Opportunities Fund Supports Student Initiatives

Opportunities Fund Supports Student Initiatives

For School of Education and Social Policy undergraduates who want to lead extracurricular projects, the SESP Opportunities Fund can help them make a difference. This year, several leadership events — including a global health event, an entrepreneurship competition and college scholarships — are being supported by the fund, which is intended to encourage undergraduate innovation and service.

Project Pitch with Jessica Tan

Project Pitch
Sophomore Jessica Tan received an Opportunities Fund grant for Project Pitch, the new entrepreneurial development program that she co-directs. “It is a fantastic opportunity to explore the startup world,” says Tan, pointing out that Project Pitch allows students to become entrepreneurs in just seven weeks.

“Project Pitch is a program that aims to get undergraduate students from any background or major to have a firsthand experience in entrepreneurship. Through bringing in experts and Chicagoland startup founders to teach and inspire the cohort, we believe we can expand the entrepreneurial interest and community at Northwestern,” says Tan.

The program gives teams of three or four people exposure to all the stages of entrepreneurship through weekly workshops with experts, ranging from professors to Chicago start-up founders. At the end of the seven weeks, the teams pitch their ideas in a pitching competition with a panel of judges and a $500 prize. Last fall, Neal Sales-Griffin (BS09), who is CEO and founder of Starter League, was one of the judges.

Launched in winter 2014, Project Pitch is a growing program. Nevertheless, the winner of last winter's Project Pitch program competed in the semifinal round of the Northwestern University Venture Challenge, one of the largest private venture competitions in the nation.

GlobeMed Summit with Jenna Pugrant

The SESP Opportunity Fund is helping GlobeMed to bring together hundreds of students from across the nation and dozens of experts in diverse fields for the annual GlobeMed Summit. The weekend conference features workshops, panels and keynote lectures — all devoted to global health. The 2015 Summit will be held at Northwestern from March 26 to 28.

All SESP students are welcome to attend the keynote panel on race and social justice, the advocacy panel on organizing for social change and the keynote address by Dr. Joia Mukherjee. Currently, SESP students involved with GlobeMed and the Summit include Tamar Eisen, Robert Barnes, Natalie Sack and Austin Schlatter. Sophomore Sophie Lee represented GlobeMed in requesting a grant from the SESP Opportunities Fund.

“Every year, we hold the Summit in order to gather the GlobeMed network and to learn about social activism and how to develop a model of advocacy for systems-level change. Furthermore, the Summit provides a unique experience to address some of the pressing social issues that we are facing currently and provides the students a chance to learn more about how they can build a career working to address these social issues,” says Summit intern Priya Garigipati.

Senior Nicole Reed received a grant as president of Alpha Kappa Alpha to support the sorority’s scholarship program for deserving high school students. At the sorority’s ball each year, three scholarships are presented to graduating high school seniors who plan to attend college in the fall, and a guest speaker delivers an inspirational speech.

Scholarships help with the purchase of a first laptop, fees or tuition assistance, and the sorority chapter does some fundraising for this purpose. “Our winners were able to receive assistance for the start of their new academic careers, and for that we are incredibly grateful,” Reed says.

The Opportunities Fund was established in 2009 through contributions from alumni and friends who wanted to support the academic and community endeavors of SESP undergraduates. Last year the fund brought speakers to conferences on nonprofit leadership and global health, allowed students to attend conferences, and helped students initiate events on education reform, mentoring and volunteering.

Photos: (Top) Jessica Tan co-directs Project Pitch, which provides a seven-week entrepreneurship experience, including a visit to the 1871 hub for digital start-ups in Chicago; (bottom) Senior Jenna Pugrant (far right) was a Northwestern representative at the GlobeMed Summit in 2014.

By Marilyn Sherman
Last Modified: 3/5/15