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About the Center

The Jill Ker Conway Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center is designed to prepare Smith students to become different kinds of entrepreneurs, leaders and innovators who engage with the world beyond the campus.

Our Story

In February 2015, Smith College embarked on a comprehensive strategic planning process and solicited ideas designed to shape the future of the college. Many of the proposals revealed the paramount importance of emphasizing co-curricular experiences, a core value of a Smith education. President McCartney, supported by the Smith College Board of Trustees, made the decision to invest in programs that connect students’ academic experiences with creative and practical opportunities. The Jill Ker Conway Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center, named in honor of Smith’s eighth overall and first woman president, was envisioned and identified as a new initiative priority.

Thanks to the generosity of Smith alumnae, the Conway Center launched in fall 2016 and significantly expanded and built upon the successful programming and initiatives of the Center for Women and Financial Independence (2001–16). At the Center, we recognize that Smith’s liberal arts curriculum provides students with an intellectual foundation for critical thinking, communication and creativity. When integrated with the complementary innovative and entrepreneurial experiences we offer, students become better problem solvers able to develop compelling value propositions. We teach academic courses, offer co-curricular programming and engage in financial education and entrepreneurship research.

About Jill Ker Conway

Jill Ker Conway (1934–2018) began her tenure as Smith’s first woman president in 1975. She championed groundbreaking projects, programs and academic departments, including the the Ada Comstock Scholars Program and programs in women’s studies, comparative literature and engineering. In 2013, Conway received the National Humanities Medal for her work as a scholar, author, college administrator, and member of numerous corporate and nonprofit boards. In naming Smith’s innovation center after Jill Ker Conway, we honor the legacy of a true pioneer and affirm our shared commitment to women’s success and leadership.

Learn more about her life and legacy.

Our Team

Andrea St. Louis


Andrea is an executive coach, writer, business consultant, educator, and speaker. With over a decade of writing and eight years of career and workforce development experience, Andrea specializes in coaching busy professionals and entrepreneurs to grow their impact through powerful storytelling and intentional engagement in life-giving community. She has been a TEDx speech coach and is currently an adjunct professor at Bay Path University. Andrea holds an MBA in Entrepreneurial Thinking & Innovative Practices from Bay Path University, a master's in Urban Ministry Leadership from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and a bachelor of science in management from Saint Joseph College (now the University of Saint Joseph).


René Heavlow AC’08

Director of Operations and Special Programs

René has been developing national collegiate programs for over two decades. Formerly the director of the Center for Women and Financial Independence, she is responsible for program design and management, as well as strategic and fiscal planning of the center’s financial education and entrepreneurship activities. She has served as a mentor to and resource liaison for aspiring undergraduate entrepreneurs at Smith College. She has also developed and led interactive financial education workshops for middle and high school students. She currently serves as a research associate for projects focused on women’s financial knowledge and behavior. René received her master’s in sociology from the University of Arizona and bachelor’s degree in African American studies and ethics from Smith College.


Jennifer Kennedy

Administrative Assistant

Jennifer joined Smith College in August 2018. She is the administrative assistant at the Conway Center and the Design Thinking Initiative. Jennifer is the primary contact for external offices and students, and has been a member of the Administrative Assistant Leadership Team (AALT) since November 2019. Jennifer has a master’s in education in athletic administration from Springfield College and a bachelor’s degree in Communication and English from Cedar Crest College.

Photo of Jennifer Kennedy


Carla Candido da Silva AC’24
Away Fall 2023

Helen Glover ’24
Helen is a computer science and environmental science double major. She has career interests in creative human-centered technology including UX Design and web development. At the Conway Center, she works on the web team in sharing entrepreneurial opportunities with the community.

Juliana Hobert '26J
Major: government; Minor: economics

Daphne Hwang Spencer '25
Major: anthropology

Sydney Jacobs ’24
Sydney is majoring in psychology and quantitative economics with a concentration in global financial institutions. She is passionate about sustainable finance and is a member of the Investing Club ESG sector, the president of the Outing Club, and works at the Smith Boathouse. Sydney is beyond thrilled to join the Conway Center intern team to assist with logistics and day-to-day operations.

Ange Joseph '26
Majors: economics and government

Handi Lu ’25
Away Fall 2023

Julieta Michelin Salomon '25
Major: quantitative economics Concentration: collaborative innovation

Parunjodhi Munisamy ’24
Parunjodhi lives in Cutter House and double majors in quantitative economics and statistical and data sciences. Her enthusiasm for innovation and entrepreneurship makes her a perfect fit for the Draper Competition team. New to the Conway Center, she is excited to learn and share knowledge with her peers.

Venus Nguyen '25
Major: computer science; Minor: studio art

Dimitra Prassa '25
Majors: environmental science and policy and economics

Nicole Sanchez Flores '26
Major: undeclared

Nadira Talayee '26
Major: statistical and data sciences

Mary Tran ’25
Mary is a junior studying quantitative economics. She’s the newest member of the Conway Center team who will help students and faculty explore the Bloomberg terminal and learn how to navigate this powerful financial tool.

Danyi Xu '26z
Majors: sociology and economics

Jennifer Zhang '25
Major: economics


Mahnaz Mahdavi

Faculty Director, Global Finance Concentration

Mahnaz Mahdavi is chair of and a professor in the economics department and the faculty director of the Global Financial Institutions Concentration. She received her doctorate in economics from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and has been teaching courses on topics related to finance and international finance. She was the 2008 Distinguished Professor of the Year and one of the inaugural recipients of the Sherrerd Teaching Award in 2004. She was a teaching fellow at the University of Michigan and a faculty contributor to the Women’s Executive Education program at Smith College. Mahdavi was the founding director of Smith’s Center for Women and Financial Independence in 2001 and served as the Ann F. Kaplan ’67 faculty director of WFI until 2017.

Mahnaz Mahdavi

Susannah Howe

Faculty Mentor Coordinator

Susannah Howe coordinates and teaches the capstone engineering design course. Since joining the Smith faculty in 2003, she has coached numerous student design teams across a wide range of engineering disciplines and collaborated with multiple sponsoring organizations from both industry and government. Her favorite part of the job is working with students during their senior year and being part of their transition into life after Smith. She stays in contact with many engineering alumnae and hosts many of them back on campus as guest speakers in the capstone course. Her Smith service both past and present includes the Administrative Board, the Jandon Center for Community Collaboration, the Lewis Global Studies Center, the Sherrerd Center for Teaching and Learning, the Committee on Educational Technology, the College Council on Community Policy, the Committee for Faculty Compensation and Development, the Design Thinking Initiative, the Conway Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center, and the Program for the Study of Women and Gender.


Daniel Schultheis

Personal Finance Instructor

Daniel Schultheis has been an educator at various institutions and businesses for more than 15 years and a student of personal finance for even longer. He served as a faculty member at Smith College from 2016-2022 in the Department of Mathematical Sciences before transitioning to an education technology startup. Daniel credits his interest in personal finance to a family that talked about the good and the bad of money even from an early age. He believes that the psychology of personal finance is just as important as the numbers, and that honest conversations about money and a willingness to ask questions can make a world of difference for young adults starting out on their own. Daniel has worked with the Conway Center at Smith College since 2022 to facilitate these conversations and share what he has learned.


Conway Center Recognition


Outstanding Emerging Center— Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers

Top Ten

#2 School for Female Founders who want to change the world— College Magazine

Top 50

#26 College Financial Literacy Program— LendEDU


Top Speciality Program for Excellence in Entrepreneurship Education— United States Association for Small Business & Entrepreneurship