Skandalaris Center

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Skandy Awards Recognize Seven Individuals with a Commitment to Entrepreneurship

Erin Mitchener
April 20, 2023

This evening, the Skandalaris Center is hosting the Washington University Innovation & Entrepreneurship Awards in Holmes Lounge. This jovial, yearend celebration is a culmination of the hard work and accomplishments brought on by our community of innovators and entrepreneurs. As part of the program, we recognize students, faculty, and community members who have been selected through a nomination process. The Skandalaris Center has witnessed the commitment given by each of these individuals, but it’s encouraging to know that others have taken notice as well.

The Excellence in Student Innovation & Entrepreneurship award is being presented to two students and one startup who have all greatly impacted and improved the entrepreneurial ecosystem here at WashU.

Asmaa Alkanderi is a second year MBA student who has familiarized herself with multiple entrepreneurial roles. Whether it’s as founder, team member, or supporter, Asmaa’s genuine drive for innovation makes her a force. Her nominator mentions that Asmaa has exploited Skandalaris resources at large and her progress in her personal entrepreneurial journey is tangible and highly rewarding to mentors and staff working with her. We know Asmaa will continue to forge her path and congratulate her on her upcoming graduation and receiving this honor tonight.

Austin Bell-Hensley is a Biomedical Engineering PhD candidate and Founder & President of the Skandalaris Consulting Group. Because of Austin’s efforts and vision to create a student-run consulting organization, focused on supporting startups and entrepreneurs in the region, he has transformed the way students think about the intersection of entrepreneurship and consulting. His unwavering dedication to creating a diverse and inclusive community has enabled Skandalaris Consulting Group to attract top talent from a variety of academic backgrounds, including graduate and undergraduate students from multiple schools. Austin has proudly passed the president torch for next year, but not before we have the chance to thank him one last time.

Lastly Chiara Munzi and Izzy Gorton are being honored on behalf of their startup, ChiChi. This team is the definition of hustle as they pivoted from another venture in the fall and have gained traction within SVC and other funding competitions in a short amount of time. Throughout the academic year, ChiChi has worked tirelessly to rebrand, promote, improve recipes, and overall product development. Chiara is graduating this spring and the Skandalaris staff will miss her hanging around the Center, providing impromptu chickpea samples, but Izzy, we look forward to staying connected and couldn’t be more excited for both of your entrepreneurial journeys.

Every one of our students reflect why the Skandalaris Center exists and does what we do. We’re thrilled to be able to formally recognize Asmaa, Austin, Chiara, and Izzy tonight and appreciate everyone who took the time submit their nominations. Congratulations as this is well deserved!

We also have three Excellence in Mentorship awards that are being presented this evening.

For the longest time, Joe Steensma has been an honorary Skandalaris staff member so it’s a pleasure to be able to properly celebrate him tonight. Joe serves on the advisory board of the Student Enterprise Program (StEP) and over the years has provided countless support to young entrepreneurs. His accessibility, expertise, and dedication is unmatched. As his nominator describes, you feel proud to work at or attend WashU when you know Joe Steensma is here. People like Joe are why this university is such a special place and we appreciate everything you’ve done and will continue to do. 

Our second mentor is Pryce Adade-Yebesi. Pryce joined the Skandalaris Center as an Expert on Call this year to give back to peers while he takes time away from WashU to grow his own venture, Utopia Labs. One of Pryce’s nominators details the energy and enthusiasm he brings to conversations that is felt not just by those he’s connecting with, but also observers. We have loved keeping Pryce involved and he’s been an invaluable member to the WashU startup community, so it’s no surprise that he was nominated for this year’s mentorship award.

Finally we have Tamara Keefe. In addition to being the Founder & CEO of Clementine’s Naughty & Nice Creamery, Tamara has supported the Skandalaris community through her Entrepreneur-in-Residence role the past few years. Former student teams have praised Tamara for her authentic feedback and willingness to be available during all times of day, despite her own growing business. Tamara is an outstanding example of exuding the ‘in St. Louis, for St. Louis’ ethos as her influence extends far beyond the walls of this institution.

Congratulations to our three Excellence in Mentorship awardees. Through this process, it’s clear our students have benefitted from your knowledge and experiences and you truly are making a difference within the change makers, thought leaders, and visionaries of this institution.

In addition to honoring our entrepreneurship award recipients tonight, the winners of the spring Skandalaris Venture Competition and Global Impact Award will also be announced. Provost Beverly Wendland and Bob Skandalaris will be in attendance to kick off the remarks, and we hope to see you at this can’t miss event.