Phillip Denny

Phillip Denny serves as the Senior Program Director of the Blum Center for Developing Economies, a position he assumed shortly after the Center was established in March 2006. He manages the Big Ideas@Berkeley contest–one of the oldest and most respected student innovation competitions in California. In this capacity, he has encouraged and supported approximately 1,400 interdisciplinary teams to develop creative solutions to today’s most pressing social challenges. Under Phillip’s direction, the Big Ideas Contest has helped secure millions of dollars in seed funding for student start-ups, expanded the contest to 18 campuses, and recruited over 1,000 industry, government and non-profit experts to judge ideas and mentor participants. He has also been integral in developing key partnerships across academia, private sector organizations, and entrepreneurship networks to strengthen social innovation initiatives on campus. As recognition for his leadership of Big Ideas, he received UC Berkeley’s Chancellor’s Outstanding Staff Award in 2015. Prior to joining the Center, Denny held leadership roles in multiple successful grass-roots and political campaigns, specializing in research and communications strategies for both candidates and organizations.

  • ADVISING HOURS:Available upon request.
  • CONTACT: | (510) 666-9120 | 100D Blum Hall


Sophi MartinSophi Martin is the Innovation Director at the Blum Center, where she develops and executes scaling strategies for technologies coming out of the Blum Center ecosystem, working with faculty and students to grow their impact. She also supports social innovators across the campus and Blum Center network in the Big Ideas contest and Social Innovator OnRamp curriculum. She contributes to the strategy and implementation of Blum Center growth, DIL, and the Development Engineering Designated Emphasis. From 2010 to 2014, Sophi worked for the College of Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in corporate relations and research administration. Sophi holds a Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering and a B.S. in Engineering Physics, both from UC Berkeley, and brings her passion for engineering to her role in transitioning science from the lab bench to making real impact on the world around us.

  • AREAS OF FOCUS: engineering, technology innovation, corporate/foundation partnerships, technology transfer, arts, scaling, social science, impact evaluation, team building, proposal writing, strategy
  • ADVISING HOURS: Available upon request.
  • CONTACT: | 220F Blum Hall


Adrienne-smallAdrienne Chuck joined the Blum Center in 2014, and currently manages the 16 campus-wide Big Ideas contest. She received an MPP from UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy, where she focused on international development, program evaluation, and agricultural development. Prior to her current capacity at the Blum Center, Adrienne worked on food security, governance, and US-Africa foreign policy-focused programs and projects at Land O’Lakes International Development, Innovations for Poverty Action, the World Bank, and the Atlantic Council.

  • AREAS OF FOCUS: policy analysis, Africa, political economy, impact evaluation, social policy, food security, governance.
  • ADVISING HOURS: Monday to Friday 2pm-4pm or available upon request.
  • CONTACT: | 510-664-7424 | 100B Blum Hall


Max Aaronson is a graduate student researcher for the Big Ideas contest. Max assists in management of the contest, coordinates outreach on the UC Berkeley campus, facilitates the practitioners in residence series, and helps teams with structuring their proposals. He is currently pursuing a Master of Public Policy with particular focus on international development, foreign affairs and economic policy. Max has experience working in banking, microfinance, economic policy and education-technology.

  • AREAS OF FOCUS: policy analysis, economic policy, microfinance, financial inclusion, technology for development, business strategy
  • ADVISING HOURS: Advising hours here or available upon request.
  • CONTACT: | 100B Blum Hall


Juno Fitzpatrick is the Network Coordinator for the Big Ideas contest. Juno manages our network of 300+ judges and mentors, providing support for participating student teams in the US and Uganda. She advises interdisciplinary teams through the pre-proposal and full-proposal stages of the competition, providing one-on- one guidance to participating students. Juno is currently a candidate for the College of Natural Resources’ Masters in Development Practices with a concentration in climate change adaption, mitigation and human rights. Juno has 4 years of experience working in International Development, implementing projects on ground in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Small Island Developing States in the North Pacific.

  • AREAS OF FOCUS: Strategic project management, project design and fundraising, ethnographic research, social survey and impact assessment methodologies, hostile environments response, political ecology, resource governance, renewables, climate change, refugees, human rights.
  • ADVISING HOURS: Advising hours here or available upon request.
  • CONTACT: | 100B Blum Hall


walske-biopictureDr. Jennifer Walske is a visiting professor at the Blum Center and a social impact fellow at Berkeley-Haas, publishing with Dr. Laura Tyson. As a writer, researcher, and investor, Dr. Walske works closely with social enterprises, sitting on numerous for-profit and non-profit boards, including Fair Trade USA, Net Impact, Better VC, and the San Francisco Ballet. In 2016 Dr. Walske received an “outstanding research” award, and, in 2011, a “best paper” award from NYU Stern’s Social Entrepreneurship Conference. Dr. Walske has received the Cheit Award for Teaching Excellence at Berkeley-Haas, and the Faculty Academic Excellence Award at University of San Francisco’s School of Management. Dr. Walske holds a doctorate from Boston University, an MBA from Santa Clara University and a bachelor’s degree from UC Santa Barbara. Prior to her academic career, Dr. Walske was a highly ranked investment banking securities analyst and a product line marketing manager within CAD/CAM/CAE.

  • AREAS OF FOCUS: Social entrepreneurship, financing social enterprises, scaling. Invested in social startups in education, solar panel financing in Africa, artificial limbs for the developing world, local job creation and enablement.
  • ADVISING HOURS: Available upon request.
  • CONTACT: | 200E Blum Hall