Whitman Voices

Introduction

Student Innovators Created Positive Opportunities in Hard Times

Student Innovators Created Positive Opportunities in Hard Times

Image 1: Thank you sign on top of ice cream cups. Image 2: Group photos of sororities who helped fundraise. Image 3: Screenshot of 3 Dollar Challenge from Justyn Knight.

Student Innovators Created Positive Opportunities in Hard Times

COVID-19 has certainly had a negative impact on the Syracuse University community, but some Whitman students were able to find a small piece of the positive in recent months. And while there are surely more unsung heroes from the Whitman School out there, these are just a few examples of students who went out of their way to fight the good fight against this deadly pandemic.

A Scoop of Appreciation Brought Smiles to Health Care Workers

If you’re from the Boston area and craving a delicious scoop of ice cream covered in “jimmies” (aka “sprinkles” to those who aren’t from New England), then you’ve probably been to Cabot’s Ice Cream and Restaurant in Newton, Massachusetts. John McCabe ’21 has worked at the iconic location in his hometown for the past five years. This summer, of course, was very different. As the pandemic pushed the Boston medical community to its limits, Cabot worked with Feed the Fight Boston to distribute ice cream to health care workers at hospitals throughout the greater Boston area. McCabe was happy to brighten the day of many health care workers by delivering ice cream treats to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center for those in need of a tasty boost.

“Delivering ice cream was very much up my alley, as it gave me the opportunity to engage in an area with which I was already familiar and help fight a disease the best way I possibly could,” says McCabe, who is double majoring in accounting and entrepreneurship and emerging enterprises. “Volunteering has been in my blood for upwards of 10 years now, and knowing that the ice cream was going to the people who were in the thick of fighting COVID-19 made me feel even better about the work I was doing.”

Delivering ice cream was very much up my alley, as it gave me the opportunity to engage in an area with which I was already familiar and help fight a disease the best way I possibly could.”

John McCabe '21

Joining Forces to Raise Funds for Syracuse Community

When New York State started seeing signs of the pandemic, the presidents of 13 sororities in the Panhellenic Council at Syracuse University began looking for a way to help. According to the council’s Director of Philanthropic Events Nicole Jaskot ’21 (WHIT/A&S), the group reached out to the Central New York Community Foundation for ideas and decided to create a friendly competition to see which sorority could raise the most money for this important cause.

When the University went to online learning shortly thereafter, the sororities didn’t want to give up the effort. They were used to supporting philanthropic causes through individual on-campus sorority efforts, but this was new territory, as they decided to continue fundraising as a group through the end of May using social media. So began an 18-day friendly competition with each sorority sharing the same hashtag — #SUGreeks — and promoting the fundraiser on their Instagram and Facebook pages. In the end, the group raised nearly $6,000 in less than three weeks through donations from sorority sisters, family and friends. The money was distributed by the Community Foundation’s Central New York COVID-19 Community Support Fund to help various nonprofits helping to counteract the economic consequences of the pandemic.

“We’ve all raised money for so many great organizations in the past,” says Jaskot, who is a dual marketing major at the Whitman School and a biotechnology major in the College of Arts and Sciences. “This was something very different, however, because we were working together for one cause, and it was especially nice because we were raising money for people right in the Syracuse community.”

This was something very different, however, because we were working together for one cause, and it was especially nice because we were raising money for people right in the Syracuse community.”

Nicole Jaskot ’21 (WHIT/A&S)

The sororities that participated were Delta Phi Epsilon, Kappa Kappa Gamma, Alpha Phi, Delta Gamma, Sigma Delta Tau, Phi Sigma Sigma, Alpha Xi Delta, Alpha Gamma Delta, Delta Delta Delta, Kappa Alpha Theta, Alpha Chi Omega, Gamma Phi Beta and Alpha Epsilon Phi.

Image 1: Jack and Kate Adler. Image 2: Healthcare workers thanking Cabot’s Ice Cream and Restaurant. Image 3: Screen shot from Techstars Startup Weekend Remote.

Just $3 Made a Difference

Jack Adler ’23 was disappointed when his first year on campus at the Whitman School was cut short last spring, but, when he returned home to Pennsylvania, he was determined to do something to help the community during such trying times.

“I was inspired to start this campaign by the All-In Challenge,” he says, referring to one of the largest online fundraisers aimed at food insecurity.

“I was working on my accounting homework one day, while quarantined in my home, and I zoned out and began thinking of possibilities of how an ordinary person like me could raise money for this pandemic that has put everyone’s life on hold.”

He and his twin sister, Kate, a student at the University of Miami, together started the 3 Dollar Challenge, something they thought would show others that a little good from a lot of people can make a huge difference. And, it did make a difference. The challenge started on April 21 and raised over $7,000 in just the first 12 hours by asking individuals to donate just $3 through Venmo or a Go Fund Me campaign. Then, donors were asked to post a photo to their Instagram stories, tag @3dollarchallenge and nominate other people to do the same. A week later, the 3 Dollar Challenge had reached $10,000 in donations, all of which were donated to Feeding America, Direct Relief and the Centers for Disease Control.

Not long after, Adler was contacted by Makin’ Lemonade Fund, a grassroots Gen Z campaign with over 200 high school and college students working together nationwide to raise money for COVID-19 relief funds. He and his sister decided to join forces with the group for greater exposure, which has resulted in approximately $100,000 in donations.

Sleepless Nights Earned a Spot in Techstars Top 10

Whitman students Sam Hollander ’22 (WHIT/NEW), Matt Shumer ’22 and Miles Feldstein ’23 (WHIT/iSchool), were part of a group of Syracuse University students who created Global CoPower, one of the top solutions at Techstars Startup Weekend Remote USA. Hollander is a finance major with a dual major in advertising at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. Shumer is majoring in entrepreneurship and emerging enterprises, and Feldstein is a dual major in entrepreneurship and emerging enterprises and information technology at the School of Information Studies.

Over 1,000 participants — including students, scientists, researchers, inventors, investors, entrepreneurs, educators, health and human services experts and technologists — worked in virtual teams from various locations across multiple time zones over one weekend in April. The purpose was to develop solutions meant to impact the challenges of the pandemic. Groups tackled challenges like supporting front-line health workers, contact tracing, accelerating diagnosis, helping vulnerable populations, addressing food supply and delivery, re-energizing businesses and local economies and addressing mental health and the challenges of isolation. The end goal of the virtual event was to unleash the entrepreneurial skills and mindsets of the world’s best innovators to unite to fight COVID-19.

Syracuse’s Global CoPower team, all members of the Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars at SU Libraries, made the Top 10 in the east division of the competition and moved onto the final round in the national competition. The team addressed a challenge to harness massive distributed computing power to process vast amounts of information, using extraction and analysis in the race to tackle COVID-19. Getting there faster can help researchers more rapidly design therapeutics to beat the disease in what is the biggest research moonshot of our time. Global CoPower is a simple app integration that enables the addition of code to other apps, allowing users to donated unused smartphone capacity to initiatives that are leading this effort.

I think a big part of why our team worked so well together was the fact that we were cross-disciplinary and all brought unique insights from our past experiences to the table."

Sam Hollander ’22 (WHIT/NEW)

“I think a big part of why our team worked so well together was the fact that we were cross-disciplinary and all brought unique insights from our past experiences to the table,” says Hollander. “This created diverse viewpoints, which helped us come up with the best solutions for COVID-19 issues.”

The Syracuse team used a divide and conquer approach to explore problems facing communities, the elderly, vulnerable families, businesses and the health care and research arena. They looked for meaningful gaps they could address while conducting scores of interviews with experts and potential users — quickly realizing that the magnitude of this project was problematic. Still determined, it was after only 30 hours of work that they came upon the solution — Global CoPower — and by the next morning, they had executed their ideas and created a compelling pitch that led them into the finals.

While there is still much work to be done, the team was pleased to have received messages from industry experts hoping to connect on LinkedIn and asking questions about the team’s intentions to bring the solution to market.

(The information on Global CoPower is an excerpt from an article written by Linda Dickerson Hartsock, executive director, Blackstone LaunchPad and Techstars and an adjunct instructor at the Whitman School.)