Release Date: September 19, 2019
BUFFALO, N.Y. – Twenty-two University at Buffalo students have been named Western New York Prosperity Fellows for 2019-2020.
The fellowships, which are made possible through support from the Prentice Family Foundation, are awarded to college and graduate students with an entrepreneurial drive who want to make a difference in Western New York.
The program assists undergraduate and graduate students at UB and Canisius College who are actively preparing for careers that further economic development and growth in the region.
“This year’s cohort of fellows show promise to impact the vibrancy of the Western New York community by creating jobs and shaping policy that will contribute to economic, as well as community development,” says Hadar Borden, UB’s WNY Prosperity Fellowship Program director.
“It is a privilege to support these fellows as they prepare to serve Western New York as future leaders of our community. This program is yet one example of how the University at Buffalo reaches beyond our walls to create change in our region.”
Photos and names of UB’s Prosperity Fellows are available on Prentice Family Foundation website.
Each fellow is awarded up to $25,000 in scholarship and internship support for an academic year, based on financial need. Including this year’s gift, the Prentice Family Foundation has invested $5.2 million in the program at UB alone.
Paid, credit-bearing internships assist fellows in acquiring both academic and practical experiences in their intended professions. Fellows are given the opportunity to intern in their chosen fields of interest, where they work alongside and are mentored by leaders in upper-level management.
UB’s fellows also receive $1,000 through an enrichment fund to enhance their fellowship year and further support their professional and personal growth. 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.
Fellows also receive complimentary membership to attend meetings and trainings sponsored by regional leadership organizations.
This year’s fellows began their program with an orientation in late May, where they attended seminars that included speed network workshops designed to get to know one another and improv workshops at Buffalo ComedySportz Arena. The May orientation also included a panel of past fellows and meetings with local entrepreneurial leadership, including Alexander Wright, president of the African Food Heritage Co-op, and a tour of the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center.
The training and enrichment continued with a three-day retreat earlier this month. This year’s fellows visited and explored Chautauqua County, since the fellowship program is focused on the Western New York region, and not just the City of Buffalo.
The fellows visited the Robert H. Jackson Center in Jamestown and met with Kristan McMahon, president of the Jackson Center. They also practiced yoga on the grounds of the Chautauqua Institution, as well as enjoyed a boat ride on the Chautauqua Belle with Mark Geise, deputy Chautauqua County executive, chief executive officer of the Chautauqua County Industrial Development Corporation and the Chautauqua Region Economic Development Corporation. Geise was joined by Crystal Surdyk, principal planner, City of Jamestown Department of Development, and Taylor West, Chautauqua Lake & Watershed Management Alliance.
The fellows also met with the chief brand officer of the Chautauqua Institution and toured the National Comedy Center with Director of Development Richard Ryan to learn how the center impacts the Jamestown economy.
The orientation, along with the programming afforded to the fellows throughout their fellowship year, provide these future leaders with an overview of the region’s opportunities and challenges. Specifically, it allows them to understand how they might contribute their talents to impact economic development in the region, according to Borden.
“The Prentice Family Foundation set out 10 years ago to ignite the regeneration of agents of economic development by establishing the Western New York Prosperity Fellowship program,” Borden says.
“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.”
As far as the fellows themselves, their impressions show the depth and value of the experience.
“The Western New York Prosperity Fellowship has been an experience like nothing I could have expected, says Joseph Quinn, a returning fellow and a graduate student in real estate development in UB’s School of Architecture and Planning. “When I attended my first induction event just over a year ago, I could tell that I was being brought into something special. I have been able to become part of a tight-knit group of students that are all very engaged with their studies and leveraging their work to further the economic and social prosperity of our region.”
Quinn says he has networked with local business and governmental leaders. The events allowed him to interact with fellows from other disciplines.
“This has led to new ideas about how we can help our communities. The fellowship is more than any sort of scholarship or similar school program because it creates this strong network with many outside communities and a deep bond with current and past fellows, he says.
“I can wholeheartedly say that I would not be where I am now without the support of the fellowship. I am serving as an elected official in local government and on the path to a full-time job and starting my own business venture. The fellowship has facilitated my path to these accomplishments, that just one year ago, I would not have foreseen being able to achieve.”
Other fellows shared Quinn’s enthusiasm for the program’s activities and philosophy.
“Participating in the Western New York Prosperity Fellowship Program has expanded my education,” says Kathryn Gentz, one of this year’s fellows, a PharmD/MBA dual degree student and also a graduate assistant for UB’s Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars. “It’s given me a focused view of how essential it is for future leaders to not only work in a community, but work to grow and sustain a community.”
This past year marks the tenth year of the fellowship program. The Prentice Family Foundation will host a formal celebration in the spring semester.