Social Impact & Entrepreneurship, UMICH…Optimize it the best way…

Turn your ideas into impact…Optimize

If you could change one thing, what would you change?

Optimize is a supportive community for student innovators working towards a just and sustainable world. Optimize helps to foster and incubate social ventures at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor providing seed capital, operational and implementation guidance, mentor-ship for them to have a sustainable impact in the society…Mark the word sustainable…https://www.optimizemi.org/about/#optimize-way

Optimize every year recruits a cohort of students (fellows) based on the meritocracy of their project, provides workshops and events, access to mentors and seed funding up to $20,000. I met some of the fellows and members of Optimize in the recent weekly meeting. The cohort is an eclectic mix of students embarking with irresistible spirit, to bring about a measurable difference in various aspects of life. Projects vary from cutting edge robotics to invigorate science among people to build driver-less cars, reaching out to homeless people to aiding immigrants to fill in government forms, assisting incarcerated women in Doula, connecting undergraduate students with Professors at University of Michigan, discovering a new method of isolating protein in the most cost effective manner to  creatively disseminating knowledge to people.I spoke with Jeff Sorensen, founder of Optimize.

Emily Sluiter, envisions to make child birth of imprisoned women less painful through her Michigan Prison Doula Initiative. She is mentoring two other students in Doula through her soulful personal touch. She has volunteered at hospitals and helped pregnant women in low income families. Megan through Matilda Project wants to motivate girls to pursue a career in science. She has a two prolonged strategy to implement her plan…offer scholarships to mid-school girls and immerse students in a robotics project. She has tied up with Gull Lake High School Robotics team to invigorate the spirit of science among the girls. Hussain and Payton, are heading a social venture helping homeless individuals in Michigan. Their venture provides basic necessitates like food, clothing etc and has already distributed 150 core packages to homeless people. Alpha housing, their other project, promotes sustainable housing solutions to the needy. They overlook a team of 30 undergraduates who support them in their sustainable initiative. Coming to Payton, she is a dynamo and her name is reminiscent of Gen. Patton known for his leadership in World War 2 and with Watt as her surname, its full horsepower. I am improvising a bit here, so please excuse me…Mike Westcott, Ross MBA graduate, rewards customers for bringing mugs to coffee house and you never know there might be a Superman behind Clark Kent look…Or Spiderman…

Left Pic: With mentors and “Jeff the Second, (middle) one of the core members of Optimize”.

Lingo Match, started by Jamie Yeung, Sayeda Zaynab Mahmood and Natalie Andvasko, connects multilingual students with immigrants to provide assistance in completing government forms through language translations etc. Natalie was not present but I spoke with Jamie and Sayeda, both of whom are multilingual. Innovation is the mantra  and lets meet our own Larry Page. Larry Page is an alum of University of Michigan and founder of the most innovative company in the world. hey my opinion and maybe I am a bit biased…Google it…Its Alphabet. Before we delve more, I spoke with a very energetic young lady, Ana, a student leader at Optimize, one of the pillars of success.

Mish not to be confused with Nish, (Mish is short form for Adarsh Mishra), is a wannabe future entrepreneur and a certain millionaire if not a billionaire, involved along with his team in building driver-less car. Equipped with a funding of $25,000, the product is expected to be launched next year with beta testing in a month. I am very glad Mish is not going the Nish way otherwise it would have been an economic disaster. Moving ahead, Akira Nishii, through his pet project Michigan Science & Technology Education Program is connecting undergraduate students with professors at the university through a portal which among many things aids in mentoring students and inculcating research based skill sets.

I tried a bit of Mandarin to impress everyone…I have to confess I am really bad at Mandarin. I found it difficult and to appease myself, did not try much to learn the language justifying I cannot master the language in a short period of time. Human mind takes the shortest path...also the easiest…actually this is not a good attitude…It always good to learn something new…It helps in forming neuron pathways which leads to better development of human mind.

Christina Castillio, is developing a protein molecule through a new innovative procedure which is going to cost less than $1 to successfully isolate the protein. This is revolutionary considering it costs $120 to perform the procedure in Kenya. This has a huge economic impact for development in Africa and other economies. Andy, is innovating life-sciences through a digital healthcare initiative. Jeff Schwartz is involved in an innovative sports idea while Parth Shah wants to make education more entertaining through animated videos. Mike Burling, is training volunteers in non invasive procedure to provide emergency response to bystanders in need. There are many more stories which I could not judiciously cover here and there would be more videos.

Optimize cannot succeed without mentors who come and aid cohort through their expertise. I met up with Bradley Dice, a PhD student who is providing his competence in robotics. The list is long and perspectives endless. Last but not the least, a tribute to another Jeff who did not feature in any video but whose contribution is immense for success of Optimize. I leave you with my brief chat with a student leader at Optimize. Exuberance is contagious but childlike exuberance is superlative…It invigorates and motivates people around for better things in life. Some things are worth dying for, innovation and creativity are one of them. Leave you with this video which exemplifies American Spirit…an enthusiasm for life and passion for your work…Or should I call World Spirit… Due to limited time for interactions I could not interview or chat with every group. I would try to include everyone if time permits for an extended article…Nappy Time…Dude rests…