I&E Program’s U-reka! Big Idea contest student winners announced

The Innovation & Entrepreneurship (I&E) Program at Clark University announced winners of this year’s U-reka! Big Idea contest, a friendly competition that encourages students to create improvements to the Clark campus community and provides funding to help turn their ideas into reality.

With only two votes separating first and second place, the top award went to “The Clark Melting Pot,” proposed by sophomores Shalmali Ghate, Alexis Church and Vika Grindle. A prize of $2,500 will help implement the project. “Raquet-eering,” led by senior Jun Ha (Marcel) Lyu, placed second and received a $1,500 award. In third place with $1,000 in support was junior Rebecca Raphaelson, whose project is “Back to School Safety.”

“The U-reka! Big Idea contest has allowed students to focus their passions on excellent ideas,” said Amy A. Whitney, associate director of the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Program. “The finalists will be working hard this spring to help generate greater cultural awareness, create affordable access to fitness equipment and promote additional safety and security measures for all students on campus.”

Each of the U-reka! finalists will be mentored during spring semester by I&E staff and volunteers as they develop the potential implementation of their ideas on campus.

Here are brief details about the winning U-reka! Big Idea projects:

The Clark Melting Pot” will be a multicultural center that supports global fair trade. The center will sell authentic international goods such as jewelry, hand-made bags, clothing, and dorm decorations, along with pre-packaged international snacks. The store space would be in The Grind and would also provide multicultural exposure to students by hosting events celebrating cultural diversity, such as henna night, salsa dance night, cultural speakers, and celebratory festivals. The goal of this project is to promote diversity and cultural understanding within the Clark community and to economically support low-income areas all around the world.

The “Raquet-eering” project proposes a simple system where Clark Athletics maintains some basic equipment so students, faculty, and staff can borrow racquets and balls from the Kneller Athletic Center in order to play racquetball, squash and badminton. The Kneller has indoor courts for squash and racquetball, and outdoor spaces exist for badminton, so the main costs of the project would buying and maintaining equipment, Lyu noted. “Raquet-eering” strives to increase athletic involvement at Clark through offering community members the opportunity to play racquet based sports for free.

Raphaelson’s “Back to School Safety” idea is for Clark University to hire veterans as additional University Police officers and house them both in the dorms and in off-campus housing. The veterans would attend a police academy, paid for by the GI Bill. Clark would in turn award them the academy time as credits toward their degree. The veterans would work part-time and attend school full-time. This project aims to increase campus safety while helping support returning veterans in pursuit of higher education.

Innovation & Entrepreneurship is offered as a minor for Clark University undergraduates. The program kicked off the U-reka! contest in 2008. Past winning projects include the Clark Community Thrift Store, which was begun by Alexa Lightner and Rachel Gerber (both Class of 2011). The store on Main Street across from Clark’s main gate remains a thriving enterprise today.  A University Bike Patrol, proposed by Daniel Snyder ’11, provided the University Police Department with a patrol bike and uniform.

Questions about the U-Reka! Big Idea Contest or the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Program can be directed to innovation@clarku.edu.

Founded in 1887 in Worcester, Massachusetts, Clark University is a small, liberal arts-based research university addressing social and human imperatives on a global scale. Nationally renowned as a college that changes lives, Clark is emerging as a transformative force in higher education today. LEEP (Liberal Education and Effective Practice) is Clark’s pioneering model of education that combines a robust liberal arts curriculum with life-changing world and workplace experiences. Clark’s faculty and students work across boundaries to develop solutions to contemporary challenges in the areas of psychology, geography, management, urban education, Holocaust and genocide studies, environmental studies, and international development and social change. The Clark educational experience embodies the University’s motto: Challenge convention. Change our world. www.clarku.edu