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CCEE students named as 2023-24 Social Innovation Fellows

NC State Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship recently named two CCEE students — Manny Valbuena Peña and Vie Villafuerte — to its 2023-24 cohort of Social Innovation Fellows (SIF).

The Social Innovation Fellows program is a yearlong, team-based learning experience that enables NC State’s social entrepreneurs and innovators to consider more fully their impact on humanity and our planet, according to NC State Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Fellows explore issues of ethics and sustainability at the intersection of the social sector and responsible business practice, working under the guidance of program staff, a Social Entrepreneur in Residence, and faculty, business and community leaders. Fellows learn adaptive leadership skills required of successful entrepreneurs while honing the technical skills needed to create and launch enterprises and projects that have a positive social impact.

Valbuena Peña, who is a rising senior studying environmental engineering with a minor in Art + Design, said that he thinks the SIF program is the “perfect representation” of his values and the space he wants to work in as a professional.

More than anything, [my acceptance into the cohort] renewed my motivation to make a positive, tangible social change in both my local community and, hopefully, with the knowledge I gain from this yearlong experience, down the line as an alum,” he said.

Villafuerte, a master’s student studying environmental engineering with a concentration in environmental process engineering, said she felt happy and grateful to be selected as a fellow. 

“I now have the opportunity to share my ideas and problem-solving skills with a cohort of like-minded individuals who strive to impact both our community and the wider world positively,” she said. “It is so important to understand that our actions as students can have a social impact and, for me, the Social Innovation Fellows Program is the platform that will guide us towards the betterment of our planet.”

The fellows will have an orientation and retreat in August to gain more details on the different projects available to work on and respective community partners. 

“I would like to work on a project that is closely related to environmental sustainability or helping disadvantaged communities,” Villafuerte said.