Nine SEAS students named 2023-24 WNY Prosperity Fellows

Collage of nine portraits of smiling students.

Top row (from left): Mirka Arevalo, industrial and systems engineering; Rian Casimir, computer science and engineering; Liam Christie, electrical engineering. Middle row (from left): Dennis Fedorishin, computer science and engineering; Talia Fuld, biomedical engineering; Jason Jiang, computer science and engineering. Bottom row (from left): Dominic LaVigne, mechanical and aerospace engineering; Marieross Navarro, mechanical and aerospace engineering; Natan Weitzman, engineering physics.

By Alexandra Saccone

Published September 25, 2023

Twenty-five UB student entrepreneurs, including nine students in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, have been named recipients of 2023-24 Western New York Prosperity Fellowships.

“These students were selected through a highly competitive selection process and awarded the most prestigious fellowship at the university. ”
Hadar Borden, director
UB’s WNY Prosperity Fellowship program

The award, supported by the Prentice Family Foundation, is given to undergraduate and graduate students with an entrepreneurial drive who want to make a difference in their communities.

The award supports students at UB who are engaged with projects that will bring economic development to Western New York. Winners are offered up to $25,000 in scholarship and internship support based on financial need, access to development events and connections with fellowship program alumni.

The Prentice Family Foundation also supports a WNY Prosperity Fellowship program at Canisius University.

“These students were selected through a highly competitive selection process and awarded the most prestigious fellowship at the university,” says Hadar Borden, director of the UB’s WNY Prosperity Fellowship program. “You will notice that the students selected are accomplished both in and outside of the classroom as they are poised to be leaders in our community.”

Graham Hammill, vice provost for academic affairs and dean of the Graduate School, says it’s especially rewarding to have a fellowship cohort that represents so many different academic programs.

“The variety of interests enhances the fellows’ experience and understanding beyond their area of focus,” Hammill says. “Their diverse interests and perspectives will inform how they will contribute their talents to positively impacting economic development and job creation in the Western New York region.”

A community for entrepreneurship

This is the 14th year of the Prentice Family Foundation’s support for local entrepreneurial students. “They have not only accelerated our fellows’ trajectory as leaders of the Western New York community, but their generous support has served as a catalyst for our campus to embrace cultivation of entrepreneurial support both in and out of the classroom—a key ingredient to the revitalization and sustainability of our region’s economy,” Borden says.

UB offers guidance for student entrepreneurs through the Startup and Innovation Collaboratory Powered by Blackstone LaunchPad (CoLab), a program directed by Borden. She is excited that many current and former fellows have crossed between the programs. For example, senior mechanical engineering student Dominic LaVigne, one of this year’s new fellows, serves as a venture coach and host of CoLab’s Founder Stories program, where he interviews entrepreneurs about their journey in a raw and authentic format.

Last spring, LaVigne was one of three WNY Prosperity Fellows to reach the finals of this year’s Henry A. Panasci Jr. Technology Entrepreneurship Competition. His team placed second, earning $10,000, for its idea for Exergi, a company dedicated to the innovation and production of affordable clean energy products.

The fellowship program at UB is administered by the university based on its own specific admission criteria. However, fellows at both UB and Canisius must commit to working in the eight counties of Western New York for at least two of the 10 years following their graduation, thereby giving back economically to the region they have pledged to support.

In addition to a need-based scholarship, the new fellows are offered paid, credit-bearing internships in their field of choice to garner academic and professional experience. Fellows in these positions will work alongside and be mentored by upper-level management professionals in their field.

UB fellows will also receive access to a $2,000 enrichment fund to be used for personal and professional growth during their fellowship year. Fellows have used this funding to support their research, attend or present at a professional conference, and pursue a second internship experience with a local organization.

The application cycle for fellowship in the 2024-25 academic year will open in October.

Adapted from a UB Now story.