Published September 23, 2019
Twenty-two UB students have been named WNY Prosperity Fellows for 2019-20. The fellowships, which are made possible through support from the Prentice Family Foundation, are awarded to college and graduate students with an entrepreneurial drive who want to make a difference in Western New York.
The program assists undergraduate and graduate students at UB and Canisius College who are actively preparing for careers that further economic development and growth in the region.
“This year’s cohort of fellows shows promise to impact the vibrancy of the Western New York community by creating jobs and shaping policy that will contribute to economic, as well as community development,” says Hadar Borden, UB’s WNY Prosperity Fellowship Program director.
“It is a privilege to support these fellows as they prepare to serve Western New York as future leaders of our community. This program is yet one example of how the University at Buffalo reaches beyond our walls to create change in our region.”
The names and photos of UB’s Prosperity Fellows are available on the Prentice Family Foundation website.
Each fellow is awarded up to $25,000 in scholarship and internship support for an academic year, based on financial need. Including this year’s gift, the Prentice Family Foundation has invested $5.2 million in the program at UB alone.
Paid, credit-bearing internships assist fellows in acquiring both academic and practical experiences in their intended professions. Fellows are given the opportunity to intern in their chosen fields of interest, where they work alongside and are mentored by leaders in upper-level management.
UB’s fellows also receive $1,000 through an enrichment fund to enhance their fellowship year and further support their professional and personal growth. Fellows have used this funding to support their research, attend or present at a professional conference, and pursue a second internship experience with a local organization.
Fellows also receive complimentary membership to attend meetings and trainings sponsored by regional leadership organizations.
This year’s fellows began their program with an orientation in late May, where they attended seminars that included speed network workshops designed to get to know one another, and improv workshops at Buffalo ComedySportz Arena. The May orientation also included a panel of WNY Prosperity alumni and meetings with local entrepreneurial leadership, including Alex Wright, president of the African Food heritage Co-op, and a tour of the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad.
The training and enrichment continued with a three-day Prosperity Fellowship Program retreat earlier this month. This year’s fellows visited and explored Chautauqua County, since the fellowship program is focused on the Western New York region, and not just the city of Buffalo.
The fellows visited the Robert H. Jackson Center in Jamestown and met with Kristan McMahon, president of the Jackson Center. They also practiced yoga on the grounds of the Chautauqua Institution, as well as enjoyed a boat ride on the Chautauqua Belle with Mark Geise, deputy Chautauqua County executive and chief executive officer of the Chautauqua County Industrial Development Corporation (CCIDC) and the Chautauqua Region Economic Development Corporation. Geise was joined by Crystal Surdyk, principal planner, city of Jamestown Department of Development, and Taylor West, Chautauqua Lake & Watershed Management Alliance.
The Prosperity fellows also met with the chief brand officer of the Chautauqua Institution and toured the National Comedy Center with Director of Development Richard Ryan to learn how the comedy center impacts the Jamestown economy.
The orientation, along with the programming afforded to the fellows throughout their fellowship year, provide these future leaders with an overview of the region’s opportunities and challenges. Specifically, it allows them to understand how they might contribute their talents to impact economic development in the region, Borden says.
“The Prentice Family Foundation set out 10 years ago to ignite the regeneration of agents of economic development by establishing the WNY Prosperity Fellowship Program,” she says.
“They have not only accelerated our fellows’ trajectory as leaders of the Western New York community, but their generous support has served as a catalyst for our campus to embrace cultivation of entrepreneurial support both in and out of the classroom — a key ingredient to the revitalization and sustainability of our region’s economy.”
As far as the Prosperity fellows themselves, their impressions show the depth and value of the experience.
“The Western New York Prosperity Fellowship has been an experience like nothing I could have expected,” says Joseph Quinn, a returning fellow and master’s student in real estate development in UB’s School of Architecture and Planning.
“When I attended my first induction event just over a year ago, I could tell that I was being brought into something special. I have been able to become part of a tight-knit group of students that are all very engaged with their studies and leveraging their work to further the economic and social prosperity of our region.”
Quinn says he has networked with local business and governmental leaders. The Prosperity Fellows events allowed him to interact with fellows from other disciplines.
“This has led to new ideas about how we can help our communities. The fellowship is more than any sort of scholarship or similar school program because it creates this strong network with many outside communities and a deep bond with current and past fellows.
“I can whole heartedly say that I would not be where I am now without the support of the fellowship,” says Quinn. “I am serving as an elected official in local government and on the path to a full-time job and starting my own business venture. The fellowship has facilitated my path to these accomplishments that, just one year ago, I would not have foreseen being able to achieve."
Other fellows share Quinn’s enthusiasm.
“Participating in the Prosperity Fellowship Program has expanded my education,” adds Kathryn Gentz, who is new to the fellowship program this year. She is a PharmD/MBA dual degree student and a graduate assistant for the Blackstone LaunchPad. “It’s given me a focused view of how essential it is for future leaders to not only work in a community, but work to grow and sustain a community.”
This past year marks the 10th year of the Prosperity Fellowship Program. The Prentice Foundation will host a formal celebration in the spring semester.