NORTH ADAMS, MASS. — Student finalists from Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) will pitch their original and inventive ideas to area business leaders on Wednesday, April 19; at the culmination of the College’s first-ever Innovation and Entrepreneurship Challenge, a new competition that aims to match entrepreneurial students with resources and networking opportunities that will help them bring their ideas to fruition.

This competition, to be held at 5:30 p.m. in MCLA’s Feigenbaum Center for Science and Innovation, room 121, is free and open to the public. It is made possible by the Feigenbaum Fund, and Jack and Susy Wadsworth.

The finalists – as many as six groups of students – will be selected from about two dozen teams slated to participate in the Challenge.

“This competition provides a unique opportunity for students to work as teams, solve problems – both commercial and social – with mentors, provide benefits to our community, and reinforce the qualities and aims of MCLA’s liberal arts mission,” said Jake Eberwein, MCLA’s dean of Graduate and Continuing Education. “We are grateful to our funders, mentors, faculty and students who are actively engaging in this exciting endeavor.”

In addition to a $10,000 prize and a funded, 10-week internship, winning students will receive advising and space to continue the development of their proposed idea from a local incubator, Lever, Inc., a center for entrepreneurship and social innovation based in North Adams.

Participants in the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Challenge will be coached through a series of deliverables, including an idea abstract, a pitch deck, a business model canvas and a business plan, before they pitch their ideas to a panel of judges.

Their ideas include a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) Center in downtown North Adams for students in pre-K-12, parents and administrators; augmented reality and virtual reality educational technology; an aquatic Global Positioning System (GPS) tracking system for fishing equipment; and other proposals related to food, agriculture and social services.

Participating students will be invited to attend workshops on topics related to innovation and entrepreneurship, and to meet experienced investors, entrepreneurs and leaders of local community organizations in mentorship-style gatherings. These events serve to connect students to the people best equipped to help them succeed.

Judges for the competition include J.D. Chesloff, Nancy Fitzpatrick and Jack Wadsworth.

Chesloff, a member of MCLA’s Board of Trustees, is the executive director of the Massachusetts Business Roundtable. He serves on the executive committee of the Governor’s Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Advisory Council; and as board chair of the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care.

For the last 15 years, Fitzpatrick has overseen a hospitality business that includes The Red Lion, Jack’s Grill, Elm Street Market, and the Porches Inn at MASS MoCA. She also is vice chairman of The Fitzpatrick Companies.

Wadsworth received an honorary Doctor of Business degree from MCLA in 2015. He is honorary chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia, an advisory director of Morgan Stanley, and the founding director of Lever.

For more information, visit or contact MCLA LEADS Project Coordinator Zachary Feury, (413) 662-5116 or

Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) is the Commonwealth’s public liberal arts college and a campus of the Massachusetts state university system. MCLA promotes excellence in learning and teaching, innovative scholarship, intellectual creativity, public service, applied knowledge, and active and responsible citizenship. MCLA graduates are prepared to be practical problem solvers and engaged, resilient global citizens.

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