Get to know the 2020-2021 Social Innovation Fellows

On behalf of the Social Innovation + Entrepreneurship program and NC State’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences, we are immensely proud to present the 2020-21 class of Social Innovation Fellows. At this time of global crisis, the importance of innovative thinking— crossing disciplinary lines and seeing the big picture together— has never been clearer. Our fourth cohort, these thirty students represent the best and brightest across the university and are equipped with the remarkable resilience and passion to make a positive impact.

We appreciate the efforts of everyone who has provided support and commitment to the Fellows. We couldn’t do without the valuable time and energy donated by our Team Mentors, Senior Fellows, Brain Trust, and university administration.

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


 

Abby Scheer

Abby Scheer

Coming from a Nebraskan town home to only 330 people, Abby’s greatest strengths are her determination and big-picture thinking. Getting her master’s degree in industrial design with a background in textile manufacturing, her goal is to push the boundaries on the challenge of sustainability and is excited to collaborate with students with diverse backgrounds. 

“I believe the future of our planet depends on our ability to pursue sustainability with vigor and commitment. Good design should be accessible by all and done for all. I believe being a Social Innovation Fellow will give me the opportunity to tackle wicked problems with this core, and learn a lot about various needs from around the globe.”

 

Aman Kumar
Aman Kumar

Aman Kumar

Pursuing his master’s degree in industrial engineering, Aman is the first in his family to travel outside of the country for higher education. Back in New Delhi, India, he was a core part of an enterprise that produced crutches for the disabled. At NC State, he wants to continue to help make a positive social impact while staying curious and excited about what’s next.

“I always wanted to contribute my skills towards the development of products that can help society as a whole, the immediate impact of which can be visible and experienced by many. Being an NC State Social Innovation fellow will enhance my capabilities, help me meet like-minded people, and increase my learning growth exponentially.”

 

Anna-Grace Agnini

Anna-Grace Agnini

Anna-Grace is a sophomore majoring in Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management with a concentration in Sustainable Tourism and a minor in Environmental Science. She is highly involved with sustainable initiatives on campus including Zero Waste Wolves, a Beekeeper’s Club, and the Civically Engaged Scholars program. Using what she’s learned so far from these experiences, she hopes the Social Innovation Fellows will continue to teach her how to make social change.

“I know that being a part of the Fellows would challenge me to think deeper and more complexly in order to solve problems unlike those I have previously faced. I want the work I do later in my life to be that of positive social change, and this program would allow me to grow into a better changemaker by providing me with an opportunity to improve essential skills, such as leadership and creativity.”

 

Austin Dunlow

Austin Dunlow

A junior studying political science with a concentration in public policy, Austin sees his degree as an opportunity to promote social justice rather than fame or fortune. His passion for civic leadership and community building is clear in his work: fighting for voting rights of the disenfranchised and as an editor for the technician. His goal to continue this passion after graduation is to join the Peace Corps. and eventually work for an international nonprofit such as UNICEF. 

“I’m excited for Social Innovation Fellows because it gives me the opportunity to not only grow my passions for social change but guides me by providing mentors and opportunities that I wouldn’t otherwise have access to.”

 

Caroline McMillan

Caroline McMillan

Caroline is a sophomore double majoring in science, technology, and society and sociology with minors in environmental science and agroecology. She hopes to use her degrees to provide humanitarian aid to less developed countries and work to find a solution to the global hunger crisis. Between volunteering and serving as Peer Leader for the College of Natural Resources, Caroline spends what free time she has DJing for NC State’s radio station: 88.1 WKNC.

“I am extremely passionate about the future of agriculture and the environment. Investing in the future of our planet and its inhabitants is a huge part of my life’s mission. I am interested in [the Social Innovation Fellows] because I believe it will help me to surround myself with other like-minded individuals who also value making an impact on the world around us.”

 

Cedric Clyburn

Cedric Clyburn

Only a freshman studying computer science with a minor in business administration, Cedric has already made a mark on the university. He is the committee director for Engineers Without Borders, for example, in which he and his team have just returned from Sierra Leone where they work to improve water systems. He’s a serial entrepreneur: participating in LuLu eGames and Make-a-Thon and volunteering his time with multiple NC State ventures.

“I’ve been full of ideas and passion since I got here about campus problems I see every day to global disparities that I want to help try to fix. I can see so many parts of our local community and environment that could use positive innovation, and as a computer scientist, I want to use my skill set to make it happen. It’s our action of today that leaves an impact tomorrow”

 

Danika Huizinga

Danika Huizinga

Danika is a junior double majoring in criminology and international studies with a concentration in global relations and pursuing a minor in business administration. She is an Olympic-level swimmer— on the varsity team and a member of the Guatemala National Team. Growing up in Guatemala, she is driven to help improve the educational opportunities in her home country and hopes to pursue a degree in international law after graduation. 

“I want to be able to give back to the country that I call home, Guatemala is a beautiful country that just needs a little bit of help, and I believe that with some aid from our program, we can really help a large proportion of Guatemalan citizens.”

 

Eden Millan

Eden Millan

Currently in her first year studying textile engineering with a concentration in product engineering, Eden is determined to help improve the textile industry. She’s particularly passionate about combating the harmful environmental effects and working conditions and is currently working with campus organizations like the Greater Good Textile Group and the Environmental Student Association. And as a goalkeeper for NC State’s soccer team, she’ll have no trouble rallying a team for the cause.

“I am a student, an athlete, and a woman who’s found the power within her voice. These aspects of my identity led to a path that allows me to take advantage of the ethos of my sport while utilizing my passion for social awareness.”

 

Emma Wilson

Emma Wilson

Emma is a freshman studying fisheries, wildlife, and conservation Biology with a concentration in wildlife science and a minor in applied ecology. Intending to become an ecological engineer, she is dedicated to designing sustainable solutions: not just in terms of environmental stewardship but also social sustainability. She hopes to one day manage and restore wetland habitats and hike the entire Appalachian Trail.

“I want to challenge myself to expand my perspective and to develop the skills to brainstorm solutions across disciplines. I hope to explore the connection between natural resources and social innovation, and I strive to use that knowledge to solve our pressing sustainability challenges and change our world.”

 

Erin Kohn

Erin Kohn

Erin is a freshman getting her degree in biological sciences: ecology, evolution, and conservation biology, but what she is really passionate about is food and the global hunger crisis. She’s volunteered for a sustainable farm for several years and has continued that work on campus in organizations like Feed the Pack. Erin sees the underlying issues of the crisis, such as those in education and equality, and hopes to one day radically change farming practices for the better. 

“I have seen what hunger looks like in my community. I want to create a company that demolishes hunger, establishes farms in food deserts, and teach people in the community how to sustain them. By becoming a Social Innovation Fellow, I want to be able to learn how to launch this dream and make long-lasting connections with people to help me achieve my goal.”

 

Felicity Hoppes

Felicity Hoppes

Felicity is a sophomore studying business administration and management. From her volunteering with the JC Raulston Arboretum to organizing campaigns for matters she believes in, Felicity finds strength in surrounding herself with likeminded individuals working together towards a common goal.

“Finding people that are passionate about the same things that I am has definitely been a goal of mine since coming to NC State, and I am excited to take on opportunities that will allow me to find those people.”

 

Grace Saunders

Grace Saunders

Grace is a junior studying business administration with a concentration in human resources with minors in nonprofit studies and psychology. Currently pursuing her certificate in entrepreneurship and an intern at local social enterprise A Place at the Table, she is passionate about motivating people and empowering them through sustained mentorship.

“The actions I have taken in my life that best reflect what I care about can be found in how I treat people and the intentionality I exercise in my relationships. I place myself in positions where I can learn from people, work with people, help people, or lead people.”

 

Holly Newman

Holly Newman

A junior in mechanical engineering, Holly is working to provide clean water and sanitation for all. To achieve this, she is a member of the Wolves for Water club and she’s served as Partnerships Director for NC State’s Engineers Without Borders where she helped establish rainwater catchment systems in Guatemala. And through her work encouraging girls to pursue STEM degrees, she hopes to carry on her goals to the next generation.

“Service is something that is very meaningful to me in my life. I feel like I learn so much about myself and the world around me every time I serve.”

 

Jada Wyatt

Jada Wyatt

Currently a freshman studying business administration, Jada hopes to continue the work and momentum she’s built before coming to NC State. She was a founding member of Young Innovators of Davidson County, a group that’s made waves in the small town and where she currently serves as a board member.

“I have a passion for creating and seeing communal change through.”

 

Jeel Vachhani

Jeel Vachhani

Jeel is a junior studying industrial and systems engineering with minors in statistics and business entrepreneurship. While teaching underprivileged children back home in Gujarat, India, she set up a group where gynecologists could speak openly and field questions about menstruation and sex education from girls where the topics are still taboo. 

“Teaching in government schools made me realize that even though I live in the same town as these kids our lifestyle and world are so different. I hope to bring education to rural areas and equip people with the ability to think and reason for themselves rather than relying on someone else.”

 

Jenny Gosney

Jenny Gosney

Jenny is a junior studying civil engineering. She is passionate about making clean water and healthy food more accessible to those in need. She currently serves as the project lead for NC State’s Engineers Without Borders where she organizes efforts to build and maintain sustainable sources of clean water in rural Guatemala. 

“I think that it is one thing to acknowledge that we face global issues of access to clean water, reliable sources of food, and equal education, but it is a completely different thing to work towards finding sustainable solutions to resolve those issues. I feel as though I have a social responsibility to use my knowledge and capabilities to help find those solutions.”

 

Julia O’Brien

Julia O’Brien

Julia is a senior double majoring in chemical engineering with a concentration in biomanufacturing and Spanish language and literature. A Benjamin Franklin Scholar and Caldwell Fellow, she is persistent and a natural leader. Through her time at NC State, Julia has been driven by the fight against inequality. She founded the project We, the Pack where she captures stories of students across campus to foster “inclusion, transparency, and vulnerability.”

“Where the Caldwell Fellows provided me with the awareness of different social issues, the Social Innovation Fellows will provide me with the power and motivation to do something about it. We live in a world where people are fleeing their homes due to economic corruption, political turmoil, and violence. I want to provide them with opportunities. I want to give them a community. I want to raise them up when they are at their most vulnerable.”

 

Keya Pothireddy

Keya Pothireddy

A sophomore in economics with minors in computer programming and statistics, Keya is actively involved in fighting food insecurity in the local community. She started by serving as the president of her high school’s food ark, overseeing the development of their community garden and food pantry, and establishing similar student organizations in surrounding schools. She now works for the cause at NC State, volunteering with Feed the Pack and the Food Recovery Network.

“I have lived in Raleigh for the last twelve years and have been fortunate enough to hold positions over the last few years that have given me the opportunity to give back to the Raleigh community. I am eager to work with individuals that are just as motivated and driven as myself on a project that will benefit the greater community.”

 

Layah Edwards

Layah Edwards

Layah is a sophomore studying sustainable materials and technology with a minor in business administration. Layah hopes to bridge what she’s learning about sustainability from her major with her passion for empowering people. She served as vice president of Girl Up, an organization that educates girls about women’s issues and helped start a soccer league for underprivileged children in her area.

“I hope I can have an impact in changing people’s perspectives when it comes to the benefits of making small changes to better the environment as a whole. The Social Innovation Fellows program values active change and that is what I want to do.”

 

Maddie Schneider

Maddie Schneider

Maddie is a sophomore in exploratory studies with a minor in nonprofit studies. She is passionate about uplifting people. Working with the Boys and Girls Club, volunteering for the Raleigh Rescue Mission, and being a role model for elementary school students through NC State’s College Mentors for Kids program are a few of the many ways she fulfills that passion.

“I am fascinated by the ways business skills can be used to promote social good, and I am excited to learn how my talents, abilities, and ideas can make positive changes in the community in which I live.”

 

Manasa Chinta

Manasa Chinta

A first-year student in computer science, Manasa is looking forward to maintaining her social entrepreneurial spirit during her time at NC State. Over the past few years, she has worked on many projects to improve the quality of life in rural Southern India. These projects include working to outfit a disadvantaged classroom with necessary furniture to installing sustainable light sources in over one hundred homes. These projects ignite her passion and keep her going back to India every summer.

“I believe that one of the greatest assets for the next generation is a problem-solving mindset. Our current social and environmental challenges require the next generation of workers to be problem solvers with the Think and Do attitude regardless of the profession they choose to enter.”

 

Marica Thomas

Marica Thomas

Marica is a junior studying environmental science with a minor in renewable energy. She is passionate about sustainable development: currently the sustainability officer of Wolf Village Council and an ambassador at NCSolar NOW. She enjoys problem-solving and one day hopes to be the director for the Environmental Protection Agency. 

“I aspire to be a well-rounded scientist and person in order to effectively make a strong impact. I have a strong desire to gain extensive experience with utilizing and improving my skills in leadership and public speaking and developing meaningful connections and partnerships.”

 

Meg Pugsley

Meg Pugsley

Meg is a sophomore studying science, technology, and society with a concentration in environmental studies and applied ecology. She is the embodiment of what it truly means to think upstream. She chose her particular major in order to not only explore sustainability but to understand the roots of the issue from a multidisciplinary perspective. She hopes to one day study environmental law and address the intersectional inequity in environmental justice.

“Coming to NC State has ignited my interest in shaping the new paradigm of thought concerning gender, identity, science, and our relationship with the natural world as we enter a new technological age. Although I have immensely enjoyed all of my course work surrounding sustainability and social progress, I am restless to be part of a project to work towards that goal.”

 

Pradhan Sudhanva Gowda Chetan Venkataramaiah

Prada Sudhanva Gowda Chetan Venkataramaiah

Prada is a sophomore studying computer science with a minor in economics. On-campus he serves as president for NC State’s chapter of Challah for Hunger, a local venture founded by SIF alumna Paige Swanson. He is excited to become a Social Innovation Fellows and expand his positive social impact. 

“I’m very passionate about integrating technology into ‘technophobic’ fields like agriculture and food insecurity, especially in ways to help solve today’s problems. I hope that my Fellow cohort will challenge me and help me ideate towards a better tomorrow.”

 

Sierra Kabir

Sierra Kabir

A sophomore studying political science with a concentration in public policy and a minor in history, Sierra is motivated by altruism and community building. She fights for every NC State student having a voice and feeling included through her work with the Women’s Center and as the chair for the Diversity Activities Board. 

“I am passionate about equity. I believe the future is about allowing people and groups to rewrite their narratives while making it easy for them to do so. I think that the Social Innovation Fellowship will help me fulfill this by teaching me the practical skills and networking strategies to make my passion a reality.”

 

Simran Singh

Simran Singh

Simran is a doctoral student getting his Ph.D. in electrical engineering with a focus on wireless communications for UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles). Growing up in Mumbai led him to actively work towards mindfulness and wellness in himself and his community. He is the president of SKY Happiness Club at NC State where he leads wellness workshops. 

“Growing up in the city of Mumbai, known for its extremes, I have seen poverty and the struggles of life first-hand. I have also experienced the impact that my actions can make. I am passionate about removing any obstacles that help people reach their potential.”

 

Skye Pham

Skye Pham

Skye is in her first year of studying sustainable materials & technology with minors in art + design and renewable energy assessment. Growing up in various environments and cultures like Vietnam and China made her conscious of the impact of her consumption at a young age. Now, Skye hopes to use her background and interdisciplinary perspective to make sustainability more accessible for all walks of life. 

“I believe that in a rapidly developing world there is a need for increasingly more innovative minds as new issues arise at more frequent rates. Through the Social Innovation Fellows, I will be able to fulfill my passion by exploring new ways in which sustainability can play a role in problem-solving and various fields of study.”

 

Stephanie Gongora

Stephanie Gongora

Stephanie is a junior studying textile engineering with a concentration in product engineering and a minor in materials science. With a background in fashion design, she hopes learning about the technical side of textiles will help her move the industry forward to reduce waste and overconsumption. Specifically, she wants to fight ocean pollution and currently teams up with Zero Waste Wolves to work towards that goal.

“I came to NC State in pursuit of carrying out my vision of building a more sustainable future for fashion. To make an impact in other lives and the planet, and to put energy into my own goals is a life filled with meaning for me. The career I have chosen is in pursuit of fulfilling these very exact things, and at the end of the day it is also a key motivator to keep pushing through.” 

 

Vanessa Merritt

Vanessa Merritt

Vanessa is a junior double majoring in fisheries, wildlife, and conservation biology with a concentration in wildlife science and international studies: global sustainability and development. A Caldwell Fellow, it’s not surprising she’s driven. Her passion for birds has brought her around the world from Guyana to Kenya and inspired projects right here at NC State: working with current SIF alumna and twin sister Olivia Merritt to install bird-deterrent film across campus. 

“I am passionate about exploring the idea of nature with others.  In the Global North, nature and humans are often seen as separate. I want to see how the conservation world could be transformed by a simple shift in thinking about the word ‘nature.’  Perhaps humans would begin to focus more on protecting habitat while also supporting local human livelihoods.”

 

Zachary Taylor

Zachary Taylor

A junior double majoring in computer science and mathematics, Zach is interested in bridging the gap between technology and social innovation. A volunteer for local food backs, he’s particularly interested in technology’s role in tackling food insecurity and environmental issues. He currently serves on the UAB’s Black Students Board and, in his free time, he likes to cook.

“I’ve seen how technology can be used in ways that are either very beneficial, or very detrimental, to the populations that they affect. Seeing as it has an outsized impact on society, I think that I can use technology to help bring about positive social change with the skills I’m learning.” 

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