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UW Students Seek to Leverage Innovative Thinking and Entrepreneurial Action to Better the World

by John Surdyk Monday, November 12, 2018



Passion and progress motivated the two UW-Madison students and a recent alum this fall selected by the Clinton Global Initiative - University (“CGI-U”) program to participate in the organization’s annual conference held at the University of Chicago. CGI-U hosts the annual meetup and invites nearly 1,300 students, university leaders, senior executives, and public figures from around the world to discuss and develop promising solutions to pressing social challenges.

This is the first year that UW-Madison has formally participated in the program. John Surdyk, Director of the Initiative for Studies in Transformational Entrepreneurship, and Suzanne Dove, Assistant Dean for Academic Innovations at the Wisconsin School of Business, helped to promote the opportunity and support the admitted students.

Participants included:

  • Caroline Matkom (undergraduate, Community and Nonprofit Leadership) focused on educational access in Malawi for young women
  • Shawn Michels (recent graduate, BBA/Integrated MS in Accounting) building a device to make insulin injections easier and more comfortable for Type II diabetics
  • Aaron Olson (Ph.D. candidate, Engineering Mechanics) co-founded NovoMoto, a social enterprise bringing affordable solar power to rural communities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Each UW-Madison participant selected by the CGI-U team received $3,000 provided by the Office of the Chancellor to help further advance their ideas and travel to the CGI-U conference.

Shawn Michels, an alum of the WSB Business Plan Competition, is using the funding to develop his assistive medical device and commission molds for small batch production and testing. Aaron Olson, another WSB Business Plan Competition alum as well as alum of the Morgridge Entrepreneurial Boot Camp (MEB), has installed 179 devices over the past 3 months, and growth is accelerating (~35%). He and his co-founder are looking to raise $1.2 million this coming year, and the CGI-U funding will help with travel and related efforts in Africa. Matkom’s work on the project in Malawi is part of a larger campus commitment to highlight the Wisconsin Idea in action around the campus, the state, and the world.

Each participant found the program and networking opportunities “incredible,” and each has agreed to be a resource for future Badgers applying who are similarly committed to social enterprise and the pursuit of the Wisconsin Idea! Read More