From left: Alexa Valdovinos ’25 and Bryan Davis, executive director of The Hill Institute, during the Paladin Pitch, a competition for aspiring entrepreneurs, in 2022. From left: Alexa Valdovinos ’25 and Bryan Davis, interim executive director of The Hill Institute, during the Paladin Pitch, a competition for aspiring entrepreneurs, in 2022.
The Hill Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship helps launch successful ventures. Now in its fourth year, the institute develops innovative and entrepreneurial leaders, grows an innovative community at Furman, and contributes to the local and regional entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Through pitch competitions, mentoring, internships, speakers, co-working spaces, boot camps and workshops, The Hill Institute provides students a platform to envision, test and launch their social and entrepreneurial ventures. This is achieved through partnerships with the S.C. Department of Commerce, the City of Greenville, Village Launch, NEXT and angel investor group VentureSouth. The institute’s third annual Summer Business and Innovation Boot Camp has now enrolled more than 83 students, including 25 in the past year, representing 13 universities.
The institute also launched GVL Starts, an eight-week experience offering community members the training, network, resources and capital to launch ventures. Of 53 graduates, more than half were women or members of underrepresented groups. The institute also launched the Clemens Angel Analyst Fellowship in partnership with VentureSouth with a $1 million gift. The fellowship will provide up to 15 students each year with the skills, experience and network necessary to launch successful careers in angel investing, venture capital and private equity or to raise capital for their startup venture.
The Hill Institute expanded Furman’s presence into downtown Greenville with a 2,000-square-foot space on the ground floor of 101 N. Main St. in One City Plaza. Know as Furman 101, it is shared by the institutes and the university, and connects students and faculty with the business and nonprofit community to create a pipeline of talent for internships, jobs, research and collaborations, while also delivering diverse experiences for lifelong learners.
The Riley Institute at Furman broadens student and community perspective about issues critical to South Carolina’s progress, builds and engages present and future leaders, and creates and shares data-supported information about the state’s core challenges.
This year, The Riley Institute launched the Public Media Diversity Leaders Initiative, which provides practitioners from across the nation with tools to champion diversity, equity and inclusion in their workplaces. It is modeled after the institute’s South Carolina Diversity Leaders Initiative, which graduated its 2,500th participant in May. From left: Alexa Valdovinos ’25 and Bryan Davis, interim executive director of The Hill Institute, during the Paladin Pitch, a competition for aspiring entrepreneurs, in 2022.
The institute also launched South Carolina Afterschool Leaders Empowered, funded with $1.3 million from the state Department of Education, which focuses on growing and improving afterschool and summer learning programs in South Carolina. The institute’s research consultancy added about $800,000 in multi-year contracts to its portfolio.
The Riley Institute also added two new awards events. The inaugural Building OneSouthCarolina forum highlights a collaborative community achievement. The new Lowcountry Diversity Leadership Awards, presented in partnership with the Charleston Regional Business Journal, expands Furman’s footprint to the state’s southern coast.
On campus, the institute continued to offer meaningful opportunities to students. It sent four students to the APEC Voices of the Future Summit 2021, which was hosted virtually by New Zealand, as the sole youth delegation from the United States. The institute also hosted events focused on issues such as structural racism and foreign relations in a changing world, with the support of its Advance Team, a select group of students interested in politics and public policy.
The Shi Institute for Sustainable Communities is a regionally centered, community-focused hub Sustainability that promotes sustainable human flourishing and Leadership Initiative recognizes the interdependence between social graduates and equity challenges and environmental issues. The Shi Institute connects campus and community to the work of developing sustainable communities. The institute’s three centers focus on education, applied research and leadership through a variety of programs.
2022 Sustainability Leadership Initiative graduates
Furman’s fifth STARS report earned a gold sustainability rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, placing Furman at No. 3 among all baccalaureate institutions and representing the only school in the South. The National Association of College and University Business Officers recognized the institute’s Community Conservation Corps with its Excellence in Sustainability Award. And the institute continues to work on community climate resilience as a partner on a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration-funded research grant, the Carolinas Collaborative on Climate, Health, and Equity.
The Shi Institute’s Student Fellows program provided 31 students with hands-on campus and community experience. Students in the Community Conservation Corps weatherized 11 additional homes, and the institute assisted the City of Greenville in writing its first comprehensive sustainability plan. The institute’s research team completed important work exploring the impacts of historic racially restrictive covenants in property deeds, indicators of food insecurity and eviction distribution in Greenville County. The Sustainability Leadership Initiative, a partnership with Sustain SC, graduated its first class of 23 participants, statewide professionals who now possess the knowledge and network to advance sustainability in their fields.