Celebrating President’s Engagement and Innovation Prize Recipients
“Heart—because of all that time and energy they put into these projects—they are indeed laborers of love,” he said at an intimate luncheon on May 4 for the award winners. “Creativity for tackling all of these persistent problems with fresh ideas, new tools, and new proposed solutions, and leadership, for following through on their ideas in such a persuasive manner that they have moved so many others to action.”
Take Kriya Patel, for instance. Once the College of Arts & Sciences senior graduates later this month, she’ll begin her project “Coming Home to Continued Care.” Patel, who won a President’s Engagement Prize, or PEP, will work with local women’s jail Riverside Correctional Facility to make sure those who are about to be released can apply and secure health insurance.
“The problem is, when most women leave, they’re only given five days worth of medication,” Patel explained, while sitting next to her mom, who traveled from Cincinnati, and aunt during the lunch. “Five days is not a lot when you’re also looking for housing or a job. We’ll make it so the moment they are released, we can ‘flip a switch on,’ so to speak, and they’ll have access.”
Melanie Mariano, creator of “Living HEALthy: Health Expansion Across Libraries,” and Vaishak Kumar, brainchild of “NESARA Agriculture Extension,” were recipients of PEP, too, which is in its second year. All three seniors will receive $100,000 to implement their projects during the first year after they graduate. They’ll each also receive $50,000 for living expenses.
New this year is the President’s Innovation Prize, also known as PIP. It is the commercial analogue to PEP, awarding the same amount of funding to each team, as well as dedicated space at the Pennovation Center for the next year.
PIP recipients include William Duckworth and Aaron Goldstein, of the School of Engineering and Applied Science and the Wharton School, respectively, who created Fever Smart, a medical device and cloud information system that allows health care providers to remotely monitor a patient’s temperature in real time.
Penn Engineering’s Sade Oba and Alfredo Muniz, longtime friends since before high school, have been working for a year on XEED, a new therapy experience helping Parkinson’s disease patients track movements of limbs.
They were together studying when they got the call from President Amy Gutmann that their project was selected for PIP.
“She actually called Alfredo first, but I answered his phone because I didn’t know the number and thought it was the delivery guy—we had just ordered food,” said Oba with a smile. “I muted the phone and yelled, ‘It’s President Gutmann!’ and Alfredo talked to her. She called me right after.”
Oba, with Muniz at her side, described receiving the award as a “culmination of our Penn experience.”
“Every year we learn new skills, and we’ve been able to apply them in internships that have gotten grander and grander every year,” said Oba. “We were wondering what our next step would be. For it to, now, be the birth and growth of our own company that will actually impact peoples’ lives on a very intimate level is great.”
Oba expressed her appreciation of the luncheon, in celebrating among peers, trustees, deans, project advisers, and faculty members. Each awardee received hand-lettered certificates conveying the high honor they achieved.
“As part of the application process, we did a meet and greet with the judges,” said Oba. “It’s especially nice to see them again, in a more relaxed environment for all of us.”
The President’s Engagement Prizes have been endowed by Trustee Judith Bollinger and William G. Bollinger, Trustee Lee Spelman Doty and George El Doty Jr., and Emeritus Trustee James S. Riepe and Gail Petty Riepe.