Twelve Penn students win 2022 President’s Engagement, Innovation, and Sustainability Prizes

(Top left to right) Manoj Simha and Rowana Miller of Cosmic Writers; Eli Moraru of Community Grocer; Shoshana Weintraub, Sarah Beth Gleeson, and Julia Yan of EcoSPIN. (Bottom left to right) Will Danon and Luka Yancipoulos of Grapevine; Sam Strickberger, Seungkwon Son, and Max Strickberger of College Green Ventures; and Saif Khawaja of Shinkei Systems. (Photo from Penn Today)

Interim President Wendell Pritchett announced the winners of this year’s President’s Engagement, Innovation, and Sustainability Prizes, awarding six teams of Penn seniors and recent graduates with funding for various social impact projects.

The prizes are awarded annually to Penn seniors for the development and undertaking of a post-graduation project that aims to positively impact the world. Each winning project will receive $100,000, and each team member will receive a $50,000 living stipend.

Former President Amy Gutmann announced the creation of both the President’s Engagement Prize and President’s Innovation Prize in 2015. This year, for the first time, seniors had the chance to apply to and receive the President’s Sustainability Prize.

The 2022 President’s Engagement Prizes were awarded to five seniors comprising two teams.

College senior Rowana Miller and Wharton senior Manoj Simha created the project Cosmic Writers to promote literacy by providing free creative writing education to kindergarten to 12th grade students in the United States. The organization aims to help students with the development of literacy and communication skills. Al Filreis, a professor of English at Penn, mentors the two seniors.

College and Wharton senior Seungkwon Son and College seniors Max Strickberger and Sam Strickberger created College Green Ventures as a hub for supporting student entrepreneurs focused on sustainable social impact. Their project aims to profile student-led impact startups. Tyler Wry, a professor of management in the Wharton School, mentors the team.

Two students in the Class of 2022 received this year’s President’s Innovation Prize.

College senior William Danon and College and Engineering senior Lukas Yancopoulos created Grapevine, a project that expands on work the team has previously completed. The pair founded Pandemic Relief Supply which has supplied $20 million worth of health care supplies to frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 2022 President’s Sustainability Prize was awarded to five seniors and recent graduates across three projects.

Saif Khawaja, who graduated from the Wharton School in December 2021, created the startup Shinkei Systems which creates robotic technology to minimize fish waste and increase shelf life. Shinkei’s robotics can perform humane Japanese slaughter techniques that ensure fish quality from ocean to table. Khawaja is mentored by Jacqueline Kirtley, an assistant professor of management in the Wharton School.

Engineering seniors Sarah Gleeson, Shoshana Weintraub, and Julia Yan are working on a device called EcoSPIN. The device is designed to catch microfibers during the laundry process, so that they do not enter oceans and waterways, reducing water pollution.

Eli Moraru, who graduated from the College in December 2021, started the nonprofit The Community Grocer. The organization is based in Philadelphia and works to transform nutritional aid and education to fight health inequity and address food insecurity.

“These inspiring projects exemplify the wide range of interests that energize our great Penn students and faculty,” Interim Provost Beth Winkelstein told Penn Today. “They aim to make a tangible difference in people’s lives, bringing our shared commitments to social justice, intellectual creativity, and entrepreneurial drive to some of the world’s most urgent challenges.”

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