Category Archives: Community

Smith School Undergrads Present Research in Rome

SIF Conference Sign

From left: Fasika Delessa, Evan Haas, Aishwariya Chandrasekar, Sarina Haryanto and Professor David Kirsch

by: Megan McPherson

On April 18-19, four Smith School students in the Center for Social Value Creation’s Social Innovation Fellows program, Sarina Haryanto, Aishwariya Chandrasekar, Fasika Delessa and Evan Haas, and Professor David Kirsch attended the inaugural IESE-LUISS Business School Conference on Responsibility, Sustainability and Social Entrepreneurship in Rome. Under the guidance of Professor Kirsch, these undergraduate students presented their paper, Hybrid Organizations and Social Enterprise Ecosystems: Findings from a U.S. Survey, to a room full of established academics.

The survey that formed the basis of their research was first launched by Halcyon Incubator in Washington, D.C. Last year, Halcyon released From the Ground Up: Defining Social Enterprise Systems in the U.S., the results of a nationwide survey to social entrepreneurs that assessed cities based on four “pillars” that create a healthy framework for a social enterprise ecosystem: Funding, Quality of Life, Human Capital and Regulations & Receptivity. The findings of the report designated Washington D.C. the number one ecosystem for social entrepreneurs.

After Halcyon Incubator formed an official partnership with the Dingman Center this past fall, Dingman Center Associate Director for Social Entrepreneurship Sara Herald and Halcyon Incubator Program Manager Ryan Ross discussed a research partnership on this year’s survey. Sara reached out to David Kirsch and the Social Innovation Fellows, who as part of their program must do a practicum or consulting project in the spring semester. Sarina, Aishwariya, Fasika and Evan were eager to volunteer, and with support from their professor, started the rigorous process of researching, refining and amending the content of the original survey, as well as expanding the survey’s outreach to increase the quantity and quality of participants.

When I interviewed Sarina and Aishwariya about their research experience, Sarina reflected on the first survey, “We were wondering, how did they come up with these four pillars in the first place? That’s when literature review became really essential.” As part of the academic process, every change they made had to be documented and justified with established research to eliminate bias as much as possible. When determining new questions to add to the survey, Aishwariya commented , “It was interesting to move out of our own perspectives. We had to imagine what people looking at the report would want to see, or what people answering the surveys would want to see.”

Throughout this exploration into academia, David Kirsch, the Dingman Center’s 2017 Rudy Award winner for Faculty Member of the Year, acted as a supportive guide and mentor. “Professor Kirsch has been our champion since day one,” Sarina exclaimed, going on to tell me about the late nights he spent with them at the Smith School to collaborate on their research. Sarina and Aishwariya both described the paper as a “consummate effort” on the part of the students and their professor. The night before their presentation in Rome, they all stayed in the hotel lobby until 2 a.m. to practice, talking through the paper and responses to potential questions. In one particularly surreal moment, Professor Kirsch told the fellows, “You need to refer to me as your co-author and you need to call me David.” Sarina and Aishwariya admitted, “We had to practice!”

In Rome, the academic community proved welcoming of these young students already engaged in high-level social innovation research. The fellows had the opportunity to meet face-to-face with their academic “celebrities,” people whose work was frequently cited in their paper. They were honored that several of these academics, including keynote speaker Johanna Mair, attended their presentation. Since their own presentation comprised a short span of the two-day conference, they attended many other interesting sessions as well on topics ranging from scaling social impact to an anthropological analysis of milk.

After the conference, the students went on an extensive food and sightseeing tour of Rome with Professor Kirsch. Along the way they had the chance to visit Impact Hub Rome, where they learned of the unique cultural challenges Rome poses as a social enterprise ecosystem. For example, in Italy public funding has a negative connotation, so there are fewer government-funded foundations that generate impact. Though social enterprises in Rome are also not legally distinct from for-profit businesses, they fulfill a valuable role in supplementing the lack of publicly-funded resources.

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The overall experience of the research project, conference and Rome trip had no small impact upon Sarina, Aishwariya, Fasika and Evan. Aishwariya remarked that “Before this, going into a PhD or writing a dissertation just seemed unapproachable.” Sarina agreed, adding, “Investing a lot of time and effort in research, it’s such a fulfilling process to see how we’re producing knowledge…That trip opened my eyes to academia and it’s something I look forward to doing in life.” Both of them were confident on one point: “Social Innovation Fellows has changed our lives.”

The team of students and Professor Kirsch are currently working on finalizing the paper and their findings to submit to the Journal of Business Ethics, which is releasing a special issue devoted to the conference. Over the next few months, they will continue to extrapolate trends from the survey data and examine potential correlations between cities. We look forward to sharing the results of their research in the next Social Enterprise Ecosystems report.

Funding for Sarina Haryanto, Aishwariya Chandrasekar, Fasika Delessa and Evan Haas to travel to Rome and attend the conference was provided by the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship, the Center for Social Value Creation, Office of Global Initiatives and the Office of Undergraduate Studies.

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A Day of Entrepreneurship with the Dingman Center

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by: Megan McPherson

This year for 30 Days of Entrepreneurship, the Dingman Center decided we would roll a month’s worth of activity into a single day: Thursday, April 20. The result was our Day of Entrepreneurship, which featured the return of a popular Dingman Center event, Terp Marketplace, and later a rousing speech by entrepreneurship guru Jeff Hoffman.

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No More Pencils, No More Books: Marketing with Liz Sara

lizsara-headshotBest Marketing’s Liz Sara, Chair of the Board of the Dingman Center of Entrepreneurship and Entrepreneur-in-Residence, just completed teaching her flagship MBA Class, “Business-to-Business Marketing” during this 2017 Winter Session. Now in its fourth year, Liz has fashioned this class as a 100 percent experiential learning environment based completely on outside CEO speakers who present real world marketing challenges.  And much like the childhood rhyme we sang in grade school, there really were NO textbooks in this class, nor outdated case studies.

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What’s New with Kanvasroom Co-Founder Aaron Pludwinski

by: Megan McPherson


This past November, Fearless Founder alumni Aaron Pludwinski ’16 and his co-founder Derien Scott ’17 launched Kanvasroom, a cloud-based communication tool that’s optimized for digital media creatives. The idea for Kanvasroom took shape three years ago while the founders were exploring their own creative pursuits—Aaron in video post-production and Derien in music production—and realized a niche for a website where creatives from around the world could come together and collaborate on projects. Rather than looking to replace existing tools such as Adobe Creative Suite, Skype, Paypal or Basecamp, they envisioned a website where many of the most basic needs these applications provide could exist in one space. The result would maximize efficiency and improve communication, leaving more time and energy for content creation. Eager to act on their idea, they joined the Spring 2015 cohort of Idea Shell, ultimately moving through Fearless Founders on to Hatch in Spring 2016 until Aaron graduated and moved back to his hometown of Miami.

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Kanvasroom’s co-founders: Derien Scott and Aaron Pludwinski

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Wrapping Up a Fantastic Semester at the Dingman Center

It’s that time of year. The stream of talented student entrepreneurs we’ve seen come through our doors begins to thin out with the arrival of finals, commencement and (at last!) winter break. But in the quiet of their absence, we can fondly reminisce on the outstanding semester we’ve had at the Dingman Center. In the past couple of months, we’ve seen a record amount of energy and engagement from the community in our programs. Read on for some of our favorite highlights from the semester.

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Entrepreneur-in-Residence: Rashad Moore

3184-cropThe Dingman Center is pleased to announce the addition of another successful founder, Rashad Moore, to our impressive group of Entrepreneurs-in-Residence. Rashad is excited to become more integrated into the Dingman community and to do what he enjoys most of all—helping young entrepreneurs. He started attending Dingman Fridays a few years ago and loved getting access to smart people with great ideas. He states, “Dingman is doing a lot of great stuff—if I had this in college, I may be further along.”

Rashad began his career in the defense industry in the outskirts of Washington, D.C., working for Northrop Grumman where he saw an unmet need for software engineers within the defense industry. After learning how to win government contracts while working for Clear Solutions, Rashad quickly realized it didn’t matter what company got the government bid, they would still come to him for software engineering.

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spark: Where Fearless Ideas Start

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Last Friday was the start of something new and extraordinary at the University of Maryland: spark: Where Fearless Ideas Start, a two-day idea festival co-hosted by the Dingman Center and Startup Shell featuring design-thinking and brainstorming activities that encouraged students to find solutions to problems they want to solve. spark has filled an essential niche at UMD by providing students who are interested in entrepreneurship but haven’t yet founded a venture with a means to discover and explore how their passions can translate into business ideas.

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A Review of Dream, Girl: A Documentary About Female Entrepreneurs

This fall, the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship will be launching the Ladies First Initiative, our commitment to increasing the number of women in entrepreneurship at UMD.

by: Alison Scharman

Last week, women across Smith and their male allies gathered to watch Dream, Girl, thedreamgirl story of how Erin Bagwell, a young graphic designer from New York City, made a documentary. But this film wasn’t just the story of Erin and how she made a movie from inception to funding to distribution. Erin’s objective was to tell the stories of female entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds representing a variety of industries to inspire girls and women of all ages to pursue their entrepreneurial aspirations.

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A Round of Golf with the Dingman Center Angels and Baltimore Angels

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On June 8, the Dingman Center Angels ended their 2015-2016 investment year. This year, the Baltimore Angels were also extended an invitation to the final investor meeting and annual golf event. In the morning, the investors reviewed a strong lineup of startup companies including Cybrary, Devensoft, InHerSight, Inky and Zoobean. After some engaging discussions and light lunch networking, the Dingman Center Angels and Baltimore Angels joined the Dingman Center team for a round of golf.

Each group played a 4-man scramble, so both early stage and mature golfers had opportunities to shine. Closest to the pin and longest drive contests on the 8th and 9th hole kept things interesting for the more competitive players. The positive energy of the morning investor meeting coupled with the beautiful weather made for a relaxing, fun afternoon. We hope that even more players will sign up for next year’s golf event. Angels, have a great summer and we’ll see you in the fall!

Interested in joining the Dingman Center Angels? Find out more on the Dingman Center website.

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Celebrating the 2nd Annual Rudy Awards

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More than 100 entrepreneurs, advisers, investors, students and alumni gathered on May 5, 2016 for our second annual Rudy Awards ceremony. This year’s Awards were especially meaningful, as they marked the 30th anniversary of the Dingman Center and its community. Prime movers in the history of the Center were in attendance, including founding donor Michael Dingman and his family, along with first director Charlie Heller and former director Asher Epstein. Under their lasting influence, the Dingman Center network has grown many new branches. The Rudy Awards are not only a way to honor members of each branch, but to allow the entire Dingman center community to celebrate with each other, united in their passion for entrepreneurship. Congratulations to the following award winners.

2016 Rudy Awards Winners

Research Honors

Yang Pan PhD ’17 – Winner
Yuan Shi PhD ’18 – Winner

Faculty Award

David Kressler Winner
Joseph Bailey
Evan Starr

Mentor of the Year

Polly Vail – Winner
Drew Bewick ’88
Paul Capriolo ’06
Bob London ’83
Rashad Moore

Angel Investor of the Year

Bill Boyle ’81 – Winner
Hilton Augustine
Joshua Goldberg
Vadim Polikov

Alumni Entrepreneur of the Year

Ali von Paris ’12, Route One ApparelWinner
Eric Golman ’15, Javazen
Matt Furstenburg ’11, Grip Boost
Evan Lutz ’14, Hungry Harvest
Manpreet Singh ’03, TalkLocal

Social Entrepreneur of the Year

Alexis Carson ’16, Cocoa Queens Winner
Nadia Laniyan ’16, Cocoa Queens Winner
Robin Chiddo ’06, Love Blanket Project
Anastasiia Polyakov ’17, Annie’s Children
Oru Wonodi ’18, NOVA Prints and Apparel

Student Entrepreneur of the Year

Sam Feldman ’16, Cardbuddy Winner
Damar Bess ’18, Nonich
Taylor Johnson ’16, VentureStorm
Tommy Johnson ’16, VentureStorm
Ryan Pillai ’17, WeCook
Daniel Stern ’16, Route One Ventures