Funding University Priorities — Entrepreneurship

Students participate in the BEES Black Student Business Expo.

This article is the first in a series on Trust grants that directly support University priorities.

Each Trust grant funds a new idea. Some of these ideas are in areas of particular importance to the University President or Provost. ‘University priorities’ are not permanent but rather time-bound areas of focus where administrators put additional resources toward advancing UVA. Trust support can play a unique role in jumpstarting a project or program toward having an immediate impact.

Entrepreneurship is a current University priority and one that the Trust has supported often.

Entrepreneurship at UVA has many homes. There are multiple centers, incubators, programs, competitions, and courses across different schools and units. Each avenue has a different audience.

In October 2023, the University announced its new Entrepreneurship Initiative, designed to bring cohesion to the various efforts, support them, and enhance them.

As is often the case, the Trust was out in front. In June 2022, Jefferson Trust board member, Lars Norell, Law ’98 and his family gave $100,000 to the Trust to support entrepreneurial programming.  These funds were allocated outside the normal grant cycles to immediately support projects such as:

  • the Virginia Venture Fund’s National Undergraduate Venture Cup, which brought Reddit founder, Alexis Ohanian, Com. ‘05 to Grounds to speak to students;
  • the pan-University E-Cup program;
  • and the creation of a mobile app for entrepreneurs across Grounds to connect and share ideas, developed by the Batten Institute.

In the past two years alone, through our Annual and Flash Funding cycles, the Trust has funded several projects that directly impact the entrepreneurship effort, such as:

  • Changemaker Bootcamp, a week-long, experiential program in social entrepreneurship for undergraduates;
  • Entrepreneurship for All, a UVA faculty led high school program for youth from historically marginalized communities to create their own ventures and social enterprises;
  • Darden Emerging Markets Conference, designed to bring thought leaders, professionals, academicians, and students together to discuss emerging markets in a post-COVID world;
  • Black Economic Empowerment Society, designed to increase financial literacy, emphasize the importance of asset ownership, and empower Black UVA students to start businesses;
  • and, the Virginia Undergraduate Investment Conference (VUIC), which provided hands-on experience in equity analysis and investment for students.

Beyond this direct support, the Trust is committed to being part of the entrepreneurial ecosystem across Grounds, funding ideas and fostering innovation that will make UVA an event better place.

Flash Grants Focus on Student Experiences

The Jefferson Trust has awarded $119,880 across fourteen flash funding grants since January.

“The volume of requests we received this year was overwhelming. It is a clear indication that UVA is an active, forward-looking university with a healthy student body ready to make an impact,” shared Brent Percival, Executive Director of the Jefferson Trust. “The Trustees were thrilled to see so many Flash Funding requests from students; their engagement in programs and projects that enrich the student experience is a hallmark of the Trust.”

Student experiences are the standout theme this spring. Whether student research experiences, like Morven Soundscape and From the Ground Up, to learning opportunities with artificial intelligence (AI), through McIntire’s Escape Room Tournament and the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence in Research and Training, people at UVA are seeking out new ways to engage and enhance the student experience.

Different than the Jefferson Trust’s Annual Cycle grants, Flash Funding grants are capped at $10,000 per project and are awarded monthly beginning in January.

The 2024 Flash Grants:

AFROTC VR Simulator: $10,000

Funding will bring virtual reality simulator training on the T-6 Texan II aircraft to Air Force ROTC students at UVA, and a potential partnership with the UVA Aeronautical Engineering club.

Ethics of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Research and Teaching: $8,040

A team of professors is launching a series of workshops, open to the University and local communities, designed to illustrate the benefits and weaknesses of AI.

From the Ground Up: $9,700

Through hands-on learning labs and field research, UVA students will develop an educational module centered on soil biological health of Native tallgrass prairies to help build agricultural and environmental education among local Indigenous youth in Sisseton, South Dakota.

Morven Soundscape: $10,000

Students will create an expansive soundscape of the land at Morven Farms, enhancing listeners’ understanding of the place, and assisting researchers in a better understanding of its history, archaeology, and environment.

McIntire School of Commerce Escape Room Tournament: $8,000

A student-created game, the Escape Room Competition simulates an Artificial Intelligence (AI) business firm, where students will use critical thinking skills and hands-on learning to solve challenges in entrepreneurship, innovation, and modern workforce.

The Stan Winston and Steve Warner Festival of the Moving Creature: $10,000

In preparation for the Stan Winston and Steve Warner Festival of the Moving Creature, students in Art of the Moving Creature class work on their festival creatures.

The class, and culminating festival, will showcase the multidisciplinary lessons and passions of Arts Grounds in a public performance of larger-than-life moving creatures designed and powered by students in the Art of the Moving Creatures Spring 2024 seminar.

CALM Wellness Retreat: $1,400

The CALM Wellness Retreat for School of Medicine students provides the medical student community a dedicated space to find relief from the stressors of medicine and build sustainable mindfulness practices that they can carry with them throughout their medical school journey and future medical career.

Smiles & Spatulas: $3,400

A cooking program that will empower adults with Down Syndrome by teaching kitchen safety, cooking basics, and general nutrition. This pilot program offers volunteer opportunities for students while giving back to the Charlottesville community.

Teaching and Learning Enhancement Hub: $9,590

An initiative in the Department of Psychology with results that will be applied broadly, the Hub is evaluating several effective learning strategies to improve learning experiences for students.

JunkLabz – Printers4Kidz: $10,000

Funding helps to purchase a new plastic sheet press, enabling Junk Labz to improve the diversion and processing of plastic waste more efficiently, turning higher volumes of recycled plastic into durable, long-lasting products.

Entrepreneurship for All: $10,000

In partnership with local high schools, this program is designed to educate and empower youth from historically marginalized communities to create their own ventures and social enterprises.

Sara Curruchich. Being an Indigenous Woman in Today’s Guatemala: $10,000

The internationally recognized Mayan Kaqchikel singer and songwriter visited Grounds as a Ruffin Distinguished Artist-in-Residence. Classes, workshops, and a free public concert were held, and materials from the visit will be archived in the UVA Library for future students to learn about Curruchich, Kaqchikel art, and activism.

Public Facing Writing: Editor Workshop Series: $10,000

Graduate students in the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences are organizing the Public Facing Writing workshop series, aimed to support public humanities work and grow the networks between humanities scholars and public facing publications at UVA.

SWVA Can Code Regional Student Showcase: $9,750

In partnership with UVA Wise, local schools, and community organizations, middle- and high- school students will learn coding, web app development, problem-solving, prototyping, and entrepreneurial and communication skills at summer camps, then showcase their work on Wise’s campus.