The Acara Innovation Fellowship provides up to $5,000 and intensive mentoring and training  for 8–12 individual students and student teams annually. Students use fellowship funding to pilot their ideas for impact ventures and/or to intern with organizations where they can develop their knowledge and skills in order to have impact in the future.

The 2021 Acara Fellows are:

Gold Award


Karla Godoy, Masters in Development Practice, 2022

EcoCiclo produces biodegradable sanitary pads and employs women in vulnerable situations because we believe that taking care of the environment is also taking care of people.

Silver Awards

Doktah Telemedicine

Joseph Akambase MBChB, MPH Epidemiology, 2022

Doktah Telemedicine provides Ghanaians with timely, accessible and affordable health care services by connecting them to doctors and nurses via voice calls and SMS.


Kovic Odhiambo, BA Statistics, 2021; Azion White, BS Biochemistry, 2021; Raajii Daniel, BA Economics, 2021; Abby Aseefa, BA Marketing, 2021; Kabor Namarra, BS Computer Engineering, 2021

OUROGAMI seeks to add value to plastic waste using synthetic microbes. Popular plastics  – particularly PET – can be upcycled into target compounds, promoting a circular economy.

Bronze Awards

Co-Creating Through Design

Jessica Thompson, Phd, Higher Education, 2023

Co-creating through Design seeks to increase the postsecondary outcomes of underserved learners by transforming educational institutions into equitable, student-ready organizations, through leveraging equity-centered design thinking.


Hannah Fleming, BS Neuroscience, 2020; Alanalyn Pinaula-Toves, BA Human Physiology, 2022; Ethan Robertson, BS Genetics, Cell Biology, & Development BA Psychology, 2022

HEAL ED strives to promote healthy lifestyle behaviors, specifically decreased alcohol consumption, to increase productivity and success amongst Ugandan entrepreneurs via motivational career development programming.

Open Spaces Healing Initiative                                                                          

Sage Brinton, BS in Business, Supply Chain and Operations Management, International Business, and Public & Nonprofit Management, 2021; Olga Acuna, BA Urban Studies, Sustainable Urban and Landscape Design and Planning concentration, 2020. Bemnet Kika, BS in Inter College Program, Concentrations in Health Service Management and Public Health, 2022

Open Spaces Healing Initiative seeks to activate an urban green space by rejuvenating a historically significant cemetery to address environmental injustice, revitalize the existing community, and improve overall quality of life. 


Jenny Tilsen, Phd STEM Curriculum and Instruction, 2024

STEMtelling centers student interests, experiences, and cultures as the foundation for scientific exploration and innovation.

Students for Lake Superior Sustainable Farming

Camryn Appert, BA Environment, Sustainability and Geography, 2021; Maggie Salwei, BA Environment, Sustainability and Geography, and Biology, 2022; Matthew Sperrazza, BA Environment, Sustainability and Geography, 2022; Paxton Zirpel, BA Environment and Sustainability and Geography, International Studies, 2022

Students for Lake Superior Sustainable Farming promotes sustainable agriculture by centralizing compost practices through demonstration and closing gaps within our food system. 

Honorable Mention

Sense of Self

Kania Johnson, Master of Public Policy Candidate, 2021

Sense of Self seeks to transform the way people of color address chronic stress and systemic racism by affirming their resilience and providing radical restorative tools that allow them to thrive.


  • Cup Deposit Project

Lauren Anderson, BA Anthropology 2020

Cup Deposit Project is a reusable cup system that seeks to combat single-use disposable coffee cup waste across the University of Minnesota.

  • Disciple Science

Matt Gill, MPA 2020; Dr. Dale Gentry, Community Partner; Dr. Joel JueckstockCommunity Partner

Disciple Science aims to heal the divide between science and Christian faith and to inspire Christians to act on behalf of the earth.

  • Furaharakati (Joy + Movement)

Allison Berry, BS Biology & Public Health 2020; Anna Solfest, BS Kinesiology 2019, DPT/MPH 2022; Allie Trask, BSN Nursing 2020 

Furaharakati (Joy + Movement) is a community-based group exercise program aimed to improve bone and joint pain as well as social engagement of Ugandan older adults.

  • Grief and Job Loss CCAPS Fellowship

Alejandra Rodriguez Wheelock, MPS Integrated Behavioral Health 2021

Grief and Job Loss CCAPS Fellowship is a partnership between the College of Continuing and Professional Studies and the Hubbs Center to teach coping skills for grief associated with job loss.

  • Loring Collective

Tony Burton, BA Political Science 2020; Enzo Mazumdar Stanger, BA Music 2022; Melissa Riepe, BS Human Resource Development & Business and Marketing Education 2020; Izzy Voigt, BS Plant Science 2020; Brady Bunkelman, Community Partner

Loring Collective empowers local queer creatives by creating safe spaces to celebrate, network, and showcase their work within various artistic mediums.

  • ShaqoSearch

Morgan Kerfeld, BSB Entrepreneurial Management & Public and Nonprofit Management 2021

ShaqoSearch, a partnership with Alight (American Refugee Committee), is a tailor-made job connection platform that matches young adults in Kismayo, Somalia to employers in Kismayo.

  • Tubivuge

Aimee Carlson, Master of Development Practice 2021

Tubivuge (“Let’s talk about it”) is a podcast giving a voice to women and girls while tackling pressing issues facing the Kiziba Refugee Camp community.

  • BrightSide UMN

Clara Holder, BS Nutrition 2020; Carley Meyers, BS Health Services Management 2019 (Project initially designed in GCC 5003: Seeking Solutions to Global Health Issues and further developed in PA 5743: Social Innovation Design Lab)

BrightSide UMN is an economically viable solution to food insecurity in the Twin Cities. We do produce distribution better than food shelves or CSAs.

  • Care Share

Emily Waller, BSB Entrepreneurial Management 2019; Jared Johnson, BS Architecture 2019; Sarah Zhao, BS Economics 2019; Emma Fiala, Community Partner (Project initially designed in GCC 5003: Seeking Solutions to Global Health Issues)

Care Share is an intergenerational child-care platform connecting families to elders by matching needs and abilities. Its unique payment plan allows for affordability and flexibility.

  • foodiker

Maggie Rogers, MS Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy, 2019 (Project further developed in GCC 5501: Knowledge to Impact)

foodiker is an online platform for people to access environmental and health data about recipes in order to make informed decisions about what they eat.

  • MoyoMate

Amy Yi, BS Biology & BA Global Studies 2019; Tessa Day, BS Genetics, Cell Biology & Development 2019; Diane Kazlauski, BS Biochemistry 2020 (CBS) (Project initially designed in GCC 5003: Seeking Solutions to Global Health Issues and further developed in PA 5743: Social Innovation Design Lab)

MoyoMate aims to raise hypertension awareness in Kampala, Uganda, by providing blood pressure monitoring at commonly frequented locations using kiosks and telehealth referrals.

  • Symba

Haggai Simon, BS Digital Business for Artist Advocacy 2020 (Project further developed in PA 5743: Social Innovation Design Lab)

Symba is a social platform that facilitates networking, collaboration, and growth to improve the quality of life for artists and creatives across the United States.

  • The Green Neighbor Challenge

Andrew Butts, MS Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy 2019 (Project further developed in Acara Graduate Changemaker Lab)

The Green Neighbor Challenge is a social media campaign and web-based lookup tool designed to facilitate the mass adoption of clean energy.

  • Tree of Hope Haiti

Michele Girard, Master of Development Practice 2020 (Project further developed in Acara Graduate Changemaker Lab)

Tree of Hope Haiti built a water storage system in 2015 that serves 250-400 people and pumps 2,000 gallons per day. We are now partnering with the community to implement an income generating project to fund the water system into the future. Learn more from their blog post.

  • Aelios Technology

Sourav Patel, PhD student, Electrical Engineering 2019; Saurav Talukdar, PhD Candidate, Mechanical Engineering 2018; Shreyas Bhaban, PhD Candidate, Electrical Engineering 2018; Atul Fotedar, MBA candidate, Carlson School of Management 2019

Aelios Technology’s mission is to mitigate the adverse effects of power scarcity in the healthcare sector to help save lives in developing economies by their Intelligent Plug for Devices (IPlugD).

  • Depósito de Confianza

Robyn Thompson, BA Political Science 2020

Depósito de Confianza offers community-based silos to farmers in rural Nicaragua to increase farmer income security because there is high market volatility for crops.

  • Educowtion 

Abigail Knoble, BS Biology 2019; Maria Soroka, BS Neuroscience 2018

Educowtion meets the nutritional needs of pastoralist children in northern Uganda during the dry season in the context of their traditional livelihood.

  • One Moringa

Isaac Giron, Masters of Development Practice 2018

In a developing country where the lack of food and money is the problem, moringa oleifera, or The Miracle Tree, might be the answer.

  • uGIS 

Clarissa Cole, BS Environmental Science, Policy, and Management 2018; Dylan Duerre, BS Genetics, Cell Biology and Development 2019; Katharine Young, BS Microbiology 2019

uGIS delivers a collaborative and interdisciplinary focus on complex environmental problems through a geospatial lens by providing GIS information to underserved communities in Karamoja, Uganda.

  • Wings of the Night

Tyler Vogel, Master of Development Practice 2019

Wings of the Night depletes mosquito-borne transmission rates utilizing natural predation from bats while empowering the local community by providing education and reducing financial burdens.

  • Folx 

Sebastian Nemec, BA Cultural Entrepreneurship, Fall 2017

“Because shopping should be easy for anybody”. Folx provides one e-commerce store for transgender people to find the products they are looking for.

  • Kaloli Energy

Margaret Kristian, BS Environmental Science, Policy, and Management & BS Applied Economics 2018; Claire Irwin, BS Finance and International Business, 2018; Benjamin Ihde, MS-Science, Technology and Environmental, 2018; Peder Garnaas-Halvorson, MS Science, Technology and Environmental Policy, 2018

Kaloli Energy is a subscription service that combines sustainable fuel delivery and waste collection in one convenient experience. This team aims to reduce deforestation and increase urban waste management in Uganda all in one service that is easily accessible to locals in Kampala.

  • La Mesa

Maria Bonilla, BS Food Systems and Applied Business, Fall 2018

La Mesa is a local, plant-based meal kit delivery service, providing sustainably sourced meal options to busy adults.

  • Luminaria

Marah Cuadrado Labey, MBA 2016; Mariah Dooley, BS Civil Engineering 2018

The vision of Luminaria is to install centralized solar charging stations for mid-sized, portable batteries which will bring electricity to households in rural communities of Nicaragua.

  • Monsun

Alana Helin, MS Civil Engineering 2018; Tyler Olsen, MS Civil Engineering 2017; Rachel Kieser, BS Environmental Engineering 2017; Priyanka Shah BSB Finance & International Business 2017

Monsun aims to enable Bangalore residents to install rainwater harvesting systems, an alternative clean water source, on their home by offering an affordable lease-to-own payment program.

  • One Day Tech

Harpreet Sandhawalia, MBA 2018; Zach Hofeld, JD/MBA 2019

One Day Tech provides K-12 teachers in low-income communities an easy-to- use tool that automates the classrooms management, effortlessly keeps parents up-to- date, and builds a student-centered culture of achievement.

  • The Local Beat

Graham Ambrose, MS Science, Technology and Environmental Policy 2018

The Local Beat is a marketing ecosystem promoting prosperity for small, local farmers by revolutionizing logistics, purchasing power, safety and what consumers know about their food.

  • Vetiver Solutions

Jesse Abelson, Biology B.S., Nutrition B.S., Public Health Minor, Fall 2017; Dalton Schutte, B.A. Mathematics 2017, Chemistry and Philosophy Minor, 2017; Leeore Levinstein, Genetics, Cell Biology, and Development B.S., Spanish Minor, 2018; 

Vetiver Solutions seeks to increase the income of rural Haitians by sustainably improving agricultural soil through living plant barriers while simultaneously creating jobs for local women.

  • Health Sync

Viswa Challa, College of Science and Engineering; Raj Kumar, Medical School; Andreas Hochrein, College of Science and Engineering; Raoul Fernandes, College of Liberal Arts

Health Sync aims to distribute remote health monitoring stations to rural villages in India to help gather data for rural health professionals and urban health centers that are trying to address the lack of healthcare access in these areas.

  • Let’s Grow

Henry Croll, College of Science and Engineering

Let’s Grow uses a simple, recently developed hydroponic system that allows growers to plant and forget their fresh vegetables, until they are ready to be eaten.

  • Minnesota Freedom Fund

Simon Cecil, Carlson School of Management and Humphrey School of Public Affairs; Adam Rao, Carlson School of Management

The Minnesota Freedom Fund  pays bail for low-income individuals and connects them with legal support, helping them reconnect with their jobs, homes and families. It seeks to cast light on inequities in the legal system and ensure that no one is stuck in jail for the crime of being poor. Read the Star Tribune article here.

  • MobiLite

Kristin Carlson, College of Science and Engineering; Luke Horsager, College of Science and Engineering; Rachel Sobel, Will Kraft, Carlson School of Managemen

MobiLite is an affordable and portable light and energy system that enables additional cellphone functionality for urban slum residents in India.

  • Mobineo

Kate Kuehl, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences; Kevin Thomsen, College of Science and Engineering; Dave Okech, Kenya Business Lead; and Jack O’Leary, College of Science and Engineering

Currently, nearly all land claims in the developing world are in paper, which is incredibly hard to track and manage. Mobineo is a software company that has developed surveying equipment that is more precise, secure and intuitive than existing paper solutions.

  • Pure Paani

Christopher Bulkley-Logston, College of Science and Engineering; Kaylea Brase, College of Science and Engineering

Pure Paani provides portable, hand-operated water filtration devices to a network of micro-entrepreneurs living in communities in which potable water access is minimal. Pure Paani plans on initiating a pilot study, which involves testing the effectiveness of the filter, gathering customer feedback, developing a product assembly procedure and assessing the business model.

  • Siobhan Powers

Patricia Columbus-Powers, Carlson School of Management

This high-end Native American fashion house allows consumers to represent Native American success and contribute to empowering Native American designers to end cultural appropriation of Native American culture in fashion, provide employment to Native American felons, and promote healing and self-expression through art. Patricia was featured in the Minnesota Alumni Magazine.

  • SMS Maama

Sonja Ausen-Anifrani, School of Public Health; Katelyn Pastick, College of Biological Sciences; Meg KenKnight Burman, School of Nursing

SMS Maama is a text messaging service for pregnant women in Uganda. Women receive informational and interactive screening texts and are connected with a midwife should follow-up be indicated. Read more from the School of Public Health here, listen to Sonja’s interview on the Social Entrepreneur podcast here.

  • Apis Krishi

Erin Kayser, BS Civil Engineering, 2015.

Apis Krishi is a social enterprise committed to assisting rural Indian farmers leaving the cycle of poverty through beekeeping. This is done through taking on the financial risk while the transfer of beekeeping knowledge occurs from Apis Krishi to farmers.

  • Autonomee

Steven Bruce, MBA, 2016.

For marginalized jobseekers who need career experience, Autonomee is TaskRabbit for software development.

  • BDW Blog

Adam Woodruff, MS ChemE, 2013; Yogesh Dhande, PhD ChemE, 2016; Josh Magnuson, MBA, 2016; Joanna Mooney, MS Biochemistry, 2014; Thomas Harris, Bowling Green State University, MS CompSci, 2014.

“Climate change isn’t real.” “Vaccines cause autism.” There is often a rift between public opinion and scientific consensus. BDW Blog aims to close that gap for GMOs, by providing a neutral, impartial voice.

  • City Compost MN

Peter Schmitt, MPP/MBA, 2016; Katie Schmitt.

City Compost MN is a waste processing company in Minneapolis that cuts trash volume and creates a valuable end product that current waste processors don’t. We complete the food cycle by starting at “farm-to-table” and continuing to “table-to-farm.”

  • E-Grove

Claire Warren, BS Industrial and Systems Engineering, 2017; Aika Mengi, MURP, 2015; Joshua Auerbach, BS Finance, Accounting, and Entre, 2016; Malcolm Smith, MS Civil Engineering, 2017.

E-Grove is a company that creates opportunities for citizens of Bangalore to responsibly recycle e-waste through an accessible collection service.

  • InCOLOR Magazine

Tiffany Trawick, BA English, 2015.

Our focus is Diversity. Our mission is to provoke empathy.  InCOLOR Magazine is an online multi-media platform designed to serve as a voice for the various multicultural and inner-city communities that exist.

  • Knack

Taisha Bauer, Francesca Berarducci, BA Cultural Entrepreneurship, 2016; Megan Zimmerman, BA Cultural Entrepreneurship, 2017. UMD.

Knack is a web-based business that aims to mobilize the potential of young adults to address the social issues affecting the Midwest Region through local artisan product sales.

  • Minnetonka Local

Alana Buckner, MBA, 2016

Minnetonka Local offers business development & retail support to grow & support entrepreneurs, specifically those in the lower income segment, increasing local products & services while building community engagement.

  • Ova Woman: Supporting Women’s Intimate Health

Elise Maxwell, MBA, 2016.

Ova Woman had the vision of promoting the use of menstrual cups for local women with the support of Acara. Now, her company supports a variety of women’s intimate health initiatives through education, e-commerce and building a customer community. Connect on Facebook.

  • Ripple

Anna Schulte, BS Business and Marketing Education, 2015; Emma Volbrecht, BS Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering, 2017; Adam Iversen, MS Water Resources Engineering, 2016.

Ripple works with water purification and testing companies to market their products and services to rural “Base of the Pyramid” markets. By working within communities to identify their specific needs Ripple ensures that they promote products and services that improve the health of these communities.

  • Stimulight

Robin Walz, Bachelor MechE, 2015; Vicky Ong, Bachelor MechE, 2016; Pieter Gagnon, MS MechE, 2016.

Stimulight is an organization that aims to improve the quality of life in rural India by offering an alternative to expensive and dangerous kerosene lamps in the form of clean and reliable LED lights driven by solar-powered microgrids.

Mighty Axe Hops (2014)

Eric Sannerud and Ben Boo

Mighty Axe Hops provides Minnesota craft breweries with rare, local, and organic hops.  Mighty Axe Hops was a semifinalist in the 2014 MN Cup, and recently secured funding and land for company expansion to 80 acres. Connect with Mighty Axe Hops on Facebook. Mighty news: Minnesota Business June 2016The Growler MagazineSocial Entrepreneur Podcast with Tony Loyd.

Eat for Equity (2012)

Emily Torgrimson

Eat for Equity builds a culture of generosity through sustainable community feasts that raise money for non-profit causes. There are 10 chapters around the US. Visit their website, or learn more from the Star Tribune feature story.

MyRain (2010)

Steele Lorenz

MyRain is improving water use in India by selling drip irrigation kits to subsistence farmers through an affordable lease-to-own program. MyRain was one of 17 chosen from 520 applicants in 90 countries to receive a Securing Water for Food: A Grand Challenge Development award. MyRain is supported by USAID under the Securing Water for Food (SWFF) program, learn more here. Founder Steele Lorenz was interviewed by Tony Loyd on his podcast, Social Entrepreneur – listen here.