Four Detroit entrepreneurship thought leaders to judge WSU STEAM Challenge preliminary pitch

As Wayne State University’s 2019-2020 STEAM Challenge moves into its competitive phase, challenge organizers welcome four judges who will decide which interdisciplinary student teams make it to the final round. The judges will be responsible for evaluating proposals on how well each student team addressed this year’s STEAM Challenge theme of “Innovating Change and Developing Solutions Toward a Just Society.”  

The judges will send the top teams onto the final public pitch competition on Thursday, March 19, where $25,000 in cash prizes will be split among the top three teams to launch their social ventures. The final pitch competition at the WSU Law School’s Spencer M. Partrich Auditorium runs from 5:30-7:30 p.m. and is open to the public. More information is available at

STEAM Challenge participants have been meeting since late October attending intensive workshops, mixers, presentations and one-on-one feedback sessions organized by the Wayne State School of Social Work and Mike Ilitch School of Business. Final proposals, due Feb. 17, will include a 3-minute pitch video, a budget, a business model canvas, a logic model and short-answer responses.

This year’s panel of preliminary judges includes Evan Adams, Chanel Hampton, Albert Pak and Dr. Marlo Rechner.

Evan Adams

Evan Adams has dedicated both his academic and professional career to economic development. While obtaining his bachelor’s in political theory and constitutional democracy and his master’s in public policy, both from Michigan State University, he gained experience in political and social advocacy. Adams’ research as a graduate student was focused on systemic economic inequality, capital accessibility, and improving the financials of low- and moderate-income communities, a three-fold agenda he’s continued to address in his role as capital programs manager at Build Institute.

Chanel Hampton

Chanel Hampton is the founder and CEO of Strategic Community Partners, a Detroit-based consulting firm catering to mission-driven clientele, including nonprofits, school districts, higher education, foundations, and more. Hampton’s career began as a middle school teacher, which grew her passion for larger systematic change in the educational system. She eventually joined Teach for America’s National Recruitment Team, founding and leading national diversity initiatives. Hampton has worked with public school systems and the Michigan Department of Education to ensure equitable practices for all districts across the state. Hampton has bachelor’s degrees in African American studies, psychology and sociocultural anthropology as well as master’s degrees in secondary education and education administration. She is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in organizational leadership.
Albert Pak Albert Pak has experience in business, law, nonprofit management and empowering underserved communities. This experience led him to his current role as a program manager, attorney and Skadden Fellow at Michigan Community Resources (MCR). MCR advances the missions of Michigan nonprofits that serve low-income individuals and communities through pro bono and low-cost legal and other professional services. Pak graduated with a JD from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where he was a Toll Public Interest Scholar, and he received his master’s in public affairs from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University.

Marlo Rencher


Dr. Marlo Rencher is an entrepreneur, anthropologist and educator with over two decades of experience in startup and small business development. She is TechTown Detroit’s director of technology-based programs and has founded/co-founded three tech startups. Rencher was the co-author of digitalundivided’s 2016 #ProjectDiane report, which provided groundbreaking insight into the funding gap for Black women tech founders. She frequently speaks on technology entrepreneurship and inclusion and has been a presenter at TedxDetroit, Princeton University and SXSW. Rencher earned a bachelor’s in marketing from Michigan State University, an M.B.A. from the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, and a Ph.D. in business and organizational anthropology from Wayne State University.





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