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presidents engagement innovation prize 2018
Courtesy of University of Pennsylvania. Photo by Eric Sucar.

Penn President Amy Gutmann announced the winners for this year’s President’s Engagement and Innovation Prizes on April 3. This year’s winners are addressing issues such as recycling, blindness, furniture donations, and diseases in children in their projects.

Created under Gutmann’s Penn Compact 2020, the prizes grant students up to $100,000 to implement their projects the year after graduation, as well as $50,000 stipends for each student's living expenses. 

The President’s Engagement Prize gives students the chance to be engaged on global, national, and local levels by addressing challenges and opportunities through a nonprofit. The prize accepts collaborative team projects with up to three awardees. Focused on public service, this prize gives full-time graduating seniors from all four schools of Penn the ability to engage in creative and impactful public service in a geographic area. 

The President’s Innovation Prize is also available to all full-time graduating students, but instead focuses on the theme of innovation through commercial, for-profit ventures. The prize is administered by the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships and the Penn Center for Innovation

The winning projects of the President’s Engagement Prize are the Chicago Furniture Bank, rePurpose, and Healthy Pequeños (Healthy Little Ones).

Chicago Furniture Bank, created by College and Wharton senior James McPhail, Wharton senior Griffin Amdur, and Wharton senior Andrew Witherspoon, will start the first nonprofit furniture bank in the city of Chicago. With the help of Caring Transitions, a senior relocation and moving management company, the project will collect used furniture from the elderly to give to vulnerable groups, such as recovering addicts, survivors of abuse, and previously homeless people.

The project entitled rePurpose, initiated by Wharton seniors Svanika Balasubramanian and Peter Wang Hjemdahl, creates a nonprofit focusing on improving the ethics and efficiency of recycling, as well as increasing income for recyclers in Mumbai.

Nursing senior Alaina Hall developed the nonprofit project Healthy Pequeños, or Healthy Little Ones, to promote the global health issue of diseases in children. By working with an orphanage in Miacatlán, Mexico, the project will strengthen health education, improve screening processes, and provide clean and safe water.

The recipient of the President’s Innovation Prize is Avisi Technologies (VisiPlate).

Engineering senior Brandon Kao and Wharton seniors Adarsh Battu and Rui Jing Jiang created a health care startup called Avisi Technologies that will focus on advancing VisiPlate, their developed treatment for glaucoma, a major cause of blindness.

“These visionary projects exemplify the intellectual creativity, entrepreneurial drive, and commitment to social justice of our dynamic Penn students," Provost Wendell Pritchett told Penn Today.