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Three recent University of Chicago graduates have earned 2018 Tarrson Social Venture Fellowships, receiving $25,000 each to pursue their social ventures full time after graduation.

The Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation at Chicago Booth announced winners of the fellowships in June, selecting two students from Booth and one from the College. The Tarrson Social Venture Fellowship provides funding and other support to graduating University of Chicago students and recent alumni who are committed to growing a startup that helps solve a social or environmental problem.

The fellowships, which provide funding as well as mentoring, are supported by Ron Tarrson, ’72 (XP-31), and matching funds from John Edwardson, ’72.

“Transforming an innovative idea into a sustainable business is hard work, so we created the Tarrson Fellowship to provide financial and other supports to students who are committed to working on their startups full time after graduation,” Tarrson said. “I’m proud to support the work of these talented, committed social entrepreneurs.”

To be eligible for the fellowship, applicants must be committed to working full time for their startups, which should be focused on social or environmental impact. In 2017, two students were awarded the first-ever Tarrson Fellowships.

Two of the 2018 fellows placed in the John Edwardson, ’72, Social New Venture Challenge (SNVC). The SNVC is run by Booth's Rustandy Center, along with the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. A third fellow placed in this year’s College New Venture Challenge (CNVC). Both the SNVC and the CNVC are tracks of the Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge (NVC), the university’s nationally ranked accelerator program.

“Our second cohort of Tarrson Fellows is committed to addressing social issues ranging from providing autism therapy to children in rural areas to advancing the career prospects of an underserved population of adults,” said Robert H. Gertner, Joel F. Gemunder Professor of Strategy and Finance at Chicago Booth and John Edwardson Faculty Director of the Rustandy Center. “With the fellowship, University of Chicago students have the support they need to spend vital time working on their startups.”

The 2018 Tarrson Fellows are:


George graduated from Booth's Full-Time MBA Program in June 2018.  AIM Clinics, which won the 2018 SNVC, provides the gold standard autism therapy to children in rural US communities. With a pilot in Arkansas, AIM Clinics focuses on markets where the shortage of therapy is the most severe, and the autism care ecosystem is least developed. AIM Clinics seeks to deliver high-quality, evidence-based ABA therapy to children in those communities.


Leah graduated from the College in June 2018. Debate it Forward, which placed second in the 2018 CNVC, is an education nonprofit that de-emphasizes the competitive nature of debate and instead focuses on cultivating the core skills of debate. Through this approach, Debate it Forward makes debate curriculum—and its benefits—accessible to young students, students of low-income, students with learning differences, and justice-involved youth.


Wenting graduated from Booth's Full-Time MBA Program in June 2018. VouchCircle, which tied for second place in the 2018 SNVC, is a professional networking platform designed to help people in underserved communities stay connected, share jobs, and vouch for one another to get hired.

To learn more about the Tarrson Social Venture Fellowship, visit the Rustandy Center’s website.