University of Pennsylvania President Amy Gutmann today announced the recipients of the 2020 President’s Engagement Prize and President’s Innovation Prize. Awarded annually, the Prizes empower Penn students to design and undertake post-graduation projects that make a positive, lasting difference in the world. Each Prizewinning project will receive $100,000, as well as a $50,000 living stipend per team member. The Prizes are the largest of their kind in higher education.
Eight Penn seniors were named recipients of the 2020 President’s Engagement Prize. They are Aditya Siroya, Shivansh Inamdar, and Artemis Panagopoulou, for Aarogya; Meera Menon and Philip Chen, for The Unscripted Project; and Kwaku Owusu, Mckayla Warwick, and Hyungtae Kim, for Collective Climb. Nikil Ragav was named this year’s President’s Innovation Prize winner for his project, inventXYZ.
“This year’s Prize-winning projects demonstrate an inspiring range of mission-driven expertise among Penn students: from partnering with our West Philadelphia neighbors to introduce a novel financial literacy program, to teaching young people real-world skills through Philly Improv Theater, to creating a digital platform to distribute lifesaving medicines to those most in need in India, to creating ‘makerspaces’ at partner schools across the United States that foster this innovative spirit,” said Gutmann. “These student recipients continue Penn’s proud tradition of positive impact here at home, across the nation, and around the world. They embody the highest mission of Penn and our students to put knowledge to use for the betterment of others, a most vital and urgent calling during these challenging times.”
The Prizes are generously supported by Emerita Trustee Judith Bollinger and William G. Bollinger, in honor of Ed Resovsky; Trustee Lee Spelman Doty and George E. Doty, Jr.; Emeritus Trustee James S. Riepe and Gail Petty Riepe; Trustee David Ertel; and Beth Seidenberg Ertel; Wallis Annenberg and the Annenberg Foundation; and an anonymous donor.
Student recipients will spend the next year implementing their projects. Details on their projects are as follows:
- Aditya Siroya, Shivansh Inamdar, and Artemis Panagopoulou, for Aarogya: Aarogya is a social enterprise that aims to save lives by providing medicines free-of-cost to those most in need. Siroya, Inamdar, and Panagopoulou will work to broaden healthcare access by creating India’s first digital medicine redistribution platform, providing life-saving support to patients while preventing medical waste. Aarogya’s platform utilizes a decentralized blockchain system that enables safe, convenient redistribution of unused medicine at scale to patients that cannot afford them. Siroya, Inamdar, and Panagopoulou are being mentored by Mark Pauly, the Bendheim Professor of Health Care Management in the Wharton School.
- Meera Menon and Philip Chen, for The Unscripted Project: The Unscripted Project will utilize improv theater training to equip Philadelphia youth with the tools necessary to succeed both within the classroom and beyond, empowering them to speak confidently, collaborate effectively, and internalize the value of practice and perseverance. Working with their partner organization, the Philly Improv Theater, Menon and Chen will coordinate 10-week improv workshops for 6th to 10th grade students in Philadelphia, utilizing a curriculum that connects tried and tested improv exercises with real-world skills. Menon and Chen are being mentored by Marcia Ferguson, senior lecturer in theatre arts in the School of Arts & Sciences.
- Kwaku Owusu, Mckayla Warwick, Hyungtae Kim, for Collective Climb: Collective Climb aims to increase economic prosperity among communities in West Philadelphia through a novel financial literacy initiative and innovative debt forgiveness model. Owusu, Warwick, and Kim will adapt and create a culturally relevant and historically inflected financial literacy program that simultaneously connects, empowers, and celebrates the West Philadelphia community. Their debt reduction model centers around “community pots,” collections of monetary contributions that leverage collective wealth to obliterate debt. Owusu, Warwick, and Kim are being mentored by Glenn Bryan, Assistant Vice President of Community Relations in Penn’s Office of Government and Community Affairs.
- Nikil Ragav, for inventXYZ: inventXYZ aims to empower the inventors of tomorrow through practical, real-world experiences and education for all students regardless of income or background. Its principal focus is setting up makerspaces—collaborative work spaces—at high schools across the country. inventXYZ’s standardized makerspace design, called “inventorspaces,” includes equipment for automated manufacturing, electronics design, augmented/virtual reality, filmmaking, and digital music. Its innovative curriculum, called “inventcurriculum,” enables students to build and code a hands-on technology project in each academic class and blends tech industry standards with Common Core and Advanced Placement standards. Ragav is being mentored by Adam Mally, lecturer in computer and information science in the School of Engineering and Applied Science.
“I am immensely proud of our students’ commitment to meaningful work that extends beyond the classroom and the campus,” said Gutmann. “I congratulate all of this year’s Prize recipients, and I wish them the very best as they move forward with their projects.”
This year’s President’s Engagement Prize finalists also included India Watson and Persia-Ali Pierce, for Urban Youth Professional Network, a nonprofit that assists low-income Philadelphia youth in making knowledgeable career choices; Melinda Hu, Heidi Chiu, and Christopher Lee, for Bloom, a project that aims to address glaring disparities in mental health for young Asian-Americans; and Sarah Goodheart, Alison Esplund, and Olivia Shammas, for Built from Mom’s Milk, a program designed to improve breastfeeding exclusivity and duration among families in West Philadelphia. President’s Innovation Prize finalists were Philippe Sawaya, Jonathan Mak, and Rahul Shekhar, for Percepta, a startup that develops video analysis technology to remove racial and gender bias from shoplifting detection; and Salomon Serfati, Jacob Goldman, Daniel Leiser, and Ajay Vasisht, for Forage, a mobile app designed to help Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients shop for groceries.
Sixty-four seniors submitted applications for both Prizes this year, with proposals spanning an array of innovative and impactful ideas.
“These four dynamic projects,” said Provost Wendell Pritchett, “embody the wide range and inspiring creativity of our Penn students. They show us above all how Penn will lead the future, with new uses for innovative ideas from improv training and makerspaces, to debt forgiveness and digital medicine. We are indebted to their faculty advisors and to the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships, who worked closely with them to develop these exciting and highly promising initiatives.”