Innovating in COLA

Student ideas recognized in the 2017 Social Venture Innovation Challenge

Wednesday, December 6, 2017
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photo of Julianna Good and award presenters

The third-place winner of the student track, music education major Julianna Good (center).

The fifth annual New Hampshire Social Venture Innovation Challenge at the University of New Hampshire concluded earlier this week, with liberal arts students prominent among the competition winners and finalists.

The Challenge invites individuals and teams from across the state of New Hampshire (as well as all UNH alumni) to identify pressing social and/or environmental issues at the state, national or global level, and then find an innovative business-oriented approach to solving them.

The final round of the challenge was judged by a group of social venture founders, leaders and investors from New Hampshire and beyond. Eight teams in the community track and eight teams in the student track were selected to compete in the finals. Prizes totaling more than $65,000 in value were awarded to help first, second and third placed teams in each track to advance their ideas. 

The third-place winner of the student track was Julianna Good of team Crescendo Inclusive Curriculums, a music education major looking to promote a non-profit teacher education program and education resources to integrate more students with special needs into fine arts classrooms. She received a prize of $2,000, a social entrepreneur membership and complimentary registration to the annual NHSBR conference and a start-up/entrepreneur membership provided by the New Hampshire Clean Tech Council.  

photo of Justin Troiano receving award
The third-place winner of the community track, Justin Troiano (center), a master's student in political science, with team member Emilia Giordano (left).

The third-place winner in the community track was IRIS, a mobile app that empowers students with learning disabilities to communicate their academic needs and feelings to their support network, led by Justin Troiano, a master’s student in political science at UNH and Emilia Giordano from Eliot, Maine. The team received $4,500 worth of legal services from Pierce Atwood; six months of flex membership for co-working space provided by Alpha Loft; partner level membership provided by New Hampshire Businesses for Social Responsibility; a start-up/entrepreneur membership provided by the New Hampshire Clean Tech Council and a one-year subscription to New Hampshire Business Review.

Finalist teams with liberal arts student members were:

  • Doc, which combines a cloud based video chat platform, biomonitoring hardware, and predicative modeling to bring accessible healthcare to underserved people. Peter Sirkovich, a junior political science major and business minor was one of two members of Doc.
  • Sex Row, an idea to reduce the stigma and gap of safe sex practices on campus by adding a "sex row" to all UNH vending machines, was the brainchild of a 5-member team including Sam Ayoub, a sophomore communication major.
  • Fungus Fix, proposed by E.J. Theriault, a freshman undeclared COLA student, aimed to spread awareness on the filtering qualities of mushrooms and promote the use of fungi to clean water at UNH, surroundings towns and the globe.

The challenge is organized and hosted at UNH by the Center for Social Innovation and Enterprise (a joint venture of the Peter T. Paul College of Business & Economics and the Carsey School of Public Policy), the Sustainability Institute, UNHInnovation and Net Impact UNH.

“We were thrilled that 299 individuals representing 96 teams of college students and community members were inspired to design entrepreneurial concepts to tackle major local and global challenges this year,” said Fiona Wilson, executive director of the Center for Social Innovation and Enterprise at UNH. “Their innovative ideas spanned special needs education and educational outcomes, water quality, methane recovery, food waste, beekeeping, healthcare for underserved populations, and reproductive health for college students. We know that effective solutions to society’s most insidious problems will increasingly need to come from collaboration -- across private and public sectors and across fields and disciplines – and this challenge not only encourages that type of innovation, but shows what it can accomplish.”

To learn about all the winning teams, go to

Perry Smith | Freelance Photographer