Select Alumni Profiles

 

Image of PereaAustin Perea, 2012 Social Innovation Intern
Launching Points: A Budding Career at the Intersection of Social Enterprise and Finance

Austin Perea attributes the knowledge he attained at his internship with Pax World as a key launching point for his career.

Austin Perea completed the Social Innovation Internship program in 2012, the summer before his senior year at the University of New Hampshire. He began UNH as an undeclared major, and declared a major in Political Science his sophomore year. After taking a class on Microfinance, he began to feel inspired about bridging the gap between for-profit and social enterprise and he learned about the Social Innovation Internships that upcoming summer.

Austin was offered an internship at Pax World, a sustainable investment firm in Portsmouth, NH. Having had a policy internship in D.C. before, Austin was excited to have a more hands-on role with his position at Pax World. At Pax, he conducted in-depth research on ESG (environmental, social, and governance) investing - substantial and substantive work that was being utilized in Pax World’s investment analysis. He attributes the knowledge he attained at his internship with Pax World as a key launching point for his career. Because of his internship experience, he also better understood the value of understanding markets in trying to effect social change and declared a double major in Economics upon returning for his senior year.

When presenting at the Social Innovation Internship Showcase, he piqued the interest of Dr. Stephen Ciccone, the faculty advisor to UNH’s Atkins Investment Group. At that time, “sustainable investments” were not well known, so Austin was offered the sole position as the Sustainable Investor Analyst to the Atkins Investment Group.

Since the business case for sustainable investing was not yet widely accepted, Austin got to hone his skills proposing and defending against harsh critique. This was further emphasized after the Social Innovation Internship, when Austin joined UNH Net Impact. He was part of a 3-person team of Net Impact students who conducted a research project over an academic year, which made the case for UNH aligning their endowment investments with the principles of sustainable investing. This culminated in an Undergrad Research Conference presentation, as well as a presentation to the UNH Foundation Board (and UNH Board of trustees). His research resulted in the implementation of the “sustainability sleeve” of the endowment, which allows donors to the university to direct their giving to sustainably managed funds.

Austin then went on to participate in the UNH International Research Opportunities Program (IROP), which is sponsored by the Hamel Center for Undergraduate Research, where he focused on Islamic banking and microfinance in Egypt and Jordan.

After getting his first position post-graduation at Boston Consulting Group, Austin secured a position at Greentech Media, an organization that conducts market research for the solar industry. From policy to the competitive landscape, Austin started as the Lead Product Manager and Analyst responsible for writing the U.S. Solar Market Insight report. He is responsible for collecting and analyzing solar data within the industry, understanding policy and market design, forecasting growth, maintaining expert networks and making assumptions on the market based on models for solar power deployment. He is now a Senior Analyst with Greentech Media.

He loves this job because of the variety of work and experience he is gaining. He spends his days aggregating and analyzing data, reconciling sources, working with solar developers and installers, and conferring with and reporting to clients, stakeholders, and industry experts. Greentech Media provides ample room for growth with lots of responsibility and a cool, start-up organizational culture. Austin appreciates the ability to interact with the media, travel and speak on panels and presentation, and build his own personal brand in the process.

Austin’s number one benefit from the Social Innovation Internship process was having the internships sites vetted in advance. He took enormous value from having the program do all the legwork to validate that each internship host would provide the intern legitimate takeaways and a meaningful experience. For him, the exposure to the budding social enterprise industry provided him a great stepping-stone for his career, and although he had to work hard, opened up an endless amount of opportunities.

In October, 2017 he was invited to join UNH’s Committee on Investor Responsibility (CIR).  As part of UNH’s ongoing institution-wide commitment to sustainability, the UNH CIR was formed to help support the Foundation in sustainable, socially responsible investment practices and policies. 

This is a wonderful “full circle” where Austin is now using his professional expertise from his early career, as well as his training from the Social Innovation Internship and his other high-impact experiences at UNH, to help UNH implement an approach towards managing UNH’s endowment that he was instrumental in advocating for in 2013. 


 

 

Image of St.PierreShannon (Langtry) St. Pierre, 2013 Social Innovation Intern
Focusing In: Bringing the Ideal of Helping to a Career Reality

Shannon recommends the Social Innovation Internship to anyone who is interested in making a difference. Apart from being a great resume booster, it has shown her how business can be used for good, and equipped her with the real-world skills and confidence needed to pursue her dreams of helping people as a career, not just a pastime.

Shannon participated in the Social Innovation Internship program in the summer of 2013, when she didn’t have a clear path for her future. A friend of a friend had a Social Innovation Internship the year before, and when Shannon recognized her sitting at a table for a UNH career event, she got some information and was convinced to apply. Shannon was a Psychology and Spanish double major, but she didn’t know what she wanted to do with those degrees; and was feeling a bit wayward as she entered her junior year. As someone who describes herself as “overly compassionate”, Shannon knew her interest in helping people could be turned into something, she just didn’t know what, until she heard about social enterprise.

The Social Innovation Internship gave Shannon exposure to companies that aimed to do good, which was the key selling point in her choice to apply. Her experience at Dare Mighty Things, a management-consulting firm that develops training curriculum for government and nonprofit groups to aid vulnerable populations, was beyond the stereotypical internship experience; she could learn more and do something meaningful with her time. Additionally, the Social Innovation Internships structure included visits to the other interns’ host sites, which exposed a network of for-profit businesses who were “doing well by doing good”. As this was a new concept for Shannon, the experience really opened a whole new world.  In her own words: once she saw it, she couldn’t “un-see” it.

In the internship, Shannon learned how to work in an office setting, and developed many research skills. Dare Mighty Things gave her that “real world” experience, complete with learning office culture, time management, and professional teamwork. She was impressed to see her own work making a difference, and could experience personal triumph from seeing the impact. Additionally, the Social Innovation Internship program allowed her to learn what all the other interns were doing, see the other host sites, and better understand the overall theory of change in social innovation.

After her internship, Shannon was driven to find likeminded people and learn more about social innovation. She attended the Ashoka U Exchange, joined UNH Net Impact, and participated in the Social Venture Innovation Challenge. These experiences, combined with her Social Innovation Internship experience, put into sharper focus what she wanted to do with her life. Shannon always wanted to live a lifestyle where she could give back, but she always assumed that would take the form of volunteering in her free time. Her time at Dare Mighty Things made her realize the possibility of doing good as her day job. Her awareness of this possibility has shaped her career path as well as her day-to-day decisions; choosing farm to table dining and fair trade shopping.

After graduation, Shannon was invited to return to Dare Mighty Things full time where she worked as an analyst, conducting research and development for their curriculum programs. She learned about the vulnerable populations that Dare Mighty Things serves, and was truly able to see the impact her work had on other people. In 2018, Shannon joined the team at the International Institute of New England as their Community Relations Manager.  She now drives fundraising and community education efforts and oversees the volunteer program in the New Hampshire office. In her spare time, she does volunteer work herself at Child Health Services in Manchester, helping vulnerable families with English-learning skills, and coordinates fundraisers for Relay for Life.

Shannon recommends the Social Innovation Internship to anyone who is interested in making a difference. Apart from being a great resume booster, it has shown her how business can be used for good, and equipped her with the real-world skills and confidence needed to pursue her dreams of helping people as a career, not just a pastime. 


 

Image of IlonaIlona Drew ’14, ’18G, 2014 Social Venture Innovation Challenge Contestant, 2017 Social Innovation Intern, 2016-17 CSIE Graduate Research Fellow, 2017-18 CSIE/SSFI Program Assistant
Business, Finance, and Policy: A Means to a Helping End

Ilona Drew is a student of the Master in Public Policy program at the Carsey School of Public Policy, focusing on Analysis and Strategy and Communication.

Ilona’s path to her undergraduate studies at the University of New Hampshire (UNH), Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics was a somewhat non-traditional one, having taken a few courses while working a job in sales and management before enrolling. During her undergraduate career, she had an idea to use the skills she was learning to help non-profits run more efficiently. As a lifelong volunteer, she had seen firsthand the frustration of inefficiencies in some organizations. A key turning point came for Ilona during her last semester while participating in the course, Social Venture Innovation, with Dr. Fiona Wilson. She became inspired by the field of social innovation and the potential of connecting business to the things she cares about.

In Dr. Wilson’s class, students developed a social or environmental enterprise idea and then were trained to take that idea from infancy to competition ready for the Social Venture Innovation Challenge. Ilona chose to compete in the fall of 2014 with a class partner, winning a Judge's Special Prize in the Community Track. Their idea was to address the disparity between food waste and food access by aggregating edible foods at the retail level, and transforming it into healthy, prepared meals to be sold at a food truck at a discounted rate. Ilona gained invaluable experience learning to think critically and iteratively hone an idea.

She completed her undergraduate degree with a B.S. in Business Management at UNH and began work as a financial analyst for the corporate financial planning and analysis department at a semi-conductor company. As part of a skeleton crew, she took on responsibility and new knowledge quickly. It didn’t take long for her to realize she was unfulfilled, even though she deeply appreciated the experience. She was motivated to help people and realized that her background in business and finance, along with her excitement about the field of social innovation and public policy would be the ideal combination to embark on her future endeavors to advocate for the populations for which she cared. In 2016, Ilona enrolled in the Master of Public Policy program at the Carsey School of Public Policy.

In 2017, Ilona was accepted into the Social Innovation Internship program through the Center for Social Innovation and Enterprise (CSIE) and interned with Impax Asset Management, formerly Pax World Management  in Portsmouth, NH, a sustainable and socially responsible investment firm. She conducted research on how gender equality policies in the workplace has an impact on financial performance, which would in turn help inform Pax’s  sustainable investment activities and decisions. She loved seeing the practice of business intersecting with social issues after learning about it in theory at UNH.

A Graduate Research Fellow with CSIE, her fieldwork in 2016 focused on the Social Sector Franchising Initiative (SSFI), where she helped to compile Living Case Studies of social enterprises employing the franchising methodology to scale their operations in Africa. She travelled to Rwanda to conduct field research with Jibu, a social sector franchise that supplies premium-quality drinking water at radically affordable prices while providing emerging-market entrepreneurs with a successful and profitable business. This was an entirely new experience for her and gave her insight and greater perspective on how to assess problems on a local or national level here in the U.S. versus on an international level. This year, she continues to work with the SSFI, in both an administrative and advising capacity for the 2018 cohort of fellows working on the Living Case Studies in the Accelerator program to help them get the most out of their work.

Her best advice to students wanting to get into the social innovation field is to advocate for yourself. “If you find something that is interesting and engaging, build relationships with people involved in that and dig in, get exposure, network, and don’t be afraid to share your ideas.”

After graduating in May 2018, Ilona plans to put her knowledge to work at the nexus of business and public policy to help social ventures improve their efficiency and effectiveness.

The opportunities I’ve been granted through CSIE’s Social Sector Franchise Initiative are, quite frankly, nearly unbelievable. From attending the SSFI Roundtable and being able to witness some of the world’s greatest minds collaborate and brainstorm practical solutions for growing social franchises to my Research Fellowship, which took me on an amazing trip halfway around the world to Rwanda in January, and has given me the opportunity to potentially co-author a published case study, my involvement with SSFI has opened up not only my eyes to parts of the world I’d never dreamed of seeing, but also my personal and professional opportunities, from the experiences I’ve gained and the contacts I’ve made along the way.”


 

Image of JacomaAndrew Jaccoma, 2014 SVIC First Place Community Track Winner
Encouragement to Revolutionize an Industry: Reducing Waste, Redundancy & Environmental Impact

 

For Andrew (managing member of Sensible Spreader Technologies LLC), the primary benefit of winning the Social Venture Innovation Challenge (SVIC) was the financial support that he was awarded. The money came at a crucial time for his venture, and helped him to launch over some key development hurtles. The in-kind support prize from PixelMedia was also a huge boost for Sensible Spreader Technologies.

Sensible Spreader Technologies uses mobile devices, wireless sensors and cloud computing to indicate to municipal equipment operators where certain operations have taken place over time durations. They are currently working primarily with winter road maintenance and street sweeping fleets, and by indicating what has been done and what hasn’t to the operators, their technology helps to eliminate redundancy, save costs, and reduce environmental impact.

Andrew also welcomed the media attention that followed from winning the SVIC. He was invited to write a Carsey School of Public Policy brief, which allowed Sensible Spreader Technologies to access new audiences to share their research and technology.

Preparing for the SVIC allowed Andrew to revisit and refine his business plan, and he found the ability to practice his pitch and get feedback helpful as well. Given that Sensible Spreader Technologies was at a pivotal point in its development, Andrew found it reassuring to get validation from the judges. In his own words, Andrew recalled, “When you’re trying to revolutionize an industry, every piece of encouragement is helpful”.

Andrew recommends entering the SVIC whether you are a student or a community member. In addition to practicing your pitch and cultivating your business model, it’s a great chance to raise awareness, and if you win, raise supporting funds for one’s venture. The competition provides an opportunity for students and community members from different disciplines to come together, and for the university and community to engage with one another. From his experience growing a venture that combines business, research, and engineering, Andrew strongly believes in supporting innovation and collaboration across different disciplines.

Since the SVIC, Sensible Spreader Technologies has grown from serving 2 municipalities to reaching 6 municipalities and one commercial enterprise. They won another competition in upstate New York in the Fall of 2016, and dedicated resources to building up their web presence. Their systems naturally generate a great deal of raw data, so building out their system to support, analyze, visualize, and share information with customers is a great selling point for the new municipalities with whom they are trying to work.

After competing in the SVIC, Andrew and his team were also awarded a grant funded by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. With these funds, they are currently testing their system’s effectiveness at protecting wellhead areas and municipal drinking water sources from the spread of chloride-based de-icers. These de-icers are very harmful to infrastructure, drinking water supplies, and aquatic ecosystems, so this research is vital. Andrew is on the cutting-edge of this sort of research, and if they are able to prove significant, cost-saving impact for cities and towns, it will both help the environment and grow their business! 

Overall, Andrew believes that the SVIC was a tremendous help to their organization, and he hopes it continues to support social ventures around New Hampshire.


Image of KarrDan Karr, 2015 SVIC First Place Community Track Winner
Validated: An Idea Born of Personal Hardship Brings Insurance Decision Making Information to Others  

Winning the Social Venture Innovation Challenge gave Dan Karr the confidence, resources and exposure needed to boost his business, ValChoice - an innovative solution bringing transparency and consumer ratings to the personal insurance market.

After being stuck with nearly $100,000 in unexpected hospital bills while “fully covered” by insurance, Dan began to question the consumer insurance industry. He wondered: Why wasn’t there a review and rating system for insurance companies, so users could ensure they were investing in reliable and fair insurance providers? With this in mind, Dan created ValChoice, a rating system designed to bring transparency to the insurance industry.

Dan recalled the Social Venture Innovation Challenge as a complete turning point for ValChoice. The business was 2.5 years into development prior to competing, and was nearly ready to launch its first service. Having taken much longer than expected to develop, his wife hinted that he needed to get a job! As a fully self-funded venture, Dan was beginning to question his ability to bring ValChoice services to market without raising capital. The SVIC gave Dan the confidence he needed to continue pressing forward.

As the winner, the monetary and in-kind prizes were really a catalyst for ValChoice’s growth. After winning, he was selected to participate in Accelerate NH 2016. Accelerate NH, launched by Alpha Loft, is an accelerator program that creates a network of support and investments for innovative New Hampshire startups. From there, he has added the following accolades to his portfolio:

The SVIC was the first public disclosure of what ValChoice was working on, and a key building block in the evolution of the company. While the financial and in-kind services provided by SVIC were very helpful, Dan expressed that the “emotional” benefit realized by winning was equally crucial. At a point where he was wondering if he should give up, having the expert feedback, public acknowledgement, and vision of market appetite reinvigorated his mission.

Dan recommends participating in the SVIC for two primary reasons. First, the act of presenting your idea in a competitive environment is incredibly valuable. It helps to truly refine the business’ value proposition in an effective and succinct manner. Second, the framework of the SVIC really provides a great gauge for community and market interest for your offering. Dan’s advice for anyone entering the competition is to “Practice your pitch”. By pitching to a wide variety of audiences, you can really isolate the most important components of your offering, and learn how to portray them effectively.

Since winning the SVIC the ValChoice team has focused on both market development and bringing new services to market. On June 15, 2017, ValChoice launched the home insurance grading system. Using the same business model as the car insurance rating system, ValChoice again offers free reports to every consumer interested in finding out how good their insurance company really is.

Click this link for information on car and home insurance rates and providers in New Hampshire. While there, be sure to get free reports on your insurance.


Sam Anderson, 2016 Participant in High School Track of the Social Venture Innovation Challenge
From Passionate Competitor to Practitioner of Civic Engagement

According to Sam, his competitive nature made him eager to apply to the Social Venture Innovation Challenge, and his passion for the environment made the project seem like an obvious choice.  He hadn’t expected however, how amazing the experience would be to create and market a realistic, feasible idea that had such an opportunity to make an impact.

Sam Anderson competed in the 2016 Social Venture Innovation Challenge, as part of the first-year High School Track pilot program. A recent graduate of The Derryfield School, Sam heard about the competition in a Global Issues and Sustainable Development class. His group wanted to find a solution to reducing carbon emissions in New Hampshire, and after conducting research on solutions in other areas, they developed a solarize campaign modeled after projects in New York and Minnesota. Their idea, Sol Connection, focused on bringing Solar Gardens to New Hampshire.

According to Sam, his competitive nature made him eager to apply to the Social Venture Innovation Challenge, and his passion for the environment made the project seem like an obvious choice.  He hadn’t expected however, how amazing the experience would be to create and market a realistic, feasible idea that had such an opportunity to make an impact. He also didn’t expect the SVIC to catapult his next moves in life. One of the judges, SVIC 2013 winner Alex Freid, loved his presentation and put him in contact with a UNH graduate student named Henry Heardon. Henry, alongside Durham Resident Charles Forcey, work with Energize 360 to measure, reduce, and renew energy use in the Seacoast area.
While finishing high school, Sam has gotten very active with Energize 360, attending town meeting and open houses, as well as campaigning and tabling at various events, including most recently the Portsmouth Climate March. From this experience, Sam learned the importance of civic engagement. He was never particularly aware of or interested in government processes, however working with Energize360 has given him a great appreciation for grassroots activism and he now loves presenting at and attending town meetings. Overall, his experience with the Social Venture Innovation Challenge gave him exposure to people and practices he would not have normally accessed.

Sam is excited to announce that he will be attending NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study, focusing on our country’s energy infrastructure and creating opportunity for renewables. While it is a hugely complicated issue, Sam is energized and passionate about this crucial topic; and his drive and maturity makes him a perfect candidate for this competitive yet nonconformist university program.

Overall, Sam recommends any high school student compete in the Social Venture Innovation Challenge, as he found it very helpful to research and refine one of his major interests. He feels lucky to have been able to find his life calling and something he cared so much about while still in high school. At his age, he feels that most people are just telling him what he should be doing, so he took this experience as an opportunity to put a lot of effort into something for which he cared. His experience with the Social Venture Innovation Challenge taught him that if you find something you are passionate about, and it is fun and engaging, it can be easy to find and create meaning in life through that passion.