Ten students selected as 2016 Melissa & Doug Entrepreneurs

Published: 4 years ago | 0 comments

Ten students have been selected as this year’s Melissa & Doug Entrepreneurs, Duke’s premiere undergraduate entrepreneurship program. Students have been selected through a rigorous application process and will receive individualized teaching and coaching starting in spring 2016 and lasting throughout the year. The program gives students personalized support, including workshops, mentors, a cash stipend for the summer, and a personal connection with Melissa and Doug Bernstein as well as dozens of other successful alumni entrepreneurs, to help them turn their creative ideas into promising ventures. The program was launched in 2014 with a generous gift from Melissa T’87 and Doug Bernstein.

Melissa and Doug expressed their enthusiasm for this year’s cohort of students. “It’s been a rewarding experience for us to work with these students. This program is a chance for us to give back by providing them the mentorship that we never had when we started our company. Each year we love working with these students, and we’re thrilled with this year’s group.”

The 2016 students are working on ventures that range from customized t-shirts that help chemotherapy patients to virtual and augmented reality training software for elite runners to all-natural beauty products, and more. The students will kick off this year’s program with a trip to New York City for a day of activities, networking with alumni entrepreneurs over dinner, and a visit to Melissa & Doug headquarters in Connecticut, where they will meet with Melissa and Doug to discuss their ventures.

The ten selected students are:

  • Ismail Aijazuddin ’18, Chemistry
  • Francesca Davie ’19, Psychology, I&E (Certificate)
  • Canyon Dell’Omo ’18, Biology
  • Dylan Gambardella ’18, Public Policy Studies, Economics (Minor), Philosophy (Minor)
  • Alex Gottwald ’19, Computer Science, I&E (Certificate)
  • Tiana Horn ’17, Public Policy
  • Joe Lam ’17, Program II- Decision Science and Entrepreneurship
  • Austin Lee ’18, Political Science, Economics (Minor)
  • Cade Netscher ’16, Neuroscience and Philosophy Interdepartmental Major
  • Judy Zhu ’17, Mechanical Engineering, Economics & Finance (Minor)

For more information about the Melissa & Doug Entrepreneurs, please visit:
or contact
Howie Rhee, Managing Director of Student and Alumni Affairs, Duke I&E
Phone: 919-923-7113

About Melissa and Doug Bernstein
Melissa Bernstein graduated from Duke in 1987. After a stint at Morgan Stanley, she and her husband (then boyfriend), Doug, founded a company that sold children’s educational videotapes. That company has evolved into the toy company, now known as Melissa & Doug, with over 2,000 different toys and 200 new items each year! Melissa is passionate about helping students think differently about their ability to shape their future through entrepreneurship.

Doug Bernstein attended the University of Connecticut, where he was president of the student government, and graduated in 1985. In 1988, he co-founded Melissa & Doug, and together they continue to run the company.

About Duke I&E
The Innovation & Entrepreneurship Initiative brings to life and deepens Duke’s enduring theme of Knowledge in the Service of Society. The Initiative helps members of the entire Duke family – faculty, students, staff, alumni and others – use ideas from all fields and disciplines to positively and tangibly impact our society. The Initiative provides the tools and resources to enable entrepreneurs to use the fundamental knowledge that grows at the University to better the lives of those around us.

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