Surviving and thriving in the virtual world, thanks to our incredible LaunchPad team

Paul Hulgren (left) just moved to Syracuse from the Silicon Valley to become part of the LaunchPad community after working remotely with the LaunchPad this year. Jackson Ensley (right) worked remotely as a LaunchPad Orange Ambassador student team member this academic year.
Now they are working together in person this summer at the LaunchPad on ModoSuite, a venture they co-founded remotely during the pandemic.

The 2020 – 2021 academic year was like no other.  It was a creative challenge to keep our amazing community connected and engaged through the pandemic, operating virtually through much of the year.  Thanks to an incredible Blackstone LaunchPad & Techstars team effort led by our talented student entrepreneurs who serve as mentors and subject matter experts, we thrived – adding 750 new members to the program this academic year. 

A big shout out to our student team for helping make this year one that was memorable, and also for building a student experience that brought us closer together as a community.  The team launched new initiatives such as a podcast and video series, ramped up our content creation and digital outreach, jumped into seamlessly transition programming and numerous competitions to the virtual space, expanded programming around diversity and inclusion, and poured their hearts, minds and entrepreneurial souls into mentoring.

We’d like to take this opportunity to recognize our 2020 -2021 LaunchPad Global Fellows, Rubin Family Innovation Mentors, Orange Ambassadors, Todd B. Rubin Diversity and Inclusion Scholars, Hunter Brooks Watson Scholar and our Syracuse University Hult Prize Campus Ambassador.  Learn more about team and read their profiles here.

Generous donor support makes these leadership development experiences for entrepreneurial students.  We’d also like to give a very special thanks to Todd B. Rubin ’04, the Minister of Evolution (President) for The Republic of Tea, who generously supported many of these roles.  We are looking to build on and expand upon that support for next year’s team.  If you are interested in supporting student entrepreneurs, reach out to Ronald L Thiele, Asst Dean for Advancement, Syracuse University Libraries,

315-560-9419 or

LaunchPad Global Fellows

LaunchPad Global Fellows are subject matter experts in various disciplines such as engineering, software and data management, industrial and interaction design and product development, graphic design, web design, UX-UI, all forms of digital media and content development, as well as marketing, sales and finance. These roles were supported through Invest SU funding:

  • Claire Howard ’23, Maxwell, economics and international relations
  • Emily Pearson ’21, VPA, environmental and interior design
  • Patrick Linehan ‘21, Arts and Sciences, newspaper and on-line journalism and policy studies
  • Sloane Sexton ’21, VPA, communications design
  • Chris Appellpo’21, Newhouse, advertising
  • Jack Lyons ’22, Newhouse, Whitman
  • Kaizhao Zero Lin ‘21, Newhouse and Maxwell
  • Jackson Siporin ’22, VPA, Music Industry

The Rubin Family Innovation Mentors

Rubin Family Innovation Mentors serve as peer advisors to a portfolio of student startups, coaching them on strategy and venture development.  These roles were supported by the Rubin Famil Foundation:

  • Patrick Prioletti G’21 iSchool, graduate program, applied data science
  • Emma Rothman ’21, Falk College, food studies
  • Sam Hollander ’22, Whitman, finance and Newhouse, advertising dual major
  • James LePage ’23 Whitman, real estate
  • Bruno Luiz G’22, iSchool, graduate program, applied data science

Todd B. Rubin Diversity and Innovation Scholars

Todd B. Rubin Innovation and Diversity Scholars, funded through a generous gift from Todd B. Rubin ’04 School of Architecture, Minister of Evolution and President of the Republic of Tea, work to broaden diversity and inclusion outreach and programming, expand participation in entrepreneurship by underrepresented groups and support the University’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.  They included:

  • Tyra Ambroise Jean G ’21, Maxwell, public policy
  • Gabriela Holliman-Lopez ’22, VPA, communications and rhetorical studies

Orange Ambassadors

Orange Ambassadors, also funded through a generous gift from Todd B. Rubin, compliment the skills sets of our Global Fellows, supporting outreach and engagement with entrepreneurial students across campus.  This was a special gift to help students who needed additional support this year because of the pandemic.  They included:

  • Justin Diaz ’23, College of Engineering and Computer Science, civil engineering
  • Alesandra (Sasha) Temerte ’22, Arts and Sciences, economics, writing and rhetoric
  • Russell Fearon ’19 and ‘G22, College of Engineering and Computer Science, mechanical engineering
  • Jackson Ensley ’22, Whitman, marketing management
  • Emma Rothman ’21, Falk College, food studies
  • Zain Edeen Elwakil ’21, School of Architecture
  • Sam Hollander ’22, Whitman, finance and Newhouse, advertising dual major
  • Season Chowdhury ’23, College of Engineering and Computer Science, computer science
  • James Rudman ’21, iSchool, information management and technology
  • Krishna Pamidi ’21, Whitman, finance

Hunter Brooks Watson Scholar

Hunter Brooks Watson Scholars are supported through a generous gift from the Hunter Watson Memorial Fund.  It is Inspired by Syracuse University’s Remembrance Scholar program and was established as a way to honor the life and entrepreneurial spirit of Hunter Brooks Watson, a Syracuse University student who passed away after injuries suffered in a tragic 2016 distracted driving car accident. The Syracuse University Hunter Brooks Watson Scholar peer mentors students and builds the pipeline of innovative students who exemplify the “spirit of entrepreneurship.”  This year’s Watson Scholar was:

  • Emma Rothman ’21, Falk College, food studies

Hult Prize Syracuse University Campus Ambassador

The Syracuse University Hult Prize Campus Ambassador helps organize the campus Hult Prize competition at Syracuse University.  It is part of a global competition that is often referred to as the “Nobel Prize” of student impact entrepreneurship.  The position is supported by funding through Invest SU.  This year’s campus ambassador was:

  • Claire Howard ’23, Maxwell, economics and international relations

LaunchPad – Blackstone – Techstars Communications

Thanks to funding from the Blackstone Charitable Foundation, the LaunchPad was able to support a communications team expert this year:

  • Kelly Davis ’23, Whitman, marketing

About Todd B. Rubin:

Rubin serves as the Minister of Evolution (President) for The Republic of Tea. Dedicated to preserving a legacy that fosters The Republic of Tea’s “Sip by Sip Rather than Gulp by Gulp” lifestyle, he strives to delight Citizens, Ministers, Embassies and Ambassadors with a focus on innovation, education and providing the finest premium teas and herbs.

Rubin joined The Republic of Tea in 2007 as the Minister of East Commerce and then transitioned to the Minister of Southeast Commerce in 2008. In 2011, he was appointed to Minister of Evolution (Vice President of Sales and Marketing), relocating to the company’s Larkspur, California office. In that role, he successfully spearheaded new teas and new systems that led to significant growth. Utilizing his Syracuse University degree in architecture, he oversaw the feng shui design of the company’s headquarters at The Exchange in Larkspur, California and the company’s production and shipping center in Nashville, Illinois.

In 2016, Rubin was elected to the Specialty Food Association Board of Directors and was distinguished as one of San Francisco Business Times’ 40 Under 40. He was appointed to the Advisory Board for the Specialty Tea Institute and became a member of the Young Presidents’ Organization SF Bay Area Chapter in 2015. The year prior, Rubin was the recipient of Syracuse’s Generation Orange Award for philanthropy and was also honored as one of North Bay Business Journal’s 40 Under 40. Rubin was elected to the Board for the Ethical Tea Partnership, a nonprofit organization that convenes the tea industry, development partners, NGOs, and governments to improve the lives of tea workers, farmers, and the environment in which they live and work.

His goal in supporting LaunchPad students is to encourage other Syracuse University alumni to consider gifts that enhances the entrepreneurial “Orange Experience.”

About The Republic of Tea:

The Republic of Tea enriches people’s lives through its great-tasting premium teas and herbs, education and innovation, as it emphasizes a “Sip by Sip Rather Than Gulp by Gulp” lifestyle. Founded in 1992, The Republic of Tea sparked a specialty tea revolution. Today the brand delivers an unequaled selection of the highest-quality teas, herbal blends, books and nature-inspired sipware. The Republic of Tea’s collections boast over 300 all-natural premium teas and diverse offerings which include, but are not limited to: organic SuperAdapt Teas, SuperDigest Teas®, Beautifying Botanicals®, SuperGreen Teas, Downton Abbey™ Teas, Biodynamic® Teas, organic Superfruit™ Teas, Be Active® Teas, organic SuperHerb® Teas, U-Matcha™, Single Sips®, teaware and a collection of unsweetened, premium glass-bottled iced teas crafted exclusively for fine restaurants and hotels. Further, The Republic of Tea is mindful of how its actions impact the greater community and actively supports organizations like The Ethical Tea Partnership, Homeward Bound of Marin, and The Women of Tea: Sri Lanka, an initiative by The Republic of Tea focused on improving nutrition, hygiene and financial literacy for the women tea workers living in Sri Lanka. Certifications include Demeter USA Certified Biodynamic, Fair Trade certification, Gluten-Free certification, Non-GMO Project verification, OU Kosher certification, and USDA Organic certification.

For more information, please visit