Carlson School

New DePodesta Fellows Named

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

University of Minnesota doctoral students Cassandra Silveira and Ryan Wold, are the newest members of the John DePodesta Education Innovation Fellowship Program.

The fellowship, a partnership between Minneapolis-based ECMC Group and the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, is designed for U of M graduate or PhD students in business, public policy, sociology, or education, who will have the ability to test or develop plans to launch a new venture or co-design new programs in partnership with existing educational organizations that seek to improve the quality of postsecondary education. 

"This Fellowship illustrates the Carlson School’s vision of business serving as a force for good while supporting student efforts, from across the U of M, to effect change in our society,” said John Stavig, program director for the Gary S. Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship. "We are excited to work with these fellows to test and develop their new ventures while connecting them with resources to solve meaningful problems.”

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.

Each student will receive a grant of $15,000 with subsequent launch grants of up to $75,000 possibly 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.

Both students will enroll in the STARTUP entrepreneurship course, a 14-week experiential course offered through the Holmes Center that provides students with hands-on experience to test the commercial potential of their ideas. In the course, participants work with instructors and mentors to connect with customers, test hypotheses, and develop initial business models.

The two students and their projects are below:

Cassandra Silveira: current PhD student in the Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development at the University’s College of Education and Human Development

Research shows there are numerous benefits to hiring autistic (neurodiverse) individuals that extend beyond good business. Currently, however, there is a need for programs that train this population on various career paths to help them transition into adult life and independence. Separately, there is an ongoing lack of tech talent to support the ever-growing needs of the Twin Cities community and the larger national business community. 

Silveira plans to research and then partner with programs in Minnesota that offer industry-specific IT training as well as an experiential living skills education to a neurodiverse clientele in order to prepare them for a successful transition to adult life.

Ryan Wold: current PhD student in Rhetoric and Scientific & Technical Communication at the University’s College of Liberal Arts

Mentorship has long been shown to help first-generation college students adjust to college and thrive with impacts seen to retention and graduation rates. However, cost constraints within higher education and nonprofit institutions restrict the creation, growth, and sustainability of mentor programs that could serve the students most in need of mentorship. 

Wold plans to develop a low-cost and easy-to-use software for creating, managing, and measuring the effectiveness of mentor programs so more students can experience the benefits of mentorship.

One fellow from the 2020 program will continue the fellowship in 2021:

Jessica Thompson: Social Venture: First-Generation Success

Thompson is a PhD student finishing her doctoral degree analyzing the outcome of first-generation students and the intersection of programs designed to support their educational success. She also currently teaches, advises, and develops programming for historically marginalized students at the University of Minnesota. Following the 2020 trial of her Co-Creating through Design initiative at the University of Minnesota, she will be rolling out her service offering seeking to improve the academic outcomes of first-generation and low-income students at other higher education institutions.