Startup Spotlights

Marcus Webb ’19 and G’22 on building skills for a successful career in tech

headshot of a student in a jacket against a brick wall

Before being interviewed for this story, Marcus Webb G’22 was in a three-hour long meeting about the Syracuse Surge Learning Community Program that Webb is putting together in his role as Economic Inclusion Fellow at CenterState CEO.  Webb is educating community members about opportunities in the tech workforce in Central Upstate New York through programs such as this and Generation Next, an initiative around equity, inclusion and racial justice. His goal is to develop collaborative ways to integrate the next generation’s ideas and talents into solving these challenges.

Webb graduated from Syracuse University in 2019 with a degree in economics and is now a graduate student at the Whitman School of Management, getting his Master of Business Administration.  After working for On Point for College, mentoring students and helping them connect for opportunities, he joined CenterState CEO which is focused on diverse talent development strategies. Webb is supporting that effort by shaping research projects and creating programming to support community engagement and economic development by underrepresented and diverse groups and individuals.  

Webb’s personal goal is to help young people from diverse backgrounds launch a career in the tech industry and succeed, working under the Tech and Culture initiative of CenterState CEO, which is sponsored by JP Morgan Chase.  He wants area college students at Syracuse University, SUNY ESF, LeMoyne, Onondaga Community College, SUNY Oswego and other regional campuses to connect to these resources to help them succeed in finding a rewarding job the tech industry. These opportunities include the Tech and Culture speaker series that Webb manages, which spotlights leaders in the tech industry while promoting diversity and inclusion in tech. The program helps students build a mental bridge between their college life and their future career.  Webb says it is meaningful for students to listen to someone who is successful in the tech industry, who also looks like them. 

Students can learn more about the events by visiting the CenterState CEO website or the Generation Next social media page.

Story by LaunchPad Global Fellow Natalie Lui ‘22; photo supplied

Alexandra Santangelo ’22 on industrial and industrial design innovation

headshot of a student

Alexandra Santangelo ’22 is determined to excel in design. The VPA major studying Industrial design and a double minor in Information and technology and art history, would never turn down the opportunity to display her skills. Technology, history, and design are more than just degrees to Alex.  They represent a way of life and an opportunity to shine.

Originally from New Jersey, Alex wanted to find a school that could embrace her full potential and provide her with an unlimited number of opportunities. Syracuse University struck her because of its large campus population, but more importantly, the diversity it upholds for its students. She knew her ideas would flourish in a diverse background and incorporate her passion into this environment.

Alex has many talents academically but also athletically. For the past three years she has been a member of the Syracuse University Women’s Soccer Team, playing hard and cheering on her teammates. Not only is she able to exercise her leadership on campus, but she also displays it on the field with her friendly and outgoing personality, which led her to become team captain last year.

One of Alex’s greatest traits is her eagerness and determination to assist others in need. Because of her talent in design and graphics, she has been able to work with a variety of people. She enjoys assisting students who need support with graphic design, logos, and presentations. She goes above and beyond by teaching them how to brand and express themselves, and helps bring their concepts to life with 3D-models. .

Furthermore, she is actively participating in a digital fabrication workshop, helping students with projects. As a result of her knowledge and experience, she was chosen by professors to sit on the search committee for new VPA School of Design faculty.

As a student representative on the search committee she learned about the LaunchPad. After a few conversations, she was excited to join the LaunchPad team as a Launch Star. Without hesitation, Alex dove right into her position headfirst, working with a group of students to prepare them for Cuse Tank. They are collaboratively creating logos and designs to enhance their digital storytelling.  Alex says, “I absolutely love it, working with a team and creating graphics is what I enjoy doing.”

This is not her first time working in an environment similar to what she’s doing now. This past summer, Alex spent countless hours working in the IT department, enhancing her technological skills. She was assigned to a task using interactional design and interface at UI UX.

After exploring and engaging into her passions, she has concluded what she loves most. Her passion for hands-on work has motivated her to be an empathic designer. Every day she strives to be a better designer for herself, her teammates, and the people that surround her. Her never-ending drive to continuously improve her creativity makes her an exceptional candidate for any future endeavor.

Her goal is to work in the public sector, where she can exercise her passion for the greater good and help people in any way she can. Hopefully she can work for the government to “solve problems every day and make a long-lasting impact.”

She believes she can utilize her characteristics of being driven to spark new conversations within LaunchPad. She hopes to contribute to the culture and dynamic because she says, “It’s such a unique place on campus.” Alex is ready to be a part of the “powerhouse of entrepreneurship” to bring her own experience and learn about others. Nonetheless, the best part of LaunchPad is that, “Students are coming from all over, bringing their experiences and contributing with so much potential.”

Overall, there is nothing Alex can’t do and isn’t willing to accomplish. She gives more than just her ideas, she gives her heart and herself to everyone around her.

Story by Sydney Grosso ‘23

NEXIS brings tech research to life

photo through a window of a lab space

On any given day of the week, a lab room in Hinds Hall brings to life technological dreams and ideas of innovation.  The NEXIS lab, a technological and innovation makerspace in the School of Information Studies, provides a space for savvy students to prototype their many inventions and ideas. With projects in fields from virtual reality to cybersecurity to medical tech, NEXIS gives students the place and resources to dream of a better world through technology.

The leader behind this network of inventors and idea production? Javier Canela Veiga ’22, studying information management in the School of Information Studies, serves as the current director of the NEXIS lab after being a dedicated researcher in the lab his previous three years of undergraduate study.

headshot of a student
Javier Canela Veiga

Veiga joined the lab his freshman year, starting out in the SMART lab project, which developed new processes for lab and student support. The first project that he plunged himself into was a density prototype which kept constant track of how many people were in the lab at any given time, giving them valuable density data. From there he involved himself with a variety of projects over the course of the coming years, all fueling his love for ideation. “I’ve always had passion for technology and innovation, and passion to research,” spoke Veiga in reference to his love for the work of NEXIS lab. 

NEXIS’ greatest barrier over the past year, according to Veiga, has been the difficulty of working through COVID. As a collaborative working space, NEXIS relies heavily on teams of students working together to shape their ideas, test their theories, and continually bounce thoughts off each other. Without full ownership of a physical space, the students of NEXIS struggled to create in the same way that they always had. “It’s a space that heavily grows based on research, and with COVID we couldn’t really do that as we could have only four researchers in the lab. We couldn’t get hands on collaboration and couldn’t access the technology of the lab,” said Veiga about the difficulty of working through a pandemic lifestyle.

Even today, like many campuses and workspaces across the world, NEXIS is still adapting to a post-pandemic world. “In transitioning back to in person there has been a disconnect,” said Veiga. Many underclassmen members are unused to navigating an in-person NEXIS and the leadership transitional process has been slower due to changed procedures and continual adjustment. For Veiga, the key to successfully overcoming these challenges is the quality that NEXIS is built on: teamwork and community. “That’s when collaboration comes in,” said Veiga of his desire to restore NEXIS’ shared productive space.

The Blackstone LaunchPad has been thrilled to work with teams of student inventors from NEXIS over the past few years.  Previous NEXIS leader Shawn Gaetano went on to win prizes in campus competitions and in the Global Student Entrepreneurship Award and become the recipient of a prestigious Blackstone LaunchPad Fellowship.

While NEXIS provides the space, equipment, and skilled team members needed to fashion technology and create complex solutions to modern problems, the LaunchPad provides the necessary funding and mentorship to push those technologies to market. The collaborative spaces and brilliant team members in both NEXIS and the LaunchPad are the powers that can create impactful innovation.

For Veiga, whose lifelong passion has always been innovation through technological development, NEXIS is the Syracuse space that provides that to himself and students. As this year’s director, he hopes to cultivate that space for technological dreams to turn into capable innovations. The scientifically complex and societally impactful technologies that come out of NEXIS only reaffirms the talent and passion at heart in the Syracuse community and the power of harnessing that in collaborative workspaces.

Story by Claire Howard ’23, Global Fellow.

Patchwork launches platform for users to share and discuss content without leaving the page

two student founders in front of a light wall
Patchwork co-founders Paul Hultgren and Jackson Ensley

Have you ever read an article that you knew you had to send to a friend? If so, you probably copied and pasted the link, emailed it to yourself to open on your phone, then texted it to your friend? Or perhaps you found the perfect paragraph on medieval art for your group history project, but you had to upload the link to a shared Google Doc then struggle to explain which paragraph you were looking at? Or maybe you have read a list of “Top 10 Restaurants Near You” and had to screenshot #5 and #8 to send in your group chat?

With Patchwork, a startup venture incubating in the Syracuse University LaunchPad, content sharing is quick, easy and intuitive. Patchwork is a Google Chrome extension that allows you to share written content and hold conversations without ever needing to leave the original web page.

Its founders — Jackson Ensley, a marketing management major at the Whitman School of Management, and developer Paul Hultgren who is the LaunchPad’s inaugural Innovator in Residence — came up with the idea after realizing there is no streamlined way to discuss content online while viewing it.

As the founders explain, we live in a time where the internet is focused on integration and engagement, making it more important than ever before to have a platform that allows people to share content quickly and collaborate more efficiently. Patchwork does just this by letting users open a chat panel on the side of their screen and refer directly to specific quotes on a page.

Until now, this form of discussion has been reserved to platforms dedicated to serving academic scholars, but Patchwork makes discourse about digital information more social, fun and accessible to anyone.

In future years, Patchwork also hopes to encompass additional integrations that would allow users to share content to platforms such as Slack or Twitter.

By creating a more engaged and connected web of internet readers, Patchwork will transform the way we view information, one shared link and quote at a time.

Story by Sasha Temerte ’23, LaunchPad Global Fellow

Connor Silva ’23 on the business of sports entrepreneurship

decorative graphic

In a pandemic world, Connor Silva ’23 decided to push the limits of sports engagement at Syracuse University. Silva, currently the director of the Syracuse Sports Business Conference,  undertook one of the greatest challenges facing organizations all over the world last year: recreating a physical community in a digital space.

Silva, studying entrepreneurship and emerging enterprises in the Martin J. Whitman School of Management and public relations in the S.I. Newhouse School of Communications, has always loved sports. Once he entered college, he knew he wanted to build a career in sports and in his freshman year joined the team of SSBC, a Syracuse organization bringing networking, keynote speakers, and panels all in the realm of sports to Syracuse students equally as passionate about sports. In the spring of his freshman year, SSBC had planned for an in-person conference bringing high-profile speakers from all over the country. The planning and excitement for their spring conference was cut short when the conference was canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

How does one carry on a large physical networking event, drawing students across the university and people from across the country in a digital space? This was the question that Silva and the SSBC team asked themselves as they endeavored to keep their community alive and connected while physically separated. The answer for them came in the form of a digital speaker’s series. With 23 episodes and 27 guests, SSBC made the move to an online format by inviting high-profile members in the sports world to share their experiences and be interviewed in an online format.

The resolve to continue their work online didn’t simply start with their digital speaker series. The team began to plan the annual SSBC conference digitally, usually hosted in-person at Syracuse university. On April 14th-15th of this year, the SSBC hosted their conference online, holding 8 panels of speakers over the two days, including individuals such as Cynthia Marshall, the CEO for the Dallas Mavericks team, and other representatives from ESPN, the METS, and NFL agents.

“The sports world is really quickly evolving. Just having people on to educate students who are curious about these exchanges is a good opportunity for people to learn and meet connections. It helps us and sets us apart,” said Silva on the value of SSBC and their networking conferences. For Silva, who hopes to create a career for himself in the sports world, the doors opened, and connections created through SSBC are invaluable to shaping a successful future for himself, and he hopes to help others find that same value through the organization. 

This year, as the director of the SSBC, Silva is working tirelessly to bring successful connections and enriching events to Syracuse students interested in sports. Planning a multi-day conference and hosting weekly speakers for his organization is no easy task. Particularly over the summer, balancing leadership, a full-time job, and now, his academics, has required plenty of early mornings and successful team management. “Leading this team right now has taught me a lot about being in a leadership role, trying to get everyone on the same page and keeping everyone motivated is hard,” admitted Silva about the responsibilities of his role.

Silva’s work has also involved partnership and collaboration with other Syracuse organizations. At the Blackstone LaunchPad at Syracuse University Silva is working with other student startups in a new sports entrepreneurship cluster.  He hopes to be part of competitions and other initiatives to raise funding for his ventures. “It’s been a great partnership so far,” said Silva.

Silva hopes his work with the SSBC will lead to increased connections and career opportunities for himself and other students working to break into the field of sports. Along the way, he also cherishes the individual relationships and ways he gets to know other individuals working in sports. “At the end of the day, a person is still a person even though they may run the biggest sports team in the country.”

Story by Claire Howard ’23, LaunchPad Global Fellow

Carlos Magdaleno ’23 on his growth as a video creator

Lost in the crowd, Carlos clicks his camera into manual mode. He raises his arms above the herd, turning in circles to capture a 360-view of the dancing bodies and smiling faces. As he films, the camera swallows up the bellowing roar of the singing and cheering.

Later that same night, Carlos’s eyes dart between monitors to edit the concert footage. The computer is one he built himself — one that can handle the magnitude of the processing speed his video editing demands.

On Carlos’s wall are five photographs: a drone shot of the beach, city streets, the setting sun, a dreamy waterfall, and a beloved image of Syracuse University’s Crouse Hall. Although the five images are very different, they echo a unifying theme: Carlos’s love for capturing the moment, whether that moment is peaceful nature or the hustle and bustle of people living life.

Carlos Magdaleno, an advertising major in the Newhouse School of Public Communications, picked up a camera for the first time his senior year of high school and never put it down.

“Once I got behind the camera, I fell in love with it,” he said.

Now, he is a 2021 – 2022 Zaccai Foundation Fellow for Syracuse University’s Blackstone LaunchPad, where he films content to promote entrepreneurship on campus. Outside of Blackstone LaunchPad, Carlos is also involved with the University Union production team, where he can capture the energy of student life.

But Carlos’s knack for videography didn’t come naturally nor was he taught the basics in school. His passion fueled his initiative to teach himself how to film and edit by watching hours of instructional videos and putting the craft into practice.

“It wasn’t easy to do. There are hours behind the scenes, hours I put in that nobody notices,” he said.

Carlos also experienced difficulties as a first-generation college student coming from a background where traditional education is taken more seriously than a career path as a creative in the digital sphere. He initially began as a computer science major before realizing the work left him drained and unfulfilled. Quickly, he turned back to his creative calling.

Carlos explained that creativity is not something that can be taught, and that’s what shapes someone into an innovator.

“You can teach someone the fundamentals of a skill or equipment, but what they create after that is up to them,” Carlos noted. “You have to stand out, especially in a digital world full of content that repeats and imitates. When you take inspiration from something, you need to add your own spin on it to make the content your own.”

As he improved, Carlos began to reach out to people to get involved with moments he was hoping to capture, but his focus is still on perfecting the craft, creating things he finds beautiful and putting his work out for the world to see.

The previous summer was Carlos’s first major project: filming two festivals in California and a concert for Snoop Dogg. The opportunity was monumental because it was the first time someone had reached out to and put faith in Carlos to work on the video production for such a popular event.

Carlos especially loves filming for concerts because of the potential to capture the energy of an audience: “While shooting, I try to soak in all the energy, then do my best to bring that to life through the edits of both the visuals and sound.”

Down the road, Carlos hopes to either work for a production company or run one of his own. For the time being, he is working on developing reliable connections with people and building a brand for himself as a creator.

“I want to create things and build something for myself that I can be proud of,” Carlos said as he reflected on how far he’s already come.

Looking back, Carlos regrets how much time he spent worrying about what people would think of him, so he advises other creative entrepreneurs to refrain from this same concern: “Honestly, people don’t care that much, so just do what you love.”

“Put yourself out there and keep going,” he added with a smile.

Carlos’s latest photo and video projects can be found on his Instagram, @cjmagdal.

Story by Sasha Temerte ’23, LaunchPad Global Fellow; photo supplied

Ze Zeng ’23 advocates diversity and inclusion for international students

student holding an award
Ze Zeng was a recent recipient of an Orange Circle Award which recognizes altruistic members of the Syracuse University community who have done extraordinary things in the service of others.

When the alarm goes off at 8 a.m., a college town in Upstate New York just had its second rain.  The  ground and air are full of freshness.  So are many students who are starting their day.  Ze Zeng ’23, a Whitman student studying finance, supply chain and business analytics, would never miss his daily routine of reading financial news before going to the morning classes. Yahoo Finance and Global Times are the primary resources for him to understand the global market. He believes that this kind of immersive study can help him better analyze and make rational decisions.

One word couldn’t sum up Ze.  He is the Todd B. Rubin Diversity and Inclusion Scholar and peer mentor at Syracuse University Blackstone LaunchPad.  He is the president of WeMedia Lab. He is the Diversity & Inclusion Leader at Whitman School of Management Dean’s Office.  He is the recipient of multiple scholarship, an RA at Flint Hall, assists with the Syracuse Welcome Office and the Office of First-Year & Transfer Programs.  He was one of the creators of A Hand for Wuhan project at Syracuse University.  He has been working on ideas for his own future venture.  The list goes on. 

Ze thinks it’s a compliment that people regard him as a global citizen. He was born in Guangzhou and raised in Beijing, China. He attended high school in Boston, MA, and then came to Syracuse University to major in finance and business analytics.  He is very much an integral part of the Syracuse community.

He gathers his inspiration from his surroundings, and accordingly, he has explored every continent through travel and exchange studies. 

“Many people come to Syracuse, thinking of leaving it one day,” he notes.  The international student community is a relatively small group and consequently, not many students genuinely get involved in on campus. The four-year college journey is just one chapter in an expedition in their lives.  Many are already planning to return to their home country, to or make a life somewhere else in the world.

Ze felt the same before. While he was in high school as an international student, he encountered many difficulties at the age of 14, such as cultural differences and language barriers. He realized at that time that he had to find ways to both financially and mentally support himself in order to survive in this society.

Before COVID-19 first reached Syracuse, Ze and four Chinese students had already started feeling the strain and gathering resources to build a fundraising platform on campus for communities in China, especially places that needed help the most.

Marvelously, through their work, they quickly raised $55,000 on the platform they created. On May 7, 2020, the Chinese community, mainly SU parents, donated $40,000 to the city of Syracuse for medical supplies.

This international demonstration of love shows the toughness and comradeship among students and families. “SU isn’t just a school or a place for education. It’s where I met my best friends and a place I grew.” Ze said.

Ze likes to be the first one who breaks the ordinary. He’s the first international student to run the president of Module UN in his high school, one of the few Chinese student representatives at the Student Association, and the first couple of Chinese student resident advisors.

His presence and intention encourage other internationals to see the possibility of experiencing remarkable college life.

Ze Zeng at a recent Whitman freshman welcome event, engaging new students in community building

As a self-starter, Ze feels motivated when like-minded people surround him.  Ze enjoys the creative explosion and energy that comes from people who have different backgrounds. “There are so many exciting ideas popping up at the LaunchPad every day.”  That’s one of the reasons he joined the Blackstone LaunchPad at SU Libraries as a peer mentor for student startups.

He engages students, specifically international students, to support and give them advice at the early stage of establishing their startup, such as finding resources, connecting with the industry professionals, and dealing with financial and legal services.

It’s also a mutual learning process for Ze. He can have hands-on experience to assist startups and networking with professionals while helping students.

Ze wants to bring more international students to this entrepreneurial environment that values creativity and diversity. He finds international students are big on innovation. “There are interesting ideas among fellow internationals but lack support. They are like trapped in a bubble.” For example, he’s currently helping a group of architectural students building a platform to connect designers and architects with local constructors.

Looking back at his journey Ze, he says, “I truly believe in every student who invests themselves, whether it’s reading the news or exercising every day.” 

Ze also proves the value and worth of investing in others, as he truly gives of himself to help other students on their Syracuse journey.

Story by LaunchPad Global Fellow Aorui Pi; photos supplied

Team Sweatration is tackling the dangers of dehydration for athletes and fitness enthusiasts

Student team practicing in the LaunchPad
Zach Stahl ’23, Anthony Mazzacane ’24 and Paul Franco ’22 practicing their pitch in the LaunchPad during Invent@SU

During last summer’s Invent@SU program, the Sweatration team identified a problem: “80% of NCAA athletes had suffered from dehydration.”  Paul Franco ‘22, Zach Stahl ‘23, and Anthony Mazzacane ‘24 put their heads together to come up with a solution. The trio invented a wearable hydration status monitor that can be worn on your wrist, head, or wherever else you sweat, and can notify you when you are becoming dehydrated. 

The team comes from different academic backgrounds. Paul is a Physics major in Arts and Sciences; Zach is an Aerospace Engineering major and Computer Science minor in the College of Engineering and Computer Science; and Anthony is a Computer Science and Mathematics dual major in the College of Arts and Sciences and College of Engineering and Computer Science. 

Franco recalls the start of the summer Invent@SU accelerator program as going by quickly and being a whirlwind of ideation. The first two days were hectic as students had to come up with their concept to work on prototyping over the next six weeks.

The team initially considered how to tackle heat stroke using just a wearable device on the skin. However, as they researched the science of body heat and dehydration, they realized that tracking internal body temperature wasn’t accurate with a wearable device on the skin.  Undaunted, the team did not give up.  It took a step back and pivoted – the hallmark of smart innovators. 

By narrowing their research and drilling deeper, they realized that dehydration is a symptom of heat stroke and Mazzacane soon found a study which revealed that sodium ion spikes translate to higher levels of dehydration. That finding was the light at the end of the tunnel which they pursued with vigor.  If they could invent a way to monitor that spike in sodium ion conductivity, then they knew they were on the right path. 

The trio worked with determination and resilience throughout the six-week program. In the program’s fifth week, they competed in a trial presentation run with the opportunity to win a cash prize.  The team placed lower than they had hoped, and Stahl said that they felt “a fire was lit under them” to persevere.

The next day, they went right to work and finalized their initial prototype. Prior to the final demonstration, the three students proved that this device could accurately track when an athlete reached levels of dehydration. They continued to research.  The listened to feedback by guest evaluators.  They worked with peer mentors and staff of the LaunchPad to refine their thought process and focus.  They continued to work off hard data to support their findings.

They kept learning and iterating.  They welcomed coaching and subject matter expertise.  They did user discovery and testing.  They fabricated a working prototype that Zach used to test their theories based on solid research.  It worked.

Sweatration proceeded to walk away with Invent@SU’s top prize.

While reflecting upon their experience, Franco noted that entrepreneurship is “the best way to reward yourself for having a great idea” and valued the lessons he learned “by seeing it through.” Additionally, entrepreneurship “gives you the opportunity to be your own boss and have a lot of control over your career and the projects you undertake.”

Mazzacane added that compared to working for someone else, entrepreneurship means that “you have to figure out your own direction, which is more work, but you have greater freedom of choice.”

This week, they will be competing again for top prizes in ‘Cuse Tank, sponsored by the Blackstone LaunchPad at Syracuse University.  This fall they’ve continued to work on their idea with the LaunchPad staff and its network subject matter experts, alumni and peer mentors, along with the assistance of the LaunchPad’s talented student team.  They are working on their IP roadmap and exploring the FDA landscape with the help of the College of Law’s Innovation Law Center.  Their goal is creating a more sophisticated working prototype to get to full proof of concept, work with a professional design firm to finalize the hardware, create a functioning iOS app with an experienced UX team, and finalize their patent.

Franco, Stahl, and Mazzacane highly recommends the Invent@SU program and firmly believe that more students should apply for it. Stahl notes that it provides a huge advantage for any engineer with entrepreneurial ambitions by forcing them to step outside of their comfort zone. Public speaking might not always be at the forefront of a STEM education and the opportunity to pitch in front of seasoned industry veterans—such as Bill Allyn, retired CEO of Welch Allyn (now Hillrom / Baxter) —is an incredible opportunity to refine one’s communication skills. 

After achieving tech execution during Invent@SU, Sweatration now has a working prototype. They will continue focusing on product refinements in order to bring it to market. Additionally, they will participate in business pitch competitions this year working with the LaunchPad, refine their business model, expand the team, and eventually beta test the device with athletes as the last testing stage prior to a commercial launch. They are currently looking for help with industrial design, graphic design, general business, and intellectual property.

If you’re interested in joining their team, reach out to them through the LaunchPad: or come see them October 8 at ‘Cuse Tank in Bird Library.

Story by LaunchPad Global Fellow Selim Dangoor ’23; photo by LaunchPad staff

Sydney Grosso ’23 on new beginnings

head shot

In the ever-changing environment that makes up Syracuse University, an active junior has great ambitions to get involved. Sydney Grosso ‘23, a double major in Public Health in Falk College and Policy Studies in Maxwell, is determined to use her degree to build a foundation for a meaningful career as a trailblazer.

Sydney, from the Syracuse area, decided to attend SU because of her interest in a biomedical degree. However, she soon discovered her passion for public health and policy studies. Creating new policies that will benefit the public for the greater good was her new commitment. Helping others gives her purpose to what she does, “I am building my skills and knowledge now so that one day I can give back to those who gave to me and many more,” Sydney stated.

Throughout Sydney’s three years at Syracuse, she has used her leadership skills and creative ideas to support residence halls through Resident Hall Association (RHA). She continued building on those skills by becoming an RA in Marion hall and involving herself to become more immersed in the Syracuse community.

She has also given back countless hours to local community members by volunteering to write to the elderly during the heart of the pandemic and tutoring kids in need.

Sydney is actively applying her studies by working with the NYS Grange, a non-profit organization, to relocate their meeting facilities and creating districts within the state to assist with current changes in the organization. She can showcase her leadership and communication skills by using pre-existing surveys and information to ameliorate discomfort in members as well as minimize the decrease in membership. While learning new business strategies and using creativity, Sydney has begun applying these new skills to work towards her upcoming business idea.

As a result of her new idea, she sparked interest in surrounding herself with people who are reliable, intelligent, and more than willing to assist with her aspirations. Sydney said, “Once you become a part of LaunchPad, you become more inspired every day to be the best version of yourself and exceed more than what you ever thought you could accomplish.”

Sydney is currently working with the LaunchPad’s writing team to meet new individuals and display their stories and the value they contribute to the LaunchPad team.  She is also a Zaccai Foundation working with the Intelligence ++ program, an inclusive entrepreneurship program that is a partnership between the LaunchPad and SU Libraries, InclusiveU and VPA’s School of Design.

At the LaunchPad, she aspires to advance her concept for a sustainable product. Furthermore, she aims to continue building connections with previous, current, and upcoming LaunchPad members to hopefully establish business and personal relationships.

“If there is one thing I could change, it would be joining LaunchPad freshman year, so I could have developed more confidence in myself while being surrounded by like-minded people.” Sydney knew she had aspirations outside receiving good grades, she just didn’t know that with the right code, she could unlock more of herself and her ideas.

As Sydney continues her RA role, she has a desire to inspire people to propel out of their comfort zone and to create new ideas. Sydney is continually working towards regaining her social skills with her residents similar to pre-covid times. As many others would agree, “The social strain Covid-19 left on the community has made it difficult to retreat to what it used to look like,” Sydney said.

She is continuously looking for ways to reconnect with her residents, so she can motivate them to reach their full potential.

One struggle Sydney faces is balancing work life and creating time for herself to take a break. “Working thirty-two hours a week, taking eighteen credits, and being involved in extracurricular activities makes it hard to find time for myself,”she said. Learning how to balance all her activities has been one of her greatest challenges thus far.

Making time and prioritizing herself has been a work in progress. But with her new understanding, she has implemented community events to help other students learn how to multitask and create time for themselves.

Sydney is eager to learn more about LaunchPad and establish new relationships within its network. With her drive for success, commitment to helping those who surround her, dedication to seeing others succeed, and contributing to the process, Sydney will find more than just co-workers, she will find a home in LaunchPad.

Story by Blackstone Global Fellow Sydney Grosso ‘23

Samba Soumare ’24 brings his adaptive nature to innovation

Samba Soumare ’24, a Maxwell student majoring in international relations, has a superpower. It  is the unique skill of being bilingual and being able to immerse himself in a French and American context. Language is a tool to understand, a bridge between people. Traveling through France and Sudan, while calling Brooklyn home, equipped him with the tools to understand the experiences of people in these regions on a more personal level. Being analytical and having cultural humility opened his eyes to the fact that we are dependent on each other which can lead to great human flourishing or disaster.  His linguistic, cultural and analytical skills have allowed me to understand contemporary international affairs.

One interesting area of the international realm is the growing investment of China in foreign countries into foreign projects, more specifically infrastructure and land development. It is evident in Ethiopia, one of his home countries’ neighbors, that the Chinese government is expanding its influence into Africa. The international realm is growing ever complex and as a result is a dynamic landscape. This context is the reason he would like to be a diplomat at the United Nations. The growing connectedness of our world through the digital space and growth of children being able to speak multiple languages creates the context for globalism to grow.

As a diplomat, he wants to play a role at the government level.

Mentors help with constructive feedback and help building interpersonal skills. A trusting and honest mentorship relationship provides transparent feedback. It aims to stimulate growth by identifying weaknesses and advising them on ways to improve. Interactions with mentors serve as a medium to build communication such as active listening. Empathy and the greatest virtue which is patience. These skills have allowed me to collaborate more effectively. A creative collaborative community is a great way to meet other students considering emerging ideas and enterprises and gain a more informed perspective.

A new Zaccai Foundation Fellow at the LaunchPad, working with the Intelligence ++ program,  he was referred by a fellow LaunchPad student team member Brandon Henry. With a background and empathy for working with young adults with disabilities, he brings both skills and compassion to his new role as a peer mentor.

“My entrepreneurial strength aspect isn’t necessarily the ideas or project I have thought of, but instead my adaptive nature in dialogue,” says Soumare. “I wouldn’t consider myself an extrovert however I have the ability to find common ground with many people who might be completely different from me.”

Story by Brandon Henry ’24; photo by Brandon Henry