Get to know the 2023-24 Social Innovation Fellows
NC State Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship invites you to get to know the 2023-2024 Social Innovation Fellows. This year 16 students from across the university are working together on three interdisciplinary teams. Read below about the impact these students are hoping to make while at NC State and afterwards, and learn a little more about the organizations they’re partnering with this year.
RTI Global Gender Center Team
Mentor: Dr. Lesley-Ann Noel
RTI Global Center is committed to dismantling gender inequality and fostering holistic health and wellness for women. Their unwavering mission is to educate, advocate, and provide innovative solutions across multiple domains; including health policy, substance abuse, HIV, sexual and reproductive health, education, economic development, and the prevention of gender-based violence. Through collaboration, empowerment, and evidence-based approaches, they aim to create a world where all women have the knowledge, resources, and support they need to thrive, shaping a future of equality, resilience, and well-being.
Amoré, from Charlotte, NC is a final year graduate student in the College of Design studying Industrial Design in order to pursue furniture design. She is interested in finding the intersections between her psychology background and current passion of furniture, examining concepts such as function, aesthetics, comfort and overall well-being as it relates to humans in their personal spaces as well as public spaces.
“Our environment highly impacts how we feel about ourselves, our mood, and our productivity. I am passionate about giving those from underrepresented backgrounds the ability to decide their own outcomes, without the pressures of external variables. I hope the Social Innovation Fellows will help me to fulfill my passion by providing guidance and resources.”
Jack Zimmerman from Cornelius, NC is a sophomore in the College of Natural Resources studying Sustainable Materials and Technology with a concentration in renewable energy in order to move the world into a cleaner and more sustainable energy future.
“Finding people that are willing to put ideas into action is extremely important in life and I know the Social Innovation Fellows Program does exactly that!”
Khawar Latif Khan
Khawar Latif Khan was born and raised in Pakistan. He is a PhD Candidate in the Communication, Rhetoric, and Digital Media (CRDM) program in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHASS). His research interests include UI/UX design, human-computer interaction, and design and social justice.
“I believe that the Social Innovation Fellowship will help me get better understanding of communities and develop a more empathic attitude when talking about their problems. I’m driven to make some difference in the lives of people who are at a disadvantage. If I can make an impact in one person’s life, changing it for the better, it’ll be worth the effort. “
Khushboo, from Delhi, India is a graduate student in the college of NCSU studying MBA in supply chain and business analytics in order to become a procurement professional.
“My interest in entrepreneurship and social innovation stems from my desire to create positive change in society, especially for young people. As someone who has witnessed the challenges faced by young people in India, particularly those who pursue arts-related fields, my vision is to establish a platform that enables young individuals to showcase their talents and generate income at an early age.”
Satya Munugoti is from Fayetteville, NC and is a senior in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. As a Psychology and Sociology major, Satya is interested in data-driven research, community organizing that centers marginalized communities, and effective communication/design strategy. She also currently serves as a coordinator for CRANE, an organization uplifting artistic, political, and social engagement within the Asian community.
“Both growing up in North Carolina and my South Indian heritage have influenced my interests in equitable healthcare and community-centered care. Through SIF, I am looking forward to collaborating across disciplines to design innovative solutions that center community needs.”
Shivani Karanth, from Greensboro, North Carolina is a Junior in the College of Engineering studying Mechanical Engineering and loves doing engineering research in hopes of one day pursuing graduate school and empowering future generations to pursue a career in STEM no matter their qualifications.
“I am excited to be a Social Innovation fellow so I can learn about better leadership styles and how to bridge the inequality gap. I also am looking forward to collaborating with peers in different colleges and learning about various, unique perspectives and backgrounds.”
People-First Tourism Team
Mentor: Dr. Andrew DiMeo
People First Tourism is a socially conscious business born out of sustainable tourism research from NC State University. dedicated to combating unsustainable and inhumane tourism practices by promoting responsible and ethical travel experiences. Their mission is to transform the way people explore the world while preserving the planet’s natural beauty and respecting local cultures.
Fernando Sisniega Serrano
Fernando Sisniega Serrano, from Charlotte is a junior in the college of Engineering, studying Computer Engineering to learn how strings of binary numbers are able to compound together and create the “magical machines” that surround us everyday.
“Through the Social Innovation Fellows, I hope to learn more about how we can help families struggling financially. Being a computer engineering student, I will use my knowledge in problem-solving and algorithms to find different ways to improve the financial situations and college opportunities of students. With the help of my peers, I know I will be able to make an impact in my community. I am excited to see what the future holds!”
Jacqueline Jimenez from Clayton, North Carolina is a senior in the college of Engineering. Studying Electrical Engineering while also adding a touch of linguistic flair with a minor in Spanish. Jackie’s journey so far has led her to recognize the immense potential of technology in shaping our lives and she’s eager to tap into that potential.
“As I look ahead, I’m truly excited about understanding the impact I can create by further developing myself. Being a part of the Social Innovation Fellows feels like the ideal path to collaborate with like-minded individuals who share this determination. Together, we can transform this idea into reality. Just as the saying goes, ‘When we unite, there are no boundaries to what we can accomplish.’”
Jake,from Greensboro, NC is a Junior in the college of Humanities and Social Sciences as well as Poole College of Management, studying International Studies and Business Admin in hopes to work abroad in fields like universal access to water, food, and education.
“I have dedicated much of my life to service, leadership and community. From a childhood filled with service and being within the community, to my commitment to the well-being of my residents and the student body at NC State, much of what I do and work towards is about building a community and making sure that everyone has the opportunity to feel as through they are a part of something larger.”
Katherine is studying Polymer and Color Chemistry in the Wilson College of Textiles, with the intention of going into research after graduation focusing on improving the sustainability of both textile and plastic waste disposal.
“The improvement of our community and society is something that matters a lot to me and I don’t want to wait until I graduate and have a job to contribute to that change. I believe the social innovation fellows will give me the resources and direction I need to start making an impact now.”
Manuel Valbuena Peña
Manny Valbuena Peña, from Warsaw, NC is a senior studying Environmental Engineering with a minor in Art and Design. He chose this path to better understand how we can interact with our physical surroundings in a sustainable manner, and hopes that this technical background will aid him in the pursuit of a career centered around community-driven solutions to social and ecological challenges.
“The more I learn about the roots of social and environmental justice, the more I see the role of urban and regional planning as both a historical driver and an area of great potential. I hope that through the Social Innovation Fellows, I am able to gain experience in my own community that allows me to aid in fostering growth and in generating ideas that are applicable anywhere.”
Tia Burmi, from Raleigh, NC is a Sophomore in the Poole College of Management studying Business Administration with an IT concentration. She hopes to eventually create a consulting initiative serving small businesses in her community.
“I am passionate about exploring the intersection between entrepreneurship, technology, and community building. SIF will help me be directly involved with people in the ultimate pursuit of impacting social change.”
NC State Blue Economy Innovation Program Team
Mentor: Raj Narayan
NC State’s Blue Economy Innovation Program was designed to mitigate the effects of climate change by focusing on scientific and technological innovations for reducing and stabilizing the levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. They also aim to protect wildlife by extending to a broader array of contaminants and pollutants that are compounding disturbances to terrestrial, freshwater, and marine ecosystems.
Allie Saffioti from Greensboro, North Carolina is a senior in the college of Natural Resources studying Sustainable Materials and Technology with a minor in Renewable Energy Assessment in order to learn and promote the benefits of renewable natural resources.
“I am passionate about educating my community on environmental impacts, and how making mindful choices can improve environmental and economical sustainability. I hope that Social Innovation Fellows will help me connect better with the people in my surrounding community in order to create meaningful and effective partnerships that benefit others and the environment.”
Ishita Pai Raikar
Ishita Pai Raikar is natively from India but lived in Singapore for 8 years before moving to the US! She’s a junior majoring in Computer Engineering and dual minoring in Philosophy and Cognitive Science. She is currently NAE’s Grand Challenge Scholar, undergraduate researcher and Oaks Leadership Scholar – all focusing on ethical AI.
A TEDxYouth speaker, professional Indian classical dancer, and experienced theatre artist, she skillfully employs storytelling to deeply resonate with audiences. Holding the title of Miss India North Carolina 2nd Runner-Up, she leverages her platform to advocate for positive change through her non-profit, GlobeUplift, creating awareness about environmental issues worldwide.
“Innovation is the fuel for our economy! My mind is constantly exploding with ways to improvise life and environment. Entrepreneurship gives me the opportunity to address all aspects of innovation from business perspective, market economies and customers’ needs. I am super excited about this program as it coincides with my personal motto Purpose over Profit.”
Mario Rosas, from Cabimas, Venezuela is a junior in the College of Engineering studying electrical engineering in order to develop the problem solving necessary for entrepreneurship and public leadership. His mission is to champion economic freedom, foster upward economic mobility, and facilitate access to education and information.
“In the coming year, my focus is on acquiring the skills and principles necessary for launching my own purpose-driven enterprise. I believe the Social Innovation Fellows program will be instrumental to help me accomplish this goal.”
Reilly Holbert, from Concord, North Carolina is a senior in the College of Design studying Industrial Design with a minor in Leadership: Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives. With a passion for sustainable innovation, she hopes to create accessible design that will better the lives of others.
“As humans, we interact with countless products, technologies and systems that surround us on a daily basis- design is as integral to our being as the air we breathe. Through Social Innovation Fellows, I look forward to collaborating with a diverse team whilst further developing and practicing design thinking in a more global, systems-based context.”
Shaun Deardorff, an entrepreneur and business owner from Durham, North Carolina is a senior in the College of Engineering majoring in Aerospace Engineering and minoring in Business Entrepreneurship, and is heavily involved on campus, serving as a director of the Krispy Kreme Challenge, a principal structures engineer at Liquid Rocketry Lab, University Scholars Program, and ambassadors for the entrepreneurship and MAE department.
Passionate and driven to help serve others, he is working to extended 5G millimeter wave technology in the US using drones and rovers, and helping to stop rhino poaching in Namibia, using his research with hydrogen fuel cell-equipped Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.
In the meantime, Shaun is aiming to create a new start-up that is a multi-faceted autonomous AI-driven unmanned aerial vehicle company to help increase humanitarian aid and transport access in remote location to save more lives.
“As part of the Social Innovation Fellows program, I look forward to applying my creative problem solving experience with an skilled interdisciplinary team to develop creative ideas and solutions to help support our community. As the SIF program promotes creativity, innovation, and ideation while placing an emphasis on diversity and cultural differences, I’m excited to help contribute solutions to important issues and tackle growing global challenges.”
Vie Villafuerte is originally from Arequipa, Peru. Over the years, North Carolina has turned into her second home. Vie is a graduate student in the College of Engineering studying Environmental Engineering driven by a deep commitment to addressing environmental issues.
Her passion lies in forging a harmonious relationship between humanity and the natural world, reflecting a desire to create a sustainable and balanced coexistence.
“What I’m most excited about the Social Innovation Fellows is collaborating with students from different fields and perspectives. Being part of a multidisciplinary group such as this one is crucial when looking for solutions to problems that we face as communities and as citizens of this world. If we want to combat climate change effectively we need the input from people with different backgrounds and experiences to better understand the roots and consequences of the problem, and I think SIF will help me develop this social awareness so I can better identify and solve environmental issues in the future.”
More to Come
The students in our 2023-24 cohort are supported by 7 Senior Fellows (students who have already completed at least one year in the program and are returning back to support the incoming students): Audrey Westlund, Shane Fogarty, Luis Jimenez, Michaela Langley, Jabson Aloma, Natalie Cotton and Jada Wyatt and 3 Team Mentors (established professionals with proven expertise): Dr. Lesley-Ann Noel, Raj Narayan, and Dr. Andrew DiMeo.
The Social Innovation Fellows learning experience has been generously supported by the Kenan Institute for Science and Technology as well as gifts made by private donors. Please visit our giving page to learn more about contributing to this effort.