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Two Jindal School Teams Headed to Regionals of Contest for Social Good

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winning members of team everest
Winning members of Team Everest (left to right) Saad Khan, healthcare management; Yehua (Callie) Yao, business analytics; Regina Chowdhury, accounting; and Melissa Chan, finance; joined JSOM faculty member and one of the campus Hult Prize Challenge judges, Robert Wright (far right), in a celebratory photo after they won the campus finals on Dec. 8, 2015.
winning members of et team
Winning members of the Ekta Team (left to right) Srishty Piplani, information technology and management; Skye Johnson, finance; Melissa Auger, innovation and entrepreneurship; and Anu Singh, information technology and management also celebrated after they successfully competed in a general-applicant pool to earn a place at regionals.

The Entrepreneurship Club turned its ingenuity to the public good this past fall when a group of its members launched the first UT Dallas foray into the Hult Prize Challenge, a high-stakes worldwide competition for college students to find solutions to major societal problems.

After the opening round of the challenge, two UT Dallas teams qualified to advance to regionals in March. One team won the campus competition held Dec. 8, 2015, and one subsequently entered and was chosen from a general applicant pool.

Incentive for all competitors is the first-place purse of $1 million — money to be used as seed capital to implement the top idea in a startup enterprise.

The 2016 competition focuses on urban crowding, and competitors have been challenged to conceive of ways to double the income of the urban poor by better connecting them to capital, people, products and services.

Team Everest, comprised of Naveen Jindal School of Management seniors Melissa Chan and, Regina Chowdhury and graduate students Saad Khan and Yehua (Callie) Yao, won out over 51 other teams in the campus competition with an idea to integrate biofuel production as a means to create self-sustaining residential units in peri-urban spaces — areas on the outskirts of cities.

Production of biofuel, which is derived from the breakdown of such organic matter as animal waste, leftover crops and plant materials, “would promote the efficient usage of natural byproducts in these spaces, as well as provide a means of potential income production,” team captain Chan said. “We wanted to find a way of utilizing the peripheral areas of metropolises in hopes of directly easing the problem of urban overcrowding as well as indirectly mitigating the effects of it.”

Members of Ekta Team, the foursome that emerged successful from the general-applicant pool, are also all enrolled in the Jindal School. They are graduate students Melissa Auger, Skye Johnson, Srishty Piplani and Anu Singh.

Ekta is designing its business platform to be accessible to people without access to such “smart technology as personal computers, tablets and smart phones,” team captain Auger said.

“Our cornerstone is menstrual-care products and services, since investments in menstrual care have conclusively proved to be effective at helping women escape a life of poverty,” she said. “Lack of menstrual care is the primary reason that girls are forced out of school at puberty, as well as the cause of 70 percent of reproductive disease, including cervical cancer and death in the third world.”

Hult Prize regionals will be held concurrently March 11 to 16 in five cities. Team Everest has elected to compete in Dubai, and the Ekta Team has elected to compete in San Francisco. The Jindal School, the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and personal contributions from JSOM innovation and entrepreneurship faculty members Dr. Toyah Miller and Robert Wright are providing funding for travel.

The five teams that win regionals will move into an incubator in Boston for the months of July and August and then compete at finals in New York City in September.

An offshoot of Hult International Business School, the Hult Prize Foundation is a not-for-profit organization founded and run by one of the school’s alumni. Former President Bill Clinton partners with the competition by selecting the challenge each year and annually hosting its finals at the Clinton Global Initiative.

“The quality of the ideas and the presentations of those proposals were remarkable,” Robert Wright said of the inaugural UT Dallas challenge. “This was a great first competition; I can only imagine what next year’s event will bring!”

About Hult Prize Challenge

first Hult Prize Challenge on the UT Dallas campus

The first Hult Prize Challenge on the UT Dallas campus brought together organizers from the Jindal School (from left) Vinay Sri Ranga Anna, Robert Wright, Udit Mittal, Anu Singh, Nivedhitha Dhanushkodi, Melissa Palmer and Suraj Gupta (in suit) and supporters Andrew Brown, marketing director of the Christian Relief Fund and co-founder of Kwest, an interactive city guide app; Justin Nygren co-founder, CEO and relational architect at The Grove, a co-working collaborative in Dallas; and Kimberly O’Neil, a nonprofit strategist.

Anna served as program coordinator, Mittal, as creative team lead; Singh — a member of the Ekta Team — as campus director; Dhanushkodi, as hospitality coordinator, and Gupta, as marketing team lead.

Along with Wright, a JSOM faculty member who teaches entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship courses, and Palmer, immediate past advisor to the E Club, Brown, Nygren and O’Neil served as judges of the Dec. 8 finals.

Media Contact: Kris Imherr, Naveen Jindal School of Management, (972) 883-4793,

or the Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155,

Kris Imherr

Kris Imherr

Kris Imherr, the Jindal School’s communications director, has a BA in English and an MS in journalism. She is proud of them both and happily puts them to use on JSOM’s behalf. She thinks JSOM Perspectives is a great idea and encourages everyone with a point of view and a pencil to contribute.

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