Public 4-Year Schools

Rutgers Team Wins $1 Million Hult Prize, the Nobel Prize for Students

The winners posing with former President Bill Clinton and the Hult Prize Photo credit: Hult Prize

Fueled by a passion to make a difference in the lives of refugees in South Asia, the team embarked on a marathon quest to build a transportation business from scratch.

A team representing Rutgers Business School won the $1 million Hult Prize for social entrepreneurship on Sept. 16, capping off 11 months of entrepreneurial effort with a polished, convincing pitch about the ability of its rickshaw transportation business to improve the lives of refugees overseas.

Student Gia Farooqi, new graduates Hasan Usmani and Moneeb Mian, and alumna Hanaa Lakhani created the Roshni Rides startup as a way of answering the 2017 Hult Prize Challenge of developing a business capable of restoring the dignity of one million refugees by 2022. The company uses a pre-loaded transaction card, encourages ride-sharing and employs existing rickshaw drivers.

Their ability to persuasively pitch the idea to the Hult judges enabled them to beat out finalist teams from five other schools: Harvard University’s Kennedy School, the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México, the University of Waterloo, the University of Calgary and York University.

Former President Bill Clinton, who announced the winning team, said that along with optimizing rickshaws to provide reliable transportation for refugees, Roshni Rides modeled their card transaction system after the New York City subway’s MetroCard. The team’s business idea, he said, advocates ride-sharing, keeping prices down – and fixed. “It will have a big impact,” he said.

The team plans to use the prize money to continue building Roshni Rides and to explore the possibility of using rickshaws powered by electricity rather than natural gas. Listen to the team’s winning pitch at the Hult Prize Final.

When Clinton announced Roshni Rides as the winner from a stage on a roof-top patio, it set off a roar of cheers. Hear it here.

Lei Lei, dean of Rutgers Business School, described the team’s win as “a great accomplishment and a reflection of the values that continue to elevate the Rutgers Business School brand.”

To read more stories about Rutgers, scroll down:

Partnership with PhD Project Fuels Faculty Diversity at Rutgers Business School
South Tower Dedication Links Jayceryll Malabuyoc de Chavez to the School that Provided Him with the Opportunity to Achieve His Dream
Christie, Booker and Baraka Unite Behind Newark’s Bid for Amazon HQ2

“We are thrilled by their performance, and we will continue to cheer them on as they build Roshni Rides into a global venture,” she said.

From the start, the theme of the Hult Prize Challenge inspired and motivated the team, all of whom are Americans of Pakistani ancestry. “We are the sons and daughters of immigrants and refugees,” Farooqi said after the team won the regional competition in March. “This is very personal for us.”

The team made history with its win at the Hult regionals, becoming the first team from Rutgers to become a finalist in the competition – widely regarded as the Nobel Prize for students. The five finalists beat out 50,000 participants from more than 100 countries.

Alok Baveja, a supply chain professor who advised the team, said “the Hult Prize honor is an unequivocal recognition of this team’s undying conviction that great ideas have an elegance in their simplicity, achieve scalable societal good and make good business sense, all at once.”

“True to their name, these young Rutgers entrepreneurs are bringing the light (Roshni) of new hope and optimism to millions of displaced refugees globally through an accessible, affordable and reliable rickshaw transportation system,” Baveja said.

None of the students were following a direct path into social entrepreneurism. Farooqi is currently finishing her senior year of classes at Rutgers Business School-New Brunswick. Lakhani, Mian and Usmani graduated from Rutgers Business School-New Brunswick. Lakhani and Usmani studied supply chain management as students. And Farooqi combined her studies in supply chain with political science and gender studies. Mian double majored in supply chain and business analytics and information technology.

The team’s win at the regionals also set off an intense and challenging quest that included a crowd-funding campaign to raise $30,000, a six-week pilot of their transportation business in Pakistan and an eight-week immersion at a Hult-run startup accelerator. It was a marathon, requiring a disciplined juggling of classes and commitments – two team members were on the verge of graduating with full-time jobs waiting for them – and one was already working full-time in New York City. “We were moving at 1,000 miles an hour,” Usmani said.

“We were building a company from scratch,” Farooqi said. “It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and we all learned our potential is limitless.”

Beverly Aisenbrey, a 1982 Rutgers MBA graduate who sits on the dean’s board of advisers, said she was immediately excited by the team’s drive and ambition. During the crowdfunding campaign, she supported Roshni Rides. “This amazing team epitomizes the characteristics of so many of our students,” she said. “They are truly resilient, resourceful and reliable. The entire board of advisers is proud of them and this incredible accomplishment.”

By late spring, the four, who became friends at Rutgers, had transformed from a team of student case competition champions to a group of entrepreneurs who felt a sense of responsibility for building a business fueled by the investments of family, college professors and a community of proud Muslim friends and relatives.

“At different stages we faced different situations,” Mian said. “The solution was always the same, trust the team.”

One of the more vexing situations came during the accelerator program when the team was faced with the decision to drop the solar component from its business plan. “Solar was innovative. It would be disruptive, but we would have to spend a lot of capital to make it work,” Mian said, “and that capital could be better utilized if the mission is to help refugees.”

After a lot of deliberation, the team pivoted. The decision served as a lesson in being entrepreneurial. “It’s not about how many mistakes you make. It’s about not being afraid of the advice,” Farooqi said. “You have to learn and keep going.”

Days before the final competition, the team talked about how the Hult competition had given them a taste for entrepreneurship. Lakhani said her ability to make such an impact on people wasn’t the same in a corporate job. Farooqi agreed. “What the Hult Prize does is put a lot of power in the hands of people who want to do good work,” she said.

Martin Markowitz, senior associate dean of the undergraduate program at Rutgers Business School-New Brunswick, described the team as “bright, inspired and caring.”

“They competed successfully on the global stage, and we are extremely proud of them,” he said.

When Hult Prize CEO Ahmad Ashkar introduced Roshni Rides at the final competition, he remarked on the team’s commitment and resilience. “I knew they were a team that could go the distance,” he said.

Daria Torres, a managing partner at Walls Torres Group and adviser to the team, was similarly struck by the group. “The Roshni Rides team has personified excellence and grace throughout the entirety of the Hult Prize competition,” she said. “I have personally witnessed their resolve, resilience and resourcefulness at every stage of the process.”

“The entire Rutgers community,” she said, “should be inspired by their amazing journey.”

Professor Jeffrey Robinson with dt Ogilvie, who was one of the PhD Project’s earliest mentors and helped to recruit Robinson and others to RBS.

Partnership with PhD Project Fuels Faculty Diversity at Rutgers Business School

Professor Jeffrey Robinson worked as a project engineer for Merck before he decided to change the course of his career and become a business school professor.

“I always felt there was something more I was capable of doing – intellectually and professionally,” Robinson said. “I wanted to have more influence on things going on around me. I wanted to have more impact.”

In 1997, after his father pointed out an advertisement for an organization called the PhD Project, Robinson arranged to attend the organization’s next annual conference. He decided he had found the “something more” he wanted: And he soon left Merck to pursue a doctoral degree.

Now, he teaches undergraduates and MBA students about entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship at Rutgers Business School. In addition to producing research, he serves as academic co-founder of Rutgers Business School’s Center for Urban Entrepreneurship and Economic Development. The center is a major force in training and supporting business owners in the Newark area.

“This is exactly where I wanted to be,” Robinson said recently.

While the PhD Project has helped to attract professionals of color into doctoral programs and into academia, Rutgers Business School’s long-standing partnership with the organization has helped to form a faculty that is considered one of the most diverse in the nation, outside of the historically black universities.

According to the PhD Project, Rutgers Business School has eight professors who are African-American, Hispanic-American or Native American and are part of the organization’s network. In a recent survey, the organization also counted two professors at the School of Management and Labor Relations (New Brunswick) and two professors at the School of Public Affairs and Administration (Newark) as part of the diversity at Rutgers.

“The PhD Project has delivered many outstanding professors and impressive PhD students to RBS,” said Rutgers Business School Dean Lei Lei. “The partnership is a major part of our continued effort to ensure that our world-reknowned faculty offers different experiences and perspectives to industry through its research and to students through its instruction.”

Recruiting and mentoring efforts by department chairs add to Rutgers Business School’s diverse faculty so do hiring incentives. In addition to full professors, there are female professors and a half a dozen African-American or Hispanic-American instructors, or professors of professional practice, who add to that diversity.

But by all accounts, its work with the PhD Project is a major reason for the racial and ethnic diversity of Rutgers Business School’s faculty.

Bernie Milano, who was responsible for recruiting at KPMG more than 20 years ago, said the PhD Project was started out of a frustration of not being able to find students of color in business schools. The lack of diversity among business school students was attributed to the lack of diversity among faculties.

The PhD Project changed that by offering African-American, Latino and Native American professionals a path into academia by earning a doctoral degree and going on to teach business. The program recruits them, provides a support system and a professional network.

After 23 years, the PhD Project is large, influential and making a difference at schools like Rutgers and DePaul University’s Kellstadt Graduate School of Business in Chicago. It now counts deans and other business school administrators as part of its network.

Jerome Williams, a marketing professor who now serves as Rutgers University-Newark provost and executive vice chancellor, remembers a time when he was often the only African-American student and then the lone professor of color. It wasn’t just an issue of race and ethnicity, he said. If there were women on the faculty in his early days as a professor, it was usually just one.

Early efforts to encourage diversity produced few results. Then KPMG introduced a different approach with the PhD Project. “From the very beginning,” Williams said, “it was one of those instant successes.”

The PhD Project took a systematic approach to finding talented professionals and de-mystifying the Ph.D. by providing solid information about expectations, training sessions and a support system of mentors.

One of the earliest mentors working on behalf of the PhD Project was dt ogilvie, a former Rutgers Business School professor who now teaches at Saunders College of Business in Rochester, N.Y.

“I did not have anyone to go to. There was no one to say, this is how to navigate,” ogilvie said. “We were out there by ourselves.”

She met many prospective doctoral students, like Robinson, during years of PhD Project annual meetings. Those meetings are designed to introduce prospects to schools, explain the requirements of doctoral programs and connect them to people like ogilvie. The support system is strong and the candidates who enter the PhD Program have a 90 percent completion rate.

Professor ogilvie was also a critical part of creating Rutgers Business School’s diversity because she was effective at identifying and recruiting from the PhD Project network. Those who followed her to Rutgers – or came to Rutgers because she was on the faculty – include Williams, Robinson, Brett Gilbert and Geri Henderson, who has since gone to Loyola University’s Quinlan School of Business. Williams was offered an endowed professorship, the Prudential Chair in Business, by Rutgers.

As Williams put it: “Talent attracts talent.”

At Rutgers Business School, ogilvie said the PhD Project had the support of deans and department chairs, including Nancy DiTomaso. “We had people who cared and thought it was important and made it happen,” she said.

When she was working on her Ph.D., ogilvie said only a handful of people of color had doctoral degrees and less than one percent were in business schools. Professors who came from China and India usually accounted for faculty diversity, she said.

The effort to create diversity at Rutgers has created an atmosphere that attracts more diversity, according to Williams. A diverse faculty attracts a diverse student body and a diverse student body helps create diverse businesses – “the wheel of diversity,” as he described it.

Like Robinson, Helen Brown-Liburd had done well professionally before deciding to make a switch to teaching college business. Her career included 8 years in public accounting and a 9-year stint at Bristol-Myers Squibb in internal auditing. “I was at that point where I was considering doing something different,” she said, “but I had no idea what that something else would be.”

As a member of the National Association of Black Accountants, Brown-Liburd regularly received information from the PhD Project. When she finally decided to go to the annual conference, there was no turning back. “They do such a great job of answering questions and providing information,” she said. “You have enough information to make a decision.”

The idea of the PhD Project was that if a school could diversify its faculty – those teaching at the front of the classroom – then it would attract diversity within its student body.

Brown-Liburd, who is an accounting professor at Rutgers Business School, has influenced the accounting field through her research, but she is also someone many students seek out as a role model and adviser.

Stephanie Mason, an accounting professor at DePaul, sought the advice of Robinson before she came to Rutgers. When she started in the Ph.D. program at Rutgers, Brown-Liburd became her mentor.

Mason had spent 12 years at J.P. Morgan Chase before she decided to pursue a doctoral and teach. She said Brown-Liburd helped her to learn humility, helped her to prioritize. The two women became – and remain – research partners. “She’s like a big sister who I’ve looked to for advice along the whole journey,” Mason said.

Mason said schools like Rutgers and DePaul embody the goals that drive the PhD Project’s work. “They encourage people to flourish academically, and they can because they can just be who they are.”

That’s been the experience for Aziza Jones, a current Ph.D. student at Rutgers. When she was an undergraduate attending business school for marketing in Wisconsin, Jones said she was often the only black student in her classes. There were not many professors of color either, she said.

She learned about the PhD Project from a former professor about two years after college graduation when she was looking to move on from a marketing job with a small company.”I was really fortunate,” she said. “Some people don’t find out about it.”

Jones said the diversity that is part of Rutgers makes her feel part of a “protected environment” where she can focus and be more confident. “I don’t have to worry about how I’m presenting myself as a black person only how I’m presenting myself as a scholar,” she said. “It took a weight off my shoulders and I can focus on being an academic.” The Ph.D. program at Rutgers Business School is also considered one of the most diverse in the nation.

All students benefit when a faculty is diverse, ogilvie said. One of her students, who was originally from Australia, told her she changed his perception of African-American women. “We do have an impact beyond just minority students,” she said.

For many professors like Robinson and Brown, the PhD Project represents more than just a path to a new career. It gave them a chance to make a difference and bring a different perspective to industry research and the classroom.

Brown grew up amid the diversity of New York City. She graduated from Baruch College where she had just one professor of color. “There was not one professor who had an impact on my career,” she said. “I don’t think that should be the college experience. I want to be that to my students.”

Robinson echoes that desire. “There are few places in the experience of people growing up where we can make some impact on young people,” he said. “The university classroom is one of them.”

“What we talk about, the speakers I bring in, and the cases I use are going to be different based on my experience,” he said. “The diversity helps everybody in the classroom.”

Rutgers Business School Dean Lei Lei and Executive Vice Dean Yaw Mensah with Bibiano and Asuncion de Chavez (at right), parents of Jayceryll de Chavez. Also shown are de Chavez’s sisters Aizza and Aimee and their families.

South Tower Dedication Links Jayceryll Malabuyoc de Chavez to the School that Provided Him with the Opportunity to Achieve His Dream

South Tower dedication links Jayceryll Malabuyoc de Chavez to the school that provided him with the opportunity to achieve his dream

Rutgers Business School dedicated the South Tower of its building on the Livingston Campus to Jayceryll Malabuyoc de Chavez, an alumnus who perished during the 9-11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.

More than 100 guests assembled in the tower’s foyer on Oct. 20 in front of a new plaque inscribed with details of de Chavez’s life, a photo taken at his graduation and a portion of steel beam from the ruins of the World Trade Center.

Through the foyer’s front wall of glass and steel beams, guests could see a sky as blue and cloudless as it was on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, and some remarked quietly about the similarity.

As a Livingston College student, De Chavez studied finance and economics. He was working as a portfolio analyst at Franklin Templeton’s offices on the 95th floor of the South Tower when 9-11 happened.

John Murillo, a friend, recalled meeting de Chavez in the city about two weeks before the World Trade Center attack. There were about a dozen friends hanging out after work in a bar in the Village. “He always wanted to work in finance and he always wanted to work at the World Trade Center. He lived to achieve his dream,” Murillo said.

Rutgers Business School Dean Lei Lei said members of the de Chavez family were visiting the Livingston Campus last year when they learned that part of the four-year-old building was known as the South Tower. “It was the perfect place for them to link Jacy’s memory to the school he loved,” Lei said.

De Chavez was a distinguished scholar who started two fraternities, Delta Chi and Alpha Kappa Psi, while he was at Rutgers. An immigrant from the Philippines, friends said he appreciated everything and was driven to succeed – to leave his mark.

During the dedication ceremony, Lei said de Chavez embodied the Rutgers Business School brand – resilient, resourceful and responsible. “Jacy had unique strengths in all three,” she said.

“He became a high quality business professional,” Lei said. “He is an inspiration to all of us at Rutgers Business School.”

His friend and fraternity brother, Michael Olszak, spoke about De Chavez’s accomplishments, his quiet influence on younger fraternity brothers and friends, his leadership. “People talk about his ambition, but his most over-arching trait was not ambition but commitment,” Olszak said. “It wasn’t enough for him to start a fraternity. He wanted it to thrive.”

De Chavez graduated from Livingston College in 1999, years before the new Rutgers Business School building was created as a striking entrance to the campus. The foyer, where the memorial was installed, has high ceilings and is bright with natural light. It is a busy entrance way and a space where students often meet or study quietly.

A mural of the Jersey City skyline stretches across the inside wall as part of the installation and the plaque describing de Chavez also contains words from Sir Henry James that the alumnus chose as his inspiration and mantra.

Chad Olszyk, another of de Chavez’s friends and fraternity brothers, described it as “honorable tribute.”

Friends, relatives, Rutgers Business School faculty, administrators, students and other guests listened to remembrances of de Chavez during a luncheon after the ribbon-cutting in the foyer. At one table in the front of the room, de Chavez’s sisters, Maria Aizza Malabanan and Aimee Ramcharran sat with their husbands and children.

Bibiano and Asuncion de Chavez also spoke briefly during the luncheon. Their son was intent on giving back to Rutgers for the opportunities it provided to him, his father said, and his family has worked to ensure that it happened.

A conference room and four reading rooms at the campus library are named after de Chavez and his family recently created a $1 million endowed scholarship and endowed excellence fund in his memory. Alpha Kappa Psi also awards a scholarship in his name.

De Chavez, with his wife Asuncion standing beside him, described the dedication of the South Tower as “bittersweet.”

He paused for a moment and then added: “We are happy that Jacy’s memory will live on for generations to come.”

For one day Rutgers Business School was the center of a unified State of New Jersey. Governor Chris Christie, Senator Corey Booker and Mayor Ras Baraka stood shoulder to shoulder to support Newark’s bid to be the site of Amazon’s second world headquarters, known as “Amazon HQ2.”

Christie, Booker and Baraka Unite Behind Newark’s Bid for Amazon HQ2

For one day Rutgers Business School was the center of a unified State of New Jersey. Governor Chris Christie, Senator Corey Booker and Mayor Ras Baraka stood shoulder to shoulder to support Newark’s bid to be the site of Amazon’s second world headquarters, known as “Amazon HQ2.”

Amazon expects to invest over $5 billion in construction and grow a second headquarters, similar in size to their current campus in Seattle, that could include as many as 50,000 jobs.

The announcement was made in Rutgers Business School’s new state-of-the-art corporate presentation room overlooking the Newark Broad Street train station that offers frequent direct 18-minute train connections to Manhattan.

The state’s highest representatives were visibly excited and confident in Newark’s chance to win Amazon over. “Senator Booker and I don’t play for participation trophies,” said Christie, who spoke wistfully about driving around Newark with then Mayor Booker eight years ago dreaming of what the future could hold for New Jersey’s largest city.

Booker acknowledged the hardship of Newark’s past but also pointed out that the city had been a leader in innovation and technology from leather and iron to insurance and jazz. And now a business renaissance was bringing it back. “Businesses are choosing Newark,” he said. “Amazon would make the right business choice by coming here. And they would be showing the world that this is how you bring a city back the right way.”

Panasonic moved its North American headquarters to Newark in 2013. Prudential opened a stunning $444 million skyscraper in 2015 solidifying its home in downtown Newark. The online audio book publisher Audible, which was acquired by Amazon in 2008, came to Newark in 2006 taking the top floors of 1 Washington Park, a building shared with Rutgers Business School. And Whole Foods, also now owned by Amazon, opened to large crowds in early 2017 across from the recently redevoloped Military Park in downtown Newark.

“They [Amazon] would be showing the world that this is how you bring a city back the right way.” – Senator Corey Booker

One of the reasons Christie said Newark made sense for Amazon was that they would be able to access diverse talent at colleges like Rutgers University–Newark, Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences and New Jersey Institute of Technology. “Higher education is the foundation of this bid,” he said.

Rutgers University–Newark has been a pioneer in providing opportunities for underserved populations in the greater Newark area and New Jersey to attend college. A financial aid initiative started by Chancellor Nancy Cantor gives all Newark residents who gain admission and whose household adjusted gross income is $60,000 or less, scholarships covering 100% of undergraduate tuition and fees.

Admitted students earning an associate’s degree from any New Jersey county college, and whose household income is also $60,000 or less, will also be offered scholarships covering 100% of undergraduate tuition and fees to attend Rutgers University–Newark.

Rutgers Business School’s rising reputation could also help draw Amazon to Newark. Rutgers Full-Time MBA program, based in Newark, has been climbing in the rankings, going from the No. 1 MBA program in New Jersey in 2015 (U.S. News & World Report), to the No. 1 MBA in the Tri-State area in 2016 (U.S. News & World Report) to the No. 1 MBA in the Northeast United States in 2017 (Financial Times).

“The rankings have been going up because we are focused on helping graduates find jobs that have improved their career prospects,” said Lei Lei, Dean of Rutgers Business School. Bloomberg Businessweek ranked Rutgers MBA No. 1 in job placement in the U.S. in 2016; and Financial Times reported in 2017 that Rutgers MBA graduates had the largest salary increase (130%) in the U.S. three years after graduation, No. 1 in the U.S. See story.

Moral Case

Booker believed that there was “a moral case for this city,” arguing that Amazon coming to Newark would send a powerful message that “you can do good and do well.”

The city has been building the technology infrastructure to attract companies like Amazon offering the world’s fastest internet at 10 gigabits-per-second data speeds, built on an a 26-mile underground dark fiber network.

Newark already boasts a unique location as a transportation hub with an international airport (including six nonstop flights to Seattle a day), extensive rail connections and the third largest seaport in the country, that would position Amazon at the heart of a vast supply chain network amidst 20 million people in the Tri-State area.

Ultimately Newark will be facing off against metropolises like Chicago, Atlanta, Denver and New York City and has not been on tech pundits’ radar to win the bid. But Newark promises to score well in Amazon’s metric-driven approach to choosing a second home, including miles of affordable developable land and the will of state and local politicians from both political parties, making it a pesky underdog contender.

“I am a big believer in envisioning good things happening,” said Baraka. “Amazon will be in Newark.” The decision by Amazon is expected in 2018.