2022 Depodest fellows

2022 DePodesta Fellows Named

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Minneapolis-based ECMC Group, in partnership with the Gary S. Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, has announced three new fellows joining the John DePodesta Leadership Fellowship program. The program provides graduate students in business, public policy, sociology, or education the opportunity to co-design or launch a new venture in partnership with existing educational organizations that seek to improve the quality of postsecondary education.

“The DePodesta Fellowship Program has grown into an effort that supports not only these innovative entrepreneurs, but also the students in our communities,” says Jeremy Wheaton, president and CEO of ECMC Group. “These solutions address the persistent challenges and opportunities across education and workforce, and with each new fellow in this program, we see unique perspectives and avenues for addressing them.”

This is the third year of the fellowship program, which has provided support for seven fellows including this year’s cohort. Initial feasibility grants of $15,000 are awarded annually for up to four students. Subsequent launch grants of up to $75,000 may be made available to students demonstrating strong progress with their concepts, significant potential impact from their venture, and a commitment to operate the venture full-time for at least 12 months post-graduation. Since the program launched, two fellows have received the additional $75,000 to continue their projects.

“Through their fellowships, these students will hone their entrepreneurship skills and take their initial steps to become visible leaders in the education community,” says John Stavig, director of the Holmes Center. “We are proud of the evolution of this program, and we continue to look forward to supporting these innovators as they drive change.”

The fellowship was developed in recognition of John DePodesta, a founding board member and immediate past chair of ECMC Group, who has spent the past 25+ years working to help students succeed.

The new DePodesta Fellows are:

Sarah Adams

Sarah Adams
  • Proposed Venture: Increasing Spanish Oral Proficiency to Build Cross-Cultural Relationships. Through this project, Adams will expand a Spanish language instructional company she founded in 2020, which focuses on the practical value of oral communication across cultures.
  • Adams is a former Spanish language teacher in secondary education and a first-year MBA student at the Carlson School. She is enrolled in the Carlson School’s Customer Discovery course to explore the need for programs designed to serve specific industries, namely healthcare, education, and tourism.


Sheetal Digari

 Sheetal Digari
  • Proposed Venture: Orienting Graduate Students for a Multi-Culturally Diverse Classroom and Career. For this project, Digari will develop a multicultural orientation module that will provide a supportive learning environment and experience for students of all backgrounds and help students smoothly transition into careers.
  • Digari is a third-year PhD student in the Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy and Development at the University of Minnesota. She is enrolled in the Carlson School’s Customer Discovery course to conduct additional primary research with master's students on the challenges and opportunities related to the assimilation of international students.


Ashley Watson

Ashley Watson
  • Proposed Venture: Early Interventions to Reduce Higher Education Drop-Out Rates. This project seeks to address persistently high dropout rates in higher education by designing interventions during the first two pivotal years.
  • Watson is a fifth-year PhD student in Comparative and International Development Education at the University of Minnesota. She is enrolled in the Carlson School’s Customer Discovery course to conduct additional primary research with undergraduate students at the University of Minnesota Morris campus.