UE Center for Innovation & Change and Circular Venture Lab Win Stage One of the U.S. Small Business Administration's 2024 Growth Accelerator Fund Competition

Today, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) announced the Indiana Center for Emerging Technologies (ICET) as a Stage One winner for the 2024 Growth Accelerator Fund Competition (GAFC). The ICET is a collaboration between Evansville, Indiana's Circular Venture Lab and the University of Evansville's Center for Innovation and Change (CIC).

The ICET will receive a $50,000 cash prize for its impactful and inclusive approach to nurturing a collaborative innovation ecosystem that will advance small business research and development (R&D) from ideas to the market.

By fostering connections between entrepreneurs, mentors, partners, philanthropies, corporations, investors, and other shared resources, GAFC 2024 catalyzes strategic ecosystem partnerships to build community and organizational capacity for the successful launch, growth, and scale of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)-based entrepreneurs. This opportunity will include funding for ChangeLab interns from UE and within the Evansville Promise Neighborhood, providing young people the resources needed to grow their entrepreneurial mindset.

Logan Jenkins, Executive Director of Circular Venture Lab, states, "The ICET empowers Indiana's talent to research, evaluate, and validate the market potential of emerging technologies. The Center will catalyze a new economic development model, where technology innovations are researched and applied. Students, industry leaders, and academia will collaborate to build new ventures and create spinoffs. Early validation of the concept through GAFC 2024 significantly bolsters our chances for success regionally and across Indiana."

Erin Lewis, the Executive Director of UE's Center for Innovation & Change remarked, "This collaboration between the CIC and Circular Venture Lab has now received its third federal award in five months; two from the U.S. Department of Energy, and now a third from the U.S. Small Business Administration. We're incredibly excited about that investment in our vision for inclusive access to entrepreneurial support, and look forward to sharing progress in the coming months."

Two Stages

SBA welcomed Stage One submissions from a broad range of organizations with a collaborative vision to nurture a national ecosystem for equitable access to entrepreneurship. Winners of Stage One were selected through a multi-tier review panel process with experts in entrepreneurship, business, innovation, and strategic planning both inside and out of the federal government.

Stage Two offers an additional $50,000 to $150,000 in cash prizes for Growth Accelerator Partnerships.

To learn more about Stage Two opportunities and to access the Growth Accelerator Fund Competition Guidelines, please visit

About the Indiana Center for Emerging Technologies (ICET):

The ICET is a collaboration between Evansville, Indiana's nonprofit 501(c)(3) Circular Venture Lab and the University of Evansville's Center for Innovation and Change. The concept includes a centralized network and facility in Evansville to support our region's entrepreneurial ecosystem, which serves multiple purposes:

Collaboration Hub

The Indiana Center for Emerging Technologies (ICET) is a resource for industry leaders to explore collaborations between academia, government research agencies, and Indiana manufacturers.

Talent Attraction

The facility will attract new entrepreneurs and new industries, spur the creation of new startups and spinoffs, and help retain our current entrepreneurial talent.

Industry Showcase

The ICET allows our regional technological capabilities and strengths to be showcased in a physical space, serving a multitude of economic development purposes. More details and ways to contact the team can be found at the Center's website.

University of Evansville's Center for Innovation & Change launches New Dance Program for Seniors

The University of Evansville's (UE) Center for Innovation & Change, in collaboration with the Sol and Arlene Bronstein Foundation, is excited to announce the launch of the Silver Aces Dance Team, a unique opportunity for seniors aged 55 and above who are interested in socializing and dancing while experiencing the mental and physical health benefits that are associated.


In partnership with the UE Dance Company and UE's physical therapy, physician assistance, and nursing programs, the Silver Aces program will offer dance lessons and health screenings to examine the impact of social dance on a wide range of wellness indicators. This innovative collaboration will celebrate the vibrancy and talent of older adults while underscoring UE's commitment to inclusive, lifelong learning opportunities for everyone.

The inaugural session is scheduled for Sunday, April 28, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the Southwestern Indiana Regional Council on Aging (SWIRCA), with subsequent sessions to follow. However, with only 20 spots available, interested individuals are encouraged to register early to secure their place or get on the wait list.

Transportation assistance to SWIRCA is available for those who require it. Interested parties can contact Sylvia DeVault at for more information or to arrange transportation.

To register, please contact SWIRCA at 812-464-7800. If you have questions, email Erin Lewis at

Milestone Achieved as Evansville Promise Neighborhood Marks First Year Anniversary

One year after the University of Evansville (UE) secured a $30 million grant to create the Evansville Promise Neighborhood (EPN), significant work has been taking place behind the scenes to establish a foundation for success.

Launching a Promise Neighborhood is a significant and complicated undertaking that requires multiple steps and approvals. The initial steps involved the team at UE's Center for Innovation & Change, Office of University Advancement, and consultant Dr. Tad Dickel reviewing the entire EPN grant line item by line item, with the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) to work toward full approval. Simultaneously they needed to recruit, interview, and hire a full-time EPN team of five members, and they were successfully hired and onboarded in August 2023.

Shortly after budget approval was received from the DOE, the team immediately got to work connecting with all 22 partner agencies and developed robust Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) agreements that outline program and service provisions, define data sharing and frequency, and budget approval procedures for the distribution of funds. The creation, submission, and approval of a data plan and consent forms were also necessary. Completion of these steps are essential for establishing accountability, transparency, and effective methods by which the success of the entire initiative will be measured.

A spokesperson from the DOE has praised the team's progress, stating that EPN has "put forth a sophisticated approach and plan," and serves as a model for other grantees to learn from. Additionally, it is "one of the few new grantees that established a Sustainability Council with committed members in their first year." The Sustainability Council is an integral part of ensuring the ongoing success of the EPN. UE President Christopher M. Pietruszkiewicz leads the Sustainability Council, comprising University administrative members, prominent business figures, and community leaders. The council has already begun the vital work of developing EPN's funding plan for the next decade and beyond.

"Since the announcement of the Evansville Promise Neighborhood in 2023, we have been gearing up for a substantial investment from our university and the 22 partner agencies, all aimed at assisting families in need. We are working with our community and progressing quickly, all because of the collaboration with our partners," said President Pietruszkiewicz. "UE has been honored to support our partners through servant leadership, and we eagerly anticipate more positive outcomes over the life of this amazingly transformative grant. The Evansville Promise Neighborhood is what being a Changemaker campus is all about and reinforces the strong partnership we have with our community."

EPN recently held its first-ever all-partner meeting with members from all 23 community partners, including UE on campus, along with Mayor Stephanie Terry and Deputy Mayor Lindsay Locasto. Community partners came together to network and learn more about each other's programs and services. Additionally, a cradle-to-career continuum was developed during the meeting, with each program and service mapped into one of the four areas of focus for EPN: early health and education, student achievement and success, postsecondary education and workforce readiness, and neighborhood and community revitalization.

"I commend UE for its leadership in driving this initiative forward, and I'm grateful to all of the businesses and partner agencies for their unwavering commitment," said Evansville Mayor Stephanie Terry. "This investment, totaling more than $62 million - including both federal funding and contributions from partner agencies - will have a profound impact on our community's well-being. It represents the culmination of years of collaborative efforts and illustrates how strong we can be when we work together. I look forward to continuing our work, as we strive to move all of Evansville forward together."

Evansville Promise Neighborhood Logo

Center for Innovation & Change Nominated for Community Impact Award at 25th Annual 'Best of Tech' Mira Awards

TechPoint, the industry-led growth initiative for Indiana's digital innovation economy, announced the nominees for its 25th annual Mira Awards program presented by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, Salesforce and a host of the state's most innovative companies, universities and organizations. Notably, among the nominees stands the Center for Innovation & Change (CIC) at the University of Evansville (UE), highlighting its significant contributions to the state's dynamic landscape of innovation and progress.

The CIC was nominated in the Community Impact Award category thanks to its contributions, including organizing the annual High School Changemaker Challenge, directing UE's ChangeLab program, and leading a large, collaborative effort to establish the historic Evansville Promise Neighborhood grant, a $62 million investment into the city of Evansville.

"The Center for Innovation & Change is honored to be considered for this award," said Executive Director Erin Lewis. "UE is now the only college campus in the world to be both an Ashoka Changemaker Campus and a Promise Neighborhood. We are thrilled about what that could mean for Indiana, as we reimagine an innovation ecosystem for a new era."

"We look forward to celebrating the 25th anniversary of Indiana's most prestigious tech and innovation awards at a new venue," said TechPoint President and CEO Ting Gootee. "Even more exciting is the level of excellence, innovation and resilience outlined in each entry and even more so by those whose efforts elevated them to status as a Mira Award nominee. It is truly Indiana's biggest night for innovation."

Panels composed of founders, executives, community leaders and subject matter experts will interview nominees and determine the winners next month. Winners will be spotlighted at the TechPoint Mira Awards gala Friday, April 26, 2024, at the Old National Centre in Indianapolis.

Learn more about the Mira awards by visiting

Changemaker Challenge Winners Receive Scholarships

High school students throughout the Tri-State and beyond were awarded significant scholarships on Saturday at the University of Evansville's tenth High School Changemaker Challenge, made possible by Toyota Indiana.

The challenge is designed to motivate young people to take a leading role in identifying and solving challenges in the world through innovation and creativity.

UE has committed more than $1 million in scholarships to winners of this competition since its inception. Those who choose UE as their college destination will each receive four-year scholarships as listed below:

First place winners holding check

1st place: Full tuition

SolarLens: Jacob Barnwell and Elie Duff (New Tech Institute, Evansville, Ind.)

Summary: SolarLens is a solar powered streetlight with a monitored dome camera attached to it. It will all be in one unit and established into the Evansville Promise Neighborhood to help improve the quality of life by saving money on energy and helping lower the crime rate in the city of Evansville.

Second place winners holding check

2nd place: $27,000 per year

UpLift18: Claire Deardorff and Jennifer Vazquez (Signature School, Evansville, Ind.)

Summary: UpLift18 raises awareness about human trafficking by providing education, prevention, student empowerment, and community service opportunities. UpLift18 creates a meaningful impact for students in fighting human trafficking.

Third place winners holding check

3rd place: $23,000 per year

Boomerang Learning: Kris Lau, Abdul-Aleem Mohammed, and Parth Patel (Signature School, Evansville, Ind.)

Summary: Boomerang Learning is program to help students that have had trouble catching up to Indiana standards post COVID and to help students who are falling behind their peers.

On Friday, January 26, a panel of judges heard pitches from the top 20 teams and individual students who had been invited to the in-person competition. From those top 20, six ideas were then chosen for the championship round that took place on Saturday, January 27. During that event, judges awarded first, second, and third place. To learn more about High School Changemaker Challenge please visit

University of Evansville ChangeLab Awarded $10,000 to Improve Local News

The University of Evansville's Center for Innovation & Change is excited to announce that Evansville NewsLab, a UE ChangeLab, has been awarded a $10,000 grant from the Listening Post Collective, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting innovative community-driven journalism projects.

The grant will support the ChangeLab in expanding its efforts to foster community engagement and promote civic journalism in the Evansville area. The funds will be used to enhance the organization's community outreach initiatives in Spring 2024 as they conduct community-wide research through surveys and focus groups to help develop a civic journalism hub in Evansville.

"We are thrilled to receive this generous grant from the Listening Post Collective," said Andrew Carter, Associate Director of UE's Center for Innovation & Change and coach for the NewsLab course. "We are committed to adding a civic journalism component to local news that promotes a more vibrant media landscape with better informed and engaged citizens." Evansville NewsLab will be making more announcements about the initiative as it rolls out in 2024.

The Listening Post Collective focuses on supporting projects that prioritize community voices, encourage civic participation, and foster inclusive and equitable journalism practices. The grant reflects the organization's recognition of the NewsLab's dedication to amplifying diverse perspectives and building bridges between local residents, local government, and the media.

"We are excited to partner with Evansville NewsLab ChangeLab and support their goals of making local journalism more accessible and representative," said Grace Northern, Program Officer at the Listening Post Collective. "Their commitment to empowering citizens through civic information aligns perfectly with our mission, and we look forward to seeing the positive impact of their projects on the Evansville community."

Evansville NewsLab is proud to partner with Our Times, Evansville's Black-owned newspaper, to establish a community-driven civic journalism model in Evansville and encourages residents of Evansville and the surrounding areas to get involved in shaping the narrative of their community. The grant will facilitate focus groups, listening sessions, and survey distribution to empower individuals to tell their own stories and contribute to a more diverse and inclusive local media landscape.

About Evansville NewsLab ChangeLab

ChangeLabs are academic courses offered at the University of Evansville for students to earn academic credit while working on projects that make an impact in the community. Evansville NewsLab is a community-driven journalism initiative dedicated to fostering meaningful connections between media outlets and the local community. Through innovative projects and collaborative efforts, the lab seeks to amplify diverse voices and empower citizens to actively participate in shaping the narrative of Evansville. Students in this the NewsLab are mentored by Steve Burger, Andrew Carter, Erin Hempfling, and Guy Sides.

About Listening Post Collective

Listening Post Collective is a nonprofit organization that supports and promotes community-driven journalism projects. By providing grants, resources, and guidance through their Civic Media Playbook, the organization aims to empower communities to create their own narratives, fostering a more inclusive and participatory media landscape.

UE Center Innovation & Change and Indiana’s Circular Venture Lab Secure $50,000 award from the United States Department of Energy

The University of Evansville’s Center for Innovation & Change (CIC) and the Evansville’s nonprofit 501(c)(3) Circular Venture Lab (CVL) announce the acquisition of a collaborative $50,000 award from the United States Department of Energy to spearhead innovative initiatives in clean energy manufacturing. On November 15, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced 13 Phase One winners of the inaugural Manufacture of Advanced Key Energy Infrastructure Technologies (MAKE IT) Prize Strategies Track. The MAKE IT Prize is a multiphase, two-track competition aimed at catalyzing domestic manufacturing of critical components for the clean energy infrastructure. The Strategies Track supports communities developing roadmaps for bringing vibrant manufacturing activities to their regions. The MAKE IT Prize was developed by the DOE Office of Technology Transitions, the Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations (OCED), and the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE).

Each of the 13 teams selected will receive $50,000 and will go on to engage their communities and draft a concept roadmap in their respective regions. The teams can then participate in Phase 2: Create for the chance to earn an additional $100,000 to develop a final roadmap and engage in discussions with manufacturers about establishing clean energy manufacturing. Successful Phase 2 competitors can continue to Phase 3: Activate, where they will wrap up the prize by obtaining commitment from at least one entity interested in establishing a clean energy manufacturing facility in the region and finalizing their roadmap.

This investment will propel our community’s ability to harness its manufacturing and changemaking strengths for the benefit of the environment, and allow Evansville to play a pivotal role in shaping the future landscape of sustainable and eco-friendly manufacturing processes.

The prize will support the CVL and CIC collaboration as it develops teams preparing a credible road map to support clean energy manufacturing activity, with a particular focus on how it can be beneficial to residents in the Evansville Promise Neighborhood and other underserved communities. With Evansville’s blend of manufacturing infrastructure, incentives, expertise, and student innovation power at the University of Evansville (Indiana’s only Ashoka Changemaker Campus), it’s ready to provide manufacturing companies and their employees a high quality of life, while still realizing sustainability goals for the region.

This funds will be used to create the Evansville Energy Nucleus. Led by Logan Jenkins of CVL, and supported by ChangeLab teams from the CIC, the Nucleus will highlight specific resources for manufacturers and their employees considering a move to the region, and how they can work with UE students to achieve those goals. It will be an asset for Executive teams of relocating companies, and an additional resource for regional economic development teams.

Logan Jenkins, Executive Director of the Circular Venture Lab, expressed enthusiasm about the transformative potential of this award. Jenkins states, “Though I've only been in Evansville since April, the community as a whole, the Evansville Regional Economic Partnership, and industry leaders have been very supportive of this and other potential initiatives I've introduced. Working with Erin and her team at the UE CIC has absolutely accelerated progress on these concepts, like this one, which are complementary to our region. We've got other exciting projects involving the CIC and its students coming together in the near future.”

Erin Lewis, Executive Director of the Center for Innovation & Change added, “this generation of college students is not shy about its passion to help solve the climate change crisis. We are thrilled to collaborate with Circular Venture Lab as co-designers in the pursuit of sustainable manufacturing practices. We can’t wait to work with the amazing manufacturers already in our region, as well as help attract new ones with this goal in mind.”

As the team embarks on this groundbreaking venture, it invites industry partners, policymakers, and the public to participate in the future of clean energy manufacturing. Interested parties can contact CVL at or the CIC at

University of Evansville Receives Renewal of Changemaker Campus Designation; Celebrates 5 Year Anniversary

The University of Evansville (UE) is proud to announce that it has been granted the renewal of its Changemaker Campus designation by Ashoka U, solidifying its position as one of the nation's leading institutions dedicated to fostering social innovation and community engagement. The renewal also marks UE's fifth consecutive year of being a Changemaker Campus.

Ashoka - rated one of the top five most impactful social good organizations by NGO Advisor - confers the Changemaker Campus designation to institutions worldwide that exhibit an exceptional commitment to promoting positive social change within their communities and beyond. The leading designation for social innovation in higher education, this achievement highlights the University of Evansville's unwavering dedication to empowering students, faculty, and staff to become active participants in addressing the world's most pressing challenges. UE remains Indiana's only Changemaker Campus, and one of only a handful in the Midwest.

"It is a true honor to be part of an institution that places a priority on positive change the way UE does," said Erin Lewis, Executive Director of UE's Center for Innovation & Change. "This recognition by Ashoka U is a testament to the dedication and hard work of our entire community in fostering a culture of innovation, social impact, and positive change across all disciplines. Our students, staff, and faculty drive meaningful transformations that address some of the most significant challenges of our time, and we're thrilled to continue being in the Ashoka network of colleges prioritizing that work."

Students need interdisciplinary, entrepreneurial, and solutions-oriented skillsets to succeed in today's complex world that is changing at an accelerating pace. "Changemakers at UE have made an impact addressing issues such as food and housing insecurity, environmental sustainability, and promoting equitable access to the arts - many of these projects that have been pursued by students in our flagship program, Change Lab," said Lewis. "Whether they are tackling large projects like the Toyota Trinity Stormwater Park being built in downtown Evansville right now, providing pro-bono physical therapy to uninsured patients, or helping minority-owned businesses gain access to capital, UE's changemakers work hard to make the world better than they found it."

One notable illustration of UE's commitment to fostering positive change in the community is the receipt of $30 million federal grant to establish the Evansville Promise Neighborhood. With this designation, UE becomes the first institution in the world to host a Promise Neighborhood grant as an Ashoka Changemaker Campus.

Ashoka U noted that UE exhibits changemaking through its deep community engagement locally as well as its role in fostering social innovation in global issues and with global partners. One reviewer stated: "This university leads the way in communicating changemaking, and their community embeddedness is exemplary."

"Ashoka U is thrilled to have the University of Evansville continue serving as a global leader in changemaking. UE has demonstrated an exceptional dedication to equipping its students with the tools and mindset needed to address complex global challenges and drive meaningful impact," said Heather MacCleoud, PhD, Chief Network Officer for Ashoka U. "Particularly through innovative programs like ChangeLab, I am confident that UE's students will continue to shape a brighter future for our increasingly complex world."

By earning this renewal, the University of Evansville remains in an elite group of fewer than 50 academic institutions around the world that are at the forefront of social innovation and creating a meaningful impact on a global scale. Other Changemaker Campuses include such distinguished institutions as Brown, Cornell, Tulane, Arizona State University, and Duke, to name a few. This recognition is a testament to the University's integration of social innovation and changemaking principles throughout its core values and academic programs, and to the community's willingness to engage with students and faculty to address challenges in our region.

"We are immensely proud to have our commitment to social innovation and community engagement recognized once again with the renewal of our Changemaker Campus designation," said University President Christopher M. Pietruszkiewicz. "Our students, faculty, and staff continue to make a positive difference in the world, and through the Evansville Promise Neighborhood, we will continue to provide a transformative educational experience that empowers our entire community to be agents of change."

In recognition of this achievement, UE is designating 2024 as a year to highlight changemaking on campus and in our community. More details will be available in the new year.

University of Evansville Named Evansville Regional Economic Partnership's 2023 Community Champion of the Year

The University of Evansville (UE) was named the 2023 Community Champion of the Year by the Evansville Regional Economic Partnership (E-REP.) This recognition serves as a testament to the university's unwavering commitment to sustainability, education, and community engagement.

UE was recognized for this honor during E-REP's Third Annual Meeting and Dinner on September 28, which is one of the most significant business gatherings in the region, where local leaders are honored, and regional wins are celebrated. UE received the award due to its role in securing the $30 million Evansville Promise Neighborhood grant. The Evansville Promise Neighborhood initiative is a transformative program aimed at improving educational outcomes, community services, and economic opportunities. This $30 million grant, secured through the collaborative efforts led by UE, is poised to bring about substantial positive changes in the lives of the community's residents.

UE played a pivotal role in securing the grant by collaborating with community leaders, educational partners, and local organizations. Through innovative strategies and a shared vision, this partnership successfully secured the funds needed to drive essential programs, educational resources, and economic development initiatives within the Evansville Promise Neighborhood. With continued collaboration and partnerships in the community, twenty-three Evansville Promise Neighborhood partner agencies accounted for a match totaling over $32 million, for a total of more than $62 million to be invested in the community.

The Community Champion Award recognizes an organization that demonstrates how its work, and its "guiding principles" accelerate E-REP's success. E-REP's recognition of UE as Community Champion of the Year highlights the university's commitment to being a catalyst for positive change in the community and the region at large.

"UE led this initiative with the collaboration of many community partners and the support of our business community, and we deeply appreciate this recognition by E-REP," said UE President Christopher M. Pietruszkiewicz. "Our university's mission extends beyond the classroom, and our involvement in the Evansville Promise Neighborhood and other community-based initiatives exemplify our dedication to making a significant impact on the lives of our neighbors and our broader community."

To learn more about the Evansville Promise Neighborhood, please visit

Award winners group photo

UE's Center for Innovation & Change to Expand Reach

The University of Evansville (UE) has announced an expansion of the Center for Innovation & Change (CIC) to better serve the regional community.

In June 2023, Faculty Director Dr. Derek Jones will transition to the new role of Director of Field Innovation for the Center for Innovation & Change. In addition to designing workshops and professional development opportunities through the CIC, Dr. Jones will work with high schools throughout southeastern Indiana to develop social innovation programs that will equip high school students with the tools they need to improve their communities in innovative and meaningful ways. He will also work with these programs to help students develop projects for the University of Evansville's High School Changemaker Challenge (sponsored by Toyota).

Dr. Jones also plans to build a regional information-sharing network that will give participating students and faculty access to updated research on the science, methods, and ethics of innovation and design, as well as to allow them to share information and support one another in their changemaking journey. Dr. Jones will be regionally operational, but also returning to Evansville once a month to continue support for Evansville-based ChangeLab faculty and K-12 Changemaker teachers.

Dr. Jones is no stranger to the University. He received a BA and BFA from UE in 2003. He served as an officer in the Army after graduating, and then went on to earn an MA in Philosophy from the University of Houston in 2007 and a PhD in Philosophy from Indiana University in 2013. As a member of the UE faculty, he directed the Cognitive Science program from 2013-2023 and served as Faculty Director for the Center for Innovation & Change (CIC) from 2021-2023, helping shape ChangeLab programming through a faculty lens and expanding Design Thinking capacity. His academic interests include the psychology of creativity, skill acquisition, the philosophy of technology, and embodied cognition, and he has published a book and several articles on topics in these areas.

Dr. Jones sees his new role as a practical extension of his previous academic work.

"It's no secret to young people that the world could be quite a bit better than it currently is, but many are uncertain of how to do anything about it. I am excited to have the opportunity, not only to help students throughout our region think critically and creatively about how the world could be better, but also to give them the confidence and the tools they need to enact positive, sustainable change," said Dr. Jones.

"This move allows the University of Evansville to strategically expand what Toyota has made possible for young people in this area through the Changemaker Challenge," said Erin Lewis, Executive Director of the CIC. "No longer will proximity to our office define whether or not a young changemaker can receive support. Dr. Jones will be a bridge between our university and our community, surfacing dozens of students who will find a home at UE, while still supporting our current faculty. We couldn't be more excited about this innovative new era."

K-12 schools interested in talking to Dr. Jones about developing a changemaker pipeline should contact him directly at

Derek Jones at whiteboard

Changemaker Highlight of the Week: Imelda Salgado

Imelda Salgado is earning a public health degree with a minor in medical Spanish. She enrolled at the University of Evansville (UE) as a Fellows Scholar in the Center for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. As a first-generation college student from Indianapolis, Imelda was shy, quiet, and didn't always feel comfortable asking for help. However, she wanted to challenge herself and found a way to do that through ChangeLab.

During her freshman year, Imelda was the project coordinator for a ChangeLab course with the goal of ascertaining healthcare challenges of the local Latino community.

With guidance from their professor, Dr. Cindy Crowe, assistant professor of Spanish, Imelda's ChangeLab team dug deep and made a difference. Through surveys and interviews, focus groups and translation services, they brought important healthcare resources directly to the community members who needed them.

"I couldn't believe I was the one making the phone calls and talking to people - this was so outside my comfort zone, but it's exactly what I was looking for. I wanted to challenge myself, and UE gave me that chance," Imelda says.

Imelda has worked with the Latino Community Healthcare ChangeLab ever since her freshman year, growing the project from communication, education, and vaccine access during the COVID-19 pandemic to broader access to healthcare resources and language learning. The group has made connections in local schools to help young Latino students have a safe afterschool activity where they could feel comfortable practicing English. The ChangeLab also hosts regular meetings at a local church where they provide adult English learners opportunity to learn and practice the language.

Imelda is a true changemaker. She is always unafraid to live outside her comfort zone while pursuing meaningful change and has grown in leadership capabilities and confidence every step of the way.

Imelda Salgado headshot

Changemaker Challenge Winners Receive Scholarships

High school students throughout the tri-state were awarded significant scholarships on Tuesday at the University of Evansville's ninth High School Changemaker Challenge, sponsored by Toyota Indiana.

The challenge is designed to motivate young people to take a leading role in identifying and solving challenges in the world through innovation and creativity.

UE has committed more than $1 million in scholarships to winners of this competition since its inception. Those who choose UE as their college destination will each receive four-year scholarships as listed below:

1st place: Full tuition
Heroes Among Us: Tyler Myers (Evansville Day School)
Summary: Heroes Among Us is an interactive app that will equip schools with a curriculum that allows them to educate kids about sensory needs.

Tyler Myers holding trophy and check

2nd place: $27,000 per year
Ticket to Health: Sophie Rodionova and Maryam Adeel (Signature School)
Summary: The language barrier should not mean the difference between the quality of life a patient has and could have. As Evansville grows and becomes diverse, we need to provide for the needs of a diverse community. Ticket to Health is a medical booklet that will contain questions specifically tailored to each doctor's needs. It will include the most common languages in Evansville: Spanish, Ukrainian, Russian, Urdu, and Mandarin. Different colors will represent various specialties, and each language will have a translation to English.

2nd place winner holding check and trophy.

3rd place: $23,000 per year
QuickSports: Prab Jayachandran and Kaden Oberlander (Signature School)
Summary: An app that connects sports players and brings them to the best sports location near them. QuickSports is the go-to app for anyone looking to find friends and play sports in a large group as fast as possible.

3rd place winners holding check and trophy.

On Tuesday, January 24, a panel of judges heard pitches from the top 20 teams and individual students who were invited to the in-person competition. Six ideas were then chosen for the championship round, from which judges awarded first, second, and third place.

Embrace's Jacobsville Advantage Receives $15K Investment from Fifth Third

Embrace, the University of Evansville (UE) student-run marketing and communications agency, will continue offering discounted services to local businesses through the Jacobsville Advantage. Fifth Third Bank provided an initial $25,000 grant to kickstart the endeavor, and they have recently invested an additional $15,000 to support ongoing services. 

The Jacobsville Advantage was launched in October 2021 to help fuel growth and development for businesses in the Jacobsville community. Since that time, Embrace has taken on six clients, some of which include Foster Care in the US, Gayla Cake, Jacobsville Community Cooperative, The Jacobsville Fine Arts Association, and Zesto. Projects with these businesses have included website creation and redesign, flyers, video advertisements, social media, and more. 

“Working with the Jacobsville community has been one of the best opportunities for Embrace,” said Ellen Rohr, CEO of the agency. “We were able to help a variety of businesses with diverse marketing needs. My hope is that this will be a program that can help small businesses grow for many years to come.” 

Any business owner in the Jacobsville community can apply to receive marketing services at discounted rates. Embrace uses a stairstep approach for pricing, with the initial five hours beginning at $10 per hour. Rates increase up to and max out at $50 after 35 hours of service. To learn more or schedule an appointment with the team, owners should visit

Although senior students of Embrace will graduate on May 7, the agency wants to continue serving the Jacobsville community and finding innovative solutions for business owners. Seven new members will be added to Embrace, and each bring unique capabilities to the dynamic team. With Fifth Third Bank’s $15,000 investment, the incoming team is eager to continue creating positive change and supporting local businesses. 

"Fifth Third Bank is thrilled to continue supporting the Jacobsville Advantage Program in partnership with Embrace,” shared Neely Pierce, city president of Fifth Third Bank. “This community is extremely deserving of these much-needed marketing and business resources, and we look forward to being a part of their continued success.” 

Eyewitness News covered the story and included interviews from business owners, which you can view here.

About Embrace 

Embrace Marketing and Communications was founded in October 2018 at the University of Evansville to provide students with real-world business experience. Its mission is to provide its clients with innovative, high-quality marketing and communications services. For more information, please visit

Changemaker Challenge Winners Receive Full Tuition to UE

High school students throughout the tri-state were awarded significant scholarships yesterday at the University of Evansville's seventh annual High School Changemaker Challenge, sponsored by Toyota Indiana.

The challenge, which is supported by the UE Center for Innovation and Change, is designed to motivate young people to take a leading role in identifying and solving challenges in the world around them through innovation and creativity.

UE has committed more than $1 million in scholarships to winners of this competition since its inception. Those who choose UE as their college destination will each receive 4-year scholarships as listed below:

Kerry Ah and Naina Muvva

1st place team: Full tuition
Kerry Ao and Naina Muvva
Signature School (Evansville, IN)
Intertwined Financial Literacy - An online, interactive simulator used in schools to enhance students' understanding of finance through portfolios, stocks, and more

Neva Verbik

2nd place team: $23,000 per year
Neva Verbik
Avon High School (Avon, IN)
Uptown Gardens - Addresses solutions to the constant issues of pollution, increasingly less space for plants to grow, and global warming

Jack Deig

3rd place team: $18,000 per year
Jack Deig
Castle High School (Newburgh, IN)
The Hydration Station - Easily accessible water dispensing units placed throughout Evansville for a healthier, more hydrated community

The January 25 event included pitches from the top 20 teams or individuals who were invited to the in-person competition. Six ideas were then chosen for the championship round, from which judges awarded first, second, and third place. The remaining students who placed in the top six included:

Tyler Myers
Evansville Day School (Evansville, IN)
Driving for Change, Sensory Inclusion - helping individuals with special needs by partnering with local agencies and offering sensory-friendly locations and items

Faith Field
Edgewood High School (Ellettsville, IN)
Restore and Rebuild - a nonprofit organization which would provide housing for the homeless population of Indiana and inspire them to find work they enjoy

Zeke Grant
Perry Central High School (Leopold, IN)
Additive Affordable Prosthetics - prosthetics and biological augmentations that have full range of motion and are truly affordable

Projects from previous competitions can be found throughout the city of Evansville, including the Upgrade Bike Share stations and the solar-powered CommuniTree at Mickey's Kingdom Park downtown. The Toyota Trinity Stormwater Park, which will be developed in 2022, also stemmed from a previous competitor.

Toyota Donates $350,000 to Changemaker's Stormwater Project

Robert Lopez, an Ethics and Social Change major, competed in the UE High School Changemaker Challenge during his junior year at Bosse High School. He and his friend came up with an idea for a wetland education park that collects rainwater and cleans it through the park's plants.

After claiming third place, Robert decided to attend UE and continue working on this project for the Evansville community. Through several ChangeLabs focused on the park, he has worked alongside local organizations to bring his idea to life.

On December 13, community partners met in downtown Evansville to announce the next phase of Robert's project. Community partners include the City of Evansville, Evansville Water and Sewer Utility, Toyota Indiana, and Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation. Now, thanks to a generous $350,000 donation from Toyota Indiana, the Toyota Trinity Stormwater Park will eventually be fully accessible to the public while creating a better, more environmentally-friendly community.

"This is a testament to our community’s collaborative spirit," said Mayor Lloyd Winnecke. "Our schools, water utility, businesses, architects and designers came together to provide a unique, sustainable solution to improve our city’s infrastructure and quality of life.”

"Working on this park has been nothing short of a life-changing experience," said Robert. "Starting as a junior in high school, I’ve been able to take this idea from sketches on a whiteboard, to presenting a virtual 3D walk through to the Mayor, and UE’s Center has been there the whole way. Without this project and the amazing team at the Center, I wouldn’t be who I am or where I am today. I only hope that someday I can inspire someone the way they inspired me and help them change their community too.”

Mike Labitzke, former lead Project Director for Evansville Water & Sewer Utility, served as one of Lopez’s ChangeLab coaches for several semesters. His initial concept for a park on top of water filtration was shared with the Center, who then pitched the idea to Robert's AP Biology class at Bosse High School. The team never stopped working on the project.

“We are excited about our partnership with the University of Evansville on what will become the city’s largest green infrastructure,” said EWSU Executive Director Lane Young. “This project allows us to be good stewards of our environment by diverting millions of gallons of sewage overflow away from the Ohio River while preserving historic relics from the former Trinity Catholic Church and incorporating them into an urban garden for our community to enjoy.”

"The collaboration with so many different parts of the community elevates the impact,” said UE President Christopher M. Pietruszkiewicz. “UE is so pleased to do our part in advancing our community, and reinforce that our students, like Robert, demonstrate how we bring academics to life to solve real world issues.”

The Toyota Trinity Stormwater Park will divert approximately 25 acres of downtown storm water runoff from the combined sewer system to reduce combined sewer overflows (CSO) to the Ohio River as part of the City’s CSO Long Term Control Plan. The first phase of the project involved demolition of the buildings on the former Holy Trinity Church property, located at 3rd Street and Court Street in Downtown Evansville, with materials salvaged including the plinth, some limestone and stained-glass. These materials will be incorporated into the design of the park.

The next phase involves storm sewer and storage facility construction below ground to collect storm water runoff and promote infiltration into the sand and gravel layers below grade at the church site. This next phase will also involve finalizing design and construction of the top side amenities, and designing some of the wellness programs to be offered.

Toyota has been named the title sponsor and will work with Lopez and the UE Center for Innovation & Change to identify additional green space funding opportunities from corporations and individuals. Toyota has sponsored each High School Changemaker Challenge at UE, including the 2022 challenge that is currently underway.

“We are extremely honored to be the lead supporter on such a transformative project,” said Ted Brown, vice president of administration at Toyota Indiana. “Robert’s vision for an innovative solution—to what many may have considered a standard infrastructure project—shows leadership, vision and pride for his community. That’s why programs like UE’s Changemaker Challenge are so vital to the evolution and growth of our region, and why we at Toyota Indiana continue to support those efforts. We want to challenge those in our communities to seek out opportunities to pioneer ideas for our future like Robert did, so that together we can build a better future.”

Robert Lopez holding up stormwater signs along with UE President Christopher M. Pietruszkiewicz, Jill Griffin, Erin Lewis, and Brooksie Smith.

UE Hosting 7th Annual High School Changemaker Challenge

The University of Evansville is pleased to announce the upcoming High School Changemaker Challenge, sponsored by Toyota. Any high school junior or senior is invited to participate for a chance to win a four-year scholarship, with the top prize offering full tuition. 

UE believes everyone can be a changemaker, and positive change doesn’t have to wait until college. The Changemaker Challenge, created by the University’s Center for Innovation and Change, encourages the younger generation to identify and solve challenges in the world through innovation and creativity. Students will share their unique ideas (products, services, or programs) in the form of a 2-minute video, and scholarships will be awarded to first through third place. Once they enroll at UE to continue their education, students can continue designing and implementing their ideas to make a lasting difference.  

Interested participants can attend an online information session on Thursday, November 18. Video recordings describing students’ ideas must be submitted by December 8, and the top 20 finalists will be announced on the UE website on December 15. The final round will be held on UE’s campus on January 25, 2022, where winners will be selected. To register for the information session and competition, please visit

The competition is open to any high school junior or senior, and they may compete individually or in teams of up to three. Home school and club entries (e.g. Scouts, Boys and Girls Club, 4-H) will also be eligible. To qualify for a scholarship, competitors must also attend the in-person final round on campus in Evansville, Indiana.  A separate Changemaker Challenge, beginning at a later date, will be virtual and geared towards a national and global audience that cannot compete in-person.  

Competitors may be eligible to receive special prizes for forming ideas that: 

  • Increase girls’ access and exposure to science fields (e.g. a summer camp for girls interested in physics) 
  • Address or mitigate climate change (e.g. decreasing air pollution, rooftop gardens) 
  • Increase access to physical activity or health options (e.g. more dance classes or recess in schools, fitness trails, creative outdoor play options) 
  • Provide creative ideas to improve quality of life in Evansville’s Promise Zone 

Winning students who choose UE as their college destination will receive four-year scholarships to attend UE as listed below: 

  • 1st place: Full tuition 
  • 2nd place: $23,000 tuition 
  • 3rd place: $18,000 tuition 

Students that participate will receive ongoing support from the UE Center for Innovation and Change, including online training and connections to faculty experts. To submit your video or learn more about the High School Changemaker Challenge, visit or email Brooksie Smith, the Center’s associate director, at

Embrace, Fifth Third Partner for Jacobsville Advantage to Support Local Businesses

The University of Evansville, with the support of Fifth Third Bank, is launching the Jacobsville Advantage, a collaborative effort that assists small businesses in the community with the resources necessary for growth. The overall project was created by Embrace Marketing, a marketing and communications agency managed by UE students. Members of the team hope the innovative program will strengthen Jacobsville businesses and bring strategic growth to the area.

For some time, Fifth Third has been partnering with UE and the Small Business Development Corporation to find innovative solutions and initiatives for the Jacobsville community, in which approximately 460 businesses are located. After conducting research to identify the best ways to support small businesses in the community, Embrace found that marketing assistance was a significant need. Because small businesses often do not have the funds to strategically market their goods or services, they may struggle to be profitable. With a grant from Fifth Third to launch their efforts, Embrace will work one-on-one with business owners to create marketing campaigns and increase brand awareness and reach.

“Fifth Third is dedicated to continuing in our shared vision of creating a Tri-State region where small businesses can truly thrive with exceptional community partners like the University of Evansville and their Center for Innovation & Change,” said Neely Pierce, city president of Fifth Third Bank. “That’s why we have been a proud supporter of this meaningful work and will continue in our philanthropy and resource sharing as the next phase of this program sparks growth and change in the Jacobsville business district.”

Any business owner in the Jacobsville community can receive these services at a very low cost, thanks to the grant from Fifth Third. A stairstep approach will set the initial 5 hours at $10 per hour, with increasing rates up to $50 after 35 hours of service. To learn more or schedule an appointment with the team, businesses can apply on the Jacobsville Advantage website.

“Our team is very excited to bring this project to the Jacobsville area and create real change that will support these business owners and their families,” said Brock Wandel, a UE junior and account executive for Embrace. “While we may not be able to help every single business, we’re confident that those who reach out to us will be impacted for the better.”

Embrace was founded in 2018 by UE alumnus Joe Ellsworth as well as the University’s Center for Innovation & Change. This unique program, now guided by alums Keith Leonhardt and Emily Schuster, is entirely student-run and provides experiential, hands-on learning for students. Clients of Embrace receive affordable marketing and communication services, including graphic design, rebranding, advertising, and consulting.

The Jacobsville Advantage is one of several improvements UE has brought to the community. ChangeLabs, or semester-long courses that seek to create positive change, helped implement Bike Share for the city. Three UE students created the CommuniTree at Mickey’s Kingdom, a solar-powered structure that provides wi-fi and charging ports for mobile devices. The University also obtained $90,000 in solar panels for the Carver Community Organization. Additionally, UE teamed up with Glenwood Leadership Academy to launch the mad hot ballroom program to enhance art education and performance opportunities.

UE ChangeLab Brings Vaccine Awareness to Latino Community

Holy Rosary Catholic Church, located on south Green River Road in Evansville, will host a COVID-19 vaccine clinic this Sunday, September 26, 2021, from 1:30 p.m. - 4:00 p.m. The clinic is targeted toward the youth of the local Latino community.  

The first dose of the Pfizer vaccine will be administered on that Sunday, and the second dose will be administered at another clinic on Sunday, October 17, 2021, from 1:30 p.m. - 4:00 p.m. Anyone age 12 and older can receive the vaccine for free. No identification cards or insurance will be required, and registration will be walk-in only. Individuals must wear a mask while at the clinic. 

Any Latino high school student who receives both doses of the vaccine will be entered to win a four-year, full-tuition scholarship from the University of Evansville. If the student is already fully vaccinated but would still like to be entered for the scholarship, they must bring proof of full vaccination and a friend, family member, or neighbor to the clinic. This individual must receive both doses of the vaccine for the student to be eligible for the scholarship. The drawing will be held after the second vaccine clinic.  

In partnership with Holy Rosary and Ascension St. Vincent, a professor and group of students from UE have worked diligently to increase COVID-19 vaccine awareness in the local Latino community. The idea arose from a ChangeLab – a semester-long UE course in which student teams develop innovative solutions to challenges either locally, nationally, or globally. The ChangeLab was held throughout the Spring 2021 semester and titled “Latinx Community Health.” 

Although vaccination awareness and encouragement has been strong in Evansville, the majority of information has been in English – whether it be online or printed in schools, healthcare facilities, or stores. Coached by Cindy Crowe, assistant professor emeritus of Spanish, the students used medical Spanish knowledge to transcribe English materials to Spanish. In particular, they created a pamphlet completely in Spanish that shared CDC guidelines as well as vaccination locations in Evansville.  

After producing the materials, Crowe and her students looked for a way to provide a comfortable, easily accessible vaccination site for Latinos where no ID was required. This was accomplished by forming a partnership with Ascension St. Vincent and Holy Rosary. Holy Rosary offers Catholic mass services in Spanish on Wednesdays and Sundays, so they knew it would be an ideal location for reaching the community and hosting the clinic. The team of students also translated the registration forms for the clinic, which led to more than 100 full vaccinations.  

“Since our clinic in the spring, the vaccine is now available for high school students, so we wanted the next clinic to focus on supporting them,” said Crowe. “As the coach of this class, it has been extremely rewarding to see these students take their ideas and goals and create a real difference in the community.” 

UE, WNIN Receive National Edward R. Murrow Award

On Tuesday, August 17, the Radio Television Digital News Association announced the University of Evansville (UE) and WNIN as a national winner for the 2021 Edward R. Murrow Awards.

In 2020, WNIN, the Center for Innovation and Change at the University of Evansville, and ¿Qué Pasa, Midwest? collaborated on a seven-month research and reporting project to find stories of the coronavirus pandemic in seven Midwestern states. COVID Between the Coasts (CBC) is ongoing, adding data-driven reporting on the pandemic for the historical record.

CBC Lead Reporter Sarah Kuper said, “The students' hard work and valuable points of view, combined with the expertise of Dr. Tamara Wandel and Dr. Darrin Weber, made COVID Between the Coasts a historic time capsule of Midwestern life during the pandemic. It was their contribution that put us in the position to win one of the highest honors in the field of journalism. I know I personally learned a lot by working with them.”

WNIN Vice President of Radio Steve Burger said, “Because of the UE data and research, we were able to focus our coverage within a large survey area and break new ground. For example, our ¿Qué Pasa, Midwest? team on the ground in Chicago did valuable reporting on inconsistencies in the national data regarding essential workers. We reported on rural Midwestern communities that previously were not part of the national discussion of the pandemic. We showed the differences in the pandemic’s impact across our survey area.”

“UE is proud to have been part of telling the story of our Midwestern region in the first pandemic in 100 years and highlights the significant contributions that our faculty, staff, and students make every day in our ever-changing world,” said UE President Christopher M. Pietruszkiewicz. “With UE and WNIN working together, we were able to make a difference in a way that we would not have been able to do individually and are delighted by the collaboration. 

Since 1971, the Radio Television Digital News Association has honored outstanding achievements in electronic journalism with the annual Edward R. Murrow Awards. These awards are among the most prestigious in broadcast news, and recipients demonstrate the spirit of excellence that Murrow set as a standard for the profession of electronic journalism. Winners will be honored at the Murrow Awards Gala in New York City on October 27, 2021.

Murrow Award Winners

UE Awarded $50K Elevate Nexus Grant

The University of Evansville was awarded a $50,000 grant from Elevate Ventures to support entrepreneurship programming and curriculum. The funding, which is channeled through the Elevate Nexus program, is designed to strengthen bonds among higher education institutions, community partners, and entrepreneurs. UE was one of four recipients, which also included Ball State University, Indiana Institute of Technology (Indiana Tech), and Indiana University School of Medicine.

UE will use the grant to create MakerspACE, a three-pronged entrepreneurial program that provides access to innovation training and support for K-16 students. The program will address cultural challenges in the region, provide support to teachers, and build an innovative ecosystem on and off the UE campus.

The Center for Innovation & Change (CIC) at UE will create an on-campus summer institute for K-16 teachers and University professors in 2022. This institute will train individuals to utilize design thinking and infuse problem-solving activities into existing curricula. The CIC plans to offer this summer workshop for educators at no cost to them.

The MakerspACE will be housed inside the CIC office on the campus of UE. Here, students will have access to design thinking, 3D printing, light prototyping, business canvas assistance, and graphic design. This will allow students to visualize ideas and bring projects to life, particularly through prototypes. CIC staff can also connect students with a wider range of more advanced resources, for those who want to continue their pursuit of innovation and product development.

“We are so excited to generate innovation support for the educators in this region,” said Erin Lewis, executive director of the Center for Innovation & Change. “Southern Indiana has many talented individuals who want to improve the quality of life for everyone. UE can now be an even bigger part of the process to support them and bring their ideas to life.”

Elevate Nexus Higher Education Grants are made possible through a partnership with the U.S. Economic Development Administration. A total of $600,000 has been awarded. The funding enables higher education institutions to launch and improve programming to support growth of Indiana startups.

“In the last three years, we have seen some exceptional proposals—all of which foster entrepreneurship and innovation across the campus and in the communities they serve,” said Landon Young, executive director of the Elevate Nexus program. “We are seeing the successful execution of programs, the building of cross-campus ecosystems, and high-potential companies starting and growing. I look forward to the future success these universities see from the programming they were able to launch and expand.”

To stay appraised of additional and future programs provided by Elevate Nexus, visit

Erin Lewis is pictured with Chris LaMothe, CEO of Elevate Ventures.

University of Evansville Students Earn Prestigious Edward R. Murrow Awards

A group of University of Evansville (UE) students have been recognized for their work on a community journalism initiative that examines the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Midwest.

The UE ChangeLab project, “COVID Between the Coasts,” is a collaboration between two University courses and National Public Radio member station WNIN.

The project, presented in a podcast format, examined seven Midwestern states through the lens of underrepresented populations grappling with the ongoing pandemic.

Over seven months, Aces led by Drs. Tamara Wandel (communications) and Darrin Weber (mathematics) carried out research, conducted interviews, and compiled data to tell localized and human stories.

“The research and reporting for our podcast is broader and richer as a result of the ChangeLab students’ award-winning work,” said WNIN reporter and producer Sarah Kuper.

“COVID Between the Coasts” earned the Excellence and Innovation and Excellence in Writing in the Region 7 group at the 2021 Edward R. Murrow Awards. Since 1971, the Radio Television Digital News Association has honored outstanding achievements in electronic journalism with annual ceremonies.

 “These are some of the most prestigious journalism awards out there, and I’m so proud of our students for their work on this project,” Wandel said.

“My classmates and I were able to do everything from research to interviewing and script writing,” UE student Nicole Tucker. “These were all things that we didn’t have a lot of experience in but with the help of our professors and WNIN, we were able to create a successful podcast series.”

A compilation of “COVID Between the Coasts” is available online.

ChangeLabs at the University of Evansville are semester-long courses in which students create positive change for businesses, nonprofits, and the community. Guided by expert coaches, multidisciplinary student teams provide services or develop innovative solutions to challenges. In addition to the award-winning “COVID Between the Coasts” collaboration, other ChangeLab projects include a city-wide bike sharing program and a $90,000 solar panel grant for a local community center.

For more information, visit the ChangeLab webpage.

ChangeLab Projects Receive Honorable Mentions at Civvys

Two ChangeLab projects of the University of Evansville (UE) Center for Innovation & Change received honorable mentions at the fourth annual American Civic Collaboration Awards, or Civvys. The event was hosted live from Washington, D.C. on Monday, April 19. 

“We are thrilled to see the positive impact of our student and faculty-led ChangeLab projects recognized not just in our local community, but also at the national level,” said Erin Lewis, director of the Center for Innovation & Change. “Both teams that participated in these award-winning projects worked diligently across disciplines to create powerful change through innovation and inclusion.” 

As an Ashoka U Changemaker Campus, UE gives students the opportunity to create a lasting impact in the community through ChangeLabs, which are courses that connect the classroom with the world. Students work together in teams to turn an idea into reality, bringing positive change to businesses, nonprofits, and communities throughout the world. 

The first honorable mention was for “COVID Between the Coasts,” a collaborative ChangeLab project between UE, ¿Qué Pasa, Midwest?, and WNIN. Hypothesizing that news media largely reported on the pandemic from the east and west coasts, this team conducted research to assess COVID-19 exclusively in the Midwest. The project was led by Darrin Weber, PhD, assistant professor of mathematics; and Tamara Wandel, PhD, associate professor of communications. 

Evansville Adaptive Watersports also received an honorable mention at the 2020 Civvys. At UE’s first Community Changemaker Challenge, Philip Jacobs presented a winning idea that would support local residents with disabilities by providing accessibility to watersports. After the event, the ChangeLab project was guided by a team of four undergraduate and graduate UE students: Jamie Born, Jalyn Davis, Brooksie Smith, and Ashlyn Thompson. Evansville Adaptive Watersports successfully launched last fall, and the disabilities served include autism, spina bifida, paraplegic, brain injuries, and more. 

The Civvys highlight best practices in civic collaboration in America, and awards are given at the national, youth, and local levels. The 2020 awards brought a record-setting number of entries, and finalists were selected by the Civvys Review Committee. 

Winners of 6th Annual Changemaker Challenge Announced

Several high school students were awarded significant scholarships on Monday during a virtual awards ceremony for the University of Evansville’s sixth annual High School Changemaker Challenge. The competition was sponsored by Toyota. 

In previous years, the High School Changemaker Challenge has been held in person and open to local students who compete in teams. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s competition was hosted in a virtual format and accepted individual entries from students around the world. 

The High School Changemaker Challenge, supported by the UE Center for Innovation and Change, is designed to motivate young people to take a leading role in identifying and solving challenges in the world around them through innovation and creativity. 

UE awarded first, second, and third place to individuals from each of the two categories: social & environmental justice and health. The scholarship amounts, renewable for a total of four years, are: 

  • 1st place: full tuition  
  • 2nd place: $18,000 tuition and $5,000 housing 
  • 3rd place: $13,000 tuition and $5,000 housing 

Below is a list of the winners of the 2021 High School Changemaker Challenge: 

Social & Environmental Justice 

  • 1st place: Grace Davidson; North High School, Evansville, Indiana; Helping victims of sexual assault receive compassionate care 
  • 2nd place: Ilya Budd; Arcola High School, Arcola, Illinois; Rethinking recycling 
  • 3rd place: Barak Hall; Evansville Christian School, Evansville, Indiana; Sustainable housing 

Additional finalists who competed in this category include: 

  • Evelyn Hipp; Nolensville High School, Nolensville, Tennessee; Helping LGBTQ students feel supported 
  • Mosad Kamal Mohammed; El Sheikh STEM School, El Hamoul City, Egypt; Multifunctional Proteins Classification Model 
  • Blayre Walters; Friends’ Central High School, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Improving mental health for children 
  • Aneesh Alapati; Castle High School, Newburgh, Indiana; Working to end gun violence in Evansville 


  • 1st place: Patricia Solliday; White River Valley High School, Switz City, Indiana; Portable health care for the elderly 
  • 2nd place: Ali Scott; Northeastern High School, Richmond, Indiana; Basic healthcare for K-12 kids in need 
  • 3rd place: Omaima Khan; Signature School, Newburgh, Indiana; Clean needle exchange 

Additional finalists who competed in this category include: 

  • Amanda Deutsch; North High School, Haubstadt, Indiana; Food insecurity 
  • Madison Lucas; Evansville Christian School, Evansville, Indiana; Developing a virtual blood bank 
  • Lydia Preske; Signature School, Evansville, Indiana; Infant formula temperature control 
  • Anish Patel; Woodbridge High School, Irvine, California; The Empowerment Gym 

University of Evansville Announces New Plans for Department of Music

The University of Evansville announced today that it will retain the Department of Music and create enhancements to better serve students and the greater Evansville community. The announcement was made in conjunction with UE administration, Department of Music co-chairs, Friends of UE Music, the UE Student Government Association (SGA), and the Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra (EPO).  

“We are delighted that our faculty and the community came together to preserve our rich tradition of music at UE,’’ said University President Christopher M. Pietruszkiewicz. “They not only have made the department financially viable, but also have reimagined our program in a way that will benefit our campus and local community.”  

Pietruszkiewicz said the plan was a collaboration between Department of Music co-chairs, faculty, Friends of UE Music, community partnerships, private donors, trustees, and the administration. 

The department’s new initiatives include: 

  • Retention of all five music degrees: Music Education, Music Therapy, Music Management, Music Performance, and Music – General  
  • Creation of the University of Evansville Music Conservatory, which will benefit UE students, provide private lessons to preschool through 12th grade students and adults, continue to offer Suzuki violin instruction, begin to offer dual enrollment courses in music, and strengthen the University’s enrollment pipeline  
  • Implementation of new offerings, including a music therapy clinic and a redesigned summer music camp which will increase revenue, enhance community engagement, and strengthen recruiting opportunities 
  • Full renovation of Wheeler Concert Hall and the Krannert Hall of Art and Music lobby 
  • Increased fundraising from Friends of UE Music  

“We are grateful for the support of Friends of UE Music, collaboration with administration, and encouragement from the Evansville community to create a solution that retains the UE Department of Music,” said department co-chair Ken Steinsultz. “This plan solidifies our commitment to the community as well as the Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra.” 

Kimberly Bredemeier, executive director of the EPO, said she is thrilled about the department’s new direction. 

“The Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra maintains a strong and important relationship with the UE Department of Music and our community,” she said. “This will ensure continued collaboration for many years to come.” 

The plan will make the Department of Music financially sustainable by reducing operating costs through planned retirements, establishing new revenue streams, increasing fundraising commitments, and focusing on recruiting and retaining new students. 

“Because this department is a cultural hub for music in our region, our plan is the result of input from many stakeholders, alumni, and arts organizations.” said Timothy A. Dickel, president of Friends of UE Music. “With financial support from Friends of UE Music and members of the UE Board of Trustees, we will be able to execute this plan immediately.” 

Fundraising is well underway to transform Wheeler Hall and the lobby of Krannert through leadership gifts from G. Richard and Rita Eykamp, Sharon McCarthy (Mrs. Burkley McCarthy), and John C. and Diane Schroeder. The University is incredibly grateful for the generosity of these longtime friends and trustees. UE will soon begin next steps in the renovation.  

This significant development is part of the current draft academic realignment process to resolve a financial operating deficit and bolster the University’s strengths. Michael Austin, PhD, executive vice president of academic affairs and provost, noted this proposal was “one of many” that the administration has seen since the process began in December.  

“We continue to receive proposals from faculty and engage in earnest dialogue to revise programs and make the University financially sustainable well into the future,” he said. 

musicians playing violins.

Virtual High School Changemaker Challenge Offers Full Tuition Scholarships

The University of Evansville is pleased to announce the upcoming sixth annual High School Changemaker Challenge, sponsored by Toyota, will be held virtually this year. Any high school junior or senior in America and around the world is invited to participate for a chance to win one of several four-year, full tuition scholarships.

In previous years, teams of students have submitted projects for the High School Changemaker Competition. This year, due to the difficulties of gathering amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the challenge will seek online entries from individual students and judging will be conducted virtually.

"As an Ashoka U Changemaker Campus, we wanted to adapt and find creative ways to make this event possible for high school students," said Erin Lewis, interim director for UE's Center for Innovation & Change. "We believe everyone can be a changemaker, and offering the competition virtually allows anyone in the world to share their idea to create positive change."

A virtual session will launch the event and is scheduled for Friday, November 20, from 12:00-1:00 p.m. The Zoom meeting will be led by Lewis; Zac Parsons, local entrepreneur; and Robert Lopez, a former competitor and current UE student. To register, visit

Students can submit an idea spanning several categories, from health and social justice to environmental and regional issues (ideas tackling something Evansville-specific).

Winning students in each category who choose UE as their college destination will receive four-year scholarships to attend UE as listed below:

  • 1st place: Full tuition
  • 2nd place: $18,000 tuition and $5,000 housing per year
  • 3rd place: $13,000 tuition and $5,000 housing per year

"The High School Changemaker Challenge gives students the opportunity to make their dream a reality," said Jill Griffin, interim vice president for enrollment and marketing. "Our hope is that this competition inspires a generation of youth to think big and positively impact the world around them."

Detailed information is available here. You may contact for questions.