Fellowship helps liberal arts alumna launch social entrepreneurship career

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Alyssa Gill, a 2015 political science alumna, was the first Penn Stater to join the Venture for America (VFA) Fellowship program. Venture for America is an organization that seeks to revitalize American cities and communities by developing the next generation of socially responsible entrepreneurs. 

The VFA Fellowship provides an avenue through which recent college graduates can learn to build a business while making a social impact. The program begins with a five-week training camp that prepares fellows to excel in a fast-paced, high-intensity startup environment. From there, fellows join startup and early-stage companies in cities with emerging entrepreneurial ecosystems — Baltimore, Pittsburgh and New Orleans, for example. They then spend the next two years learning from and working alongside the entrepreneurs who started those companies. VFA fellows and alumni also have access to ongoing professional development and mentorship opportunities, as well as startup capital, and a host of other resources from the organization if they decide to start their own businesses.

Gill is currently completing her fellowship at the National Academy of Advanced Teacher Education (NAATE) in Providence, Rhode Island. NAATE is a rapidly growing program of professional learning designed to meet the unique needs of experienced teachers and school leaders serving high-needs populations across the U.S. NAATE believes strongly that investing in the development of experienced educational leaders can help close the achievement gap and improve the quality of public education. As a school partnerships manager for NAATE, Gill helps recruit and manage relationships with program participants. She is also helping to develop and monitor new systems and processes around customer relationship management and program admissions. Additionally, Gill has assisted in writing grant proposals and reports to support NAATE’s fundraising efforts.

Gill knew the VFA Fellowship was the perfect fit for her because of her coursework and internship experiences while a student in the Penn State College of the Liberal Arts and the interdisciplinary Humanitarian Engineering & Social Entrepreneurship (HESE) program. In support of HESE’s affordable greenhouse venture, for example, Gill utilized skills she developed through the political science curriculum to conduct maternal and infant nutrition research in Sierra Leone. The student-designed greenhouses help farmers grow quality produce that they can use to feed their families and generate income, showing Gill firsthand how business principles can be leveraged for social good.

Gill also spent a summer interning for Environment America after a representative of the organization spoke to her environmental politics class. Working on Capitol Hill, Gill’s primary project was to lobby fellow Penn State alumna and U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH).

Gill plans to launch her own social venture one day. Anyone interested in applying or learning more about the program can contact Gill at amgill085@gmail.com or visit the Venture for America website at http://ventureforamerica.org. The next deadline to apply is Monday, Nov. 28.

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Last Updated November 22, 2016