Ursinus Innovates! Bears Take First Place in 5th Annual America250PA Competition
The typically quiet ambience of a mid-legislative session Friday quickly electrified as students from across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania funneled into the Capitol Media Room on November 17. The reason for all the commotion? Five teams of student entrepreneurs, graphic design specialists, and marketing visionaries had gathered to pitch their winning strategies to a panel of judges as part of America250PA’s Direct Effect Innovation Challenge.
America250PA is the first official state partner of the national America 250 effort, a campaign to support the planning, design, and execution of celebrations commemorating the 250th anniversary of the founding of the United States. America250PA’s goal is to engage all citizens of the commonwealth’s 67 counties to highlight Pennsylvania’s integral role in our nation’s history and the continued impact of its citizens on our collective past, present, and future. To amplify that work, America250PA invited teams from across Pennsylvania’s postsecondary institutions to compete in a three-round marketing challenge: the Direct Effect Innovation Challenge (DEIC).
With the guiding theme of “Diverse Stories. Unique Communities. ONE Pennsylvania,” each of the five teams were tasked with designing integrated marketing campaigns with the purpose of demonstrating the unity of the commonwealth and the diversity of its communities. After months brainstorming, designing, and finetuning culminating in a seven-minute pitch to a panel of six judges, our Bears were ready to take home first place.
While other pitches focused on mostly on localized events and app-based engagement, the Ursinus students took a different approach: creating a statewide storytelling campaign and festival highlighting the contributions of our small businesses to the story of the United States. Based on the principal that the commonwealth’s small businesses are a testimony to the value of a diverse citizenry, the Ursinus students’ pitch emphasized the roles that these businesses played in driving our economies forward while serving as the anchors for hundreds of communities. Meant to maximize collaboration between state agencies, commissions, and corporate partners, the campaign would utilize traditional print and digital media strategies to collect the lived experiences of PA’s small business leaders, showcasing them as they built up to a semi-quincentennial festival in Harrisburg where these entrepreneurs could bring their products and celebrate their part of writing the story of the America.
When asked what it meant to be part of this group, Mo Abdellaty ’27 said,
“Representing Ursinus College here at the state capital gives me a sense of purpose, allowing me to represent a different side of myself beyond my identity as an athlete. Going somewhere off campus to show off that work, somewhere as big as the state capitol, is truly fulfilling. I couldn’t have done that without being part of the Ursinus team.”
After a painstaking deliberation by judges and a nail-biting drum roll, the Ursinus Bears secured first place over last year’s victors, the Pennsylvania College of Art & Design.
Monica Herman ’27 reflected on her “why” for joining this initiative: “I chose to be a part of this competition because I found it rewarding to compete against innovators from across the state, trying to figure out strategies or marketing plans to produce something for the public good,” she said. “Using my ideas and collaborating with my fellow Bears, learning what works and doesn’t work from more experienced members, helps to really expand the reach or impact of our project.”
Maureen Cumpstone, director of entrepreneurship at the U-Imagine Center for Integrative and Entrepreneurial Studies—and the team’s mentor—said, “The team’s winning strategy was just a testimony to incredible education and insights that our students are exposed to at Ursinus College. Our students, through interacting with their peers or UC’s staff and faculty, were able to create a real-world solution to the difficult challenge of engaging Pennsylvanians from every corner of the commonwealth. That’s the Ursinus edge.”
When asked what was next, the team exclaimed, “We’re coming back to win it again next year!”