Phillip Denny

  • AREAS OF FOCUS: community building, networks & partnerships, civic engagement, grant/proposal development, team building, strategy
  • ADVISING HOURS: Sign up online or available upon request.
  • CONTACT: | (510) 666-9120 | 120A Blum Hall
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.


  • AREAS OF FOCUS: policy analysis, Africa, political economy, impact evaluation, social policy, food security, governance
  • ADVISING HOURS: Sign up online or available upon request.
  • CONTACT: | 510-664-7424 | 120B Blum Hall
Adrienne 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: network and community building, innovation, scale-up, sustainability, technology for development, mHealth
  • ADVISING HOURS: Available upon request.
  • CONTACT: | 120 Blum Hall
Francis Gonzales is the Network Manager for the Big Ideas contest at the Blum Center and is primarily responsible for building the network of judges and mentors. He graduated with Honors from Brown University’s International Development Studies program where he focused on global health. Prior to working at the Blum Center, Francis worked at the intersection of global health, mobile technology, and social impact at the United Nations Foundation, Vital Wave Consulting, and Population Services International.


Sophi Martin

  • AREAS OF FOCUS: engineering, technology innovation, technology transfer, arts, scaling, social science, partnerships, impact evaluation
  • ADVISING HOURS:  Sign up online or available upon request.
  • CONTACT: | 220F Blum Hall
Sophi 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: social entrepreneurship, financing social enterprises, scaling
  • ADVISING HOURS: Available upon request.
  • CONTACT: | 200E Blum Hall
Dr. 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.


Innovation Ambassadors

Tiffany Jiang
UC Davis


 Tiffany is a junior studying Economics and Philosophy and minoring in Data Studies. This past year, Tiffany has interned with Accenture in the AI Strategic Growth Initiative working on the ethical and responsible implementation of AI, as well as various investment groups in the Silicon Valley. She’s interested in social entrepreneurship because of the potential it has to solve pressing problems and bring together perspectives from multiple disciplines.

Aleeha Kalam
UC Irvine


Aleeha is a sophomore Business Economics student at the University of California – Irvine. She enjoys learning about new technologies and innovative creations for alleviating poverty in the Middle East. Her experience includes internships with LPL Financial, K5 Ventures, The Portal, and PricewaterhouseCoopers Oman. On campus, Aleeha is involved with the Beall Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and the Blum Center for Poverty Alleviation. In her free time, Aleeha enjoys challenging her friends with board games and playing, dancing to Bollywood music, and playing with her cat. 

Arshia Yadav
UC Los Angeles




Jan Tanja
UC Merced


Jan is currently a junior majoring in Computer Science and Engineering and minoring in Applied Mathematics at UC Merced. Apart from directing HackMerced and interning at the Additive Rocket Corporation, he serves as a technical project manager at UC Merced’s MESA Lab. Jan’s interest in entrepreneurship stems from his inclination to addressing tough and challenging problems for the betterment of society. Entering his final year as an undergraduate, Jan aspires to continue his passion for data science and interest in semi-conductor physics through a Master’s Degree in Electrical Engineering after graduation. In his free time, Jan enjoys hiking, weightlifting, and traveling.

Arav Batra
UC Riverside


Arav is currently a junior majoring in Computer Science and Engineering at UC Riverside. He is the founder of the premier entrepreneurship organization on campus, Cross Campus Entrepreneurs, and has led many workshops on building a successful company. Apart from entrepreneurship, Arav has also led the sponsorship team for Citrus Hack, UC Riverside’s award winning hackathon, and serves as the Professional Development Chair for Theta Tau, a Co-Ed Professional Engineering Fraternity. Arav has interned at fin-tech company Ellie Mae and is also in the process of starting his own company. His passion for entrepreneurship stems from working on something he is truly passionate about and can devote his life to. Arav enjoys fashion, investing, tennis, and parkour.

Kirk Hutchison
UC San Diego



Kirk Hutchison is a senior studying History at UC San Diego with a focus on transnational history and border regions. He is the CEO of Worldcare Technologies, a student-led benefit corporation dedicated to developing and implementing a low cost HIV viral load testing system for use in the developing world. A Big Ideas alumnus, Kirk is excited to give back to the program and help other students who are working to make the world a better place. His hobbies include cooking, home brewing, and studying foreign languages. He also serves as Director of a robotics team at UCSD called Yonder Dynamics.


Aryana Kamelian
UC Santa Barbara


Aryana Kamelian is a sophomore from Lincoln, Nebraska studying pre-med biopsychology and political science. In addition to serving on UCSB’s global medical brigade, Aryana spent her first year developing a program called the Society of Undergraduate Psychologists that serves as a resource to all undergraduate students involved in or interested in psychology. Bridging her interests of biopsychology and political science together, she works in a social psychology lab that focuses on self & social identity. While she is fairly new to the social entrepreneurship environment, she is excited and driven by her own as well as others passion for facing the “big issues” with relentless strength and innovation. In her free time, Aryana enjoys TEDtalks, music, people watching, reading, running and Malcolm Gladwell’s exceedingly controversial quips!

Jacob Moe
UC Santa Cruz



Jacob is a Social Documentation MFA student at the University of California, Santa Cruz (class of ’19). He is managing director of the Syros International Film Festival and a documentarian with a focus on radio, film and other audiovisual media. He is interested in social entrepreneurship as a means of providing opportunities for investment and creative expression in precarious and underserved communities.