NC State to create solutions that reach beyond the university and learn methods of thinking that will benefit the greater good. Fun Fact: Hattie can also ride a unicycle. 

“The work that the Social Innovation Fellows program accomplishes through group collaboration to reach solutions, shows me that so much is possible and can be achieved through determination and across varying disciplines.”

Lacey Malinsky

Growing up in the small town of Lumberton, North Carolina, Lacey has always been interested in healthcare and research, motivating her to study biological sciences with a concentration in integrative physiology and neurobiology, as well as a minor in biotechnology. She developed a passion for community service through the Goodnight Scholars program, leading to her second minor in nonprofit studies and embodying the mantra of “pay it forward”. 

“I am passionate about helping people gain access to basic necessities that enable them to live their life to the fullest. I hope that the SIF program will give me the skillset to be able to confidently develop and implement action oriented plans that will help people gain and maintain access to basic necessities in the future.” 

Tafui Leggard

A senior studying industrial engineering, Tafui is looking for a way to apply her knowledge on implementing effective solutions and her interests in policy and politics to the public and social sectors. She is passionate about access and quality of education and works as a policy and research intern for the Hunt Institute, a group dedicated to ensuring equitable public education in North Carolina. 

“My passion for social change comes from my background of growing up in the Caribbean. Being in an environment where recycling and conservation isn’t a priority, made me want to understand how to bring these actions and mindsets to communities where it is needed the most. I am really passionate about being able to help those in my community and help move towards a more equal future but I struggle to get from the idea to the action. I hope SIF will help me learn how to make a difference in an actionable way.”

Talya Suber

Talya is a senior studying fashion and textile management with a concentration in product development and product management with a minor in international studies. They epitomize the “think globally, act locally” mindset. With the goal of eventually becoming a socially responsible entrepreneur, Talya has been deeply involved with NC State’s Global Village and organized several of their Black History Month events. As a Caldwell Fellow, they also worked with Neighbor to Neighbor, a local after-school enrichment program, before and during the pandemic.

“I am passionate about social justice and youth development. Through Social Innovation Fellows, I hope to find the resources and people I need to propel my passion into action by finding ways I can help in my day-to-day. I think this fellowship is a great step towards my goal of becoming a global citizen to uplift my communities while creating art that I love.”

To stay informed about what the Fellows are doing this year, be sure to follow us on Instagram and sign up for our newsletter.

Jack Ratterree, author, is a two-time NC State graduate from the College of Design in graphic design and the SIE Senior Program Assistant.