Skip Navigation

About the Center

Two hands framing a rising sun

The Jill Ker Conway Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center builds on the programming of Smith’s Women and Financial Independence program, a successful initiative that was launched in 2001. The Conway Center is an intellectual hub where students receive the tools to think expansively and develop innovative solutions to pressing problems.  The center hosts and facilitates a slate of programs and activities focused on creative thinking, problem solving, interdisciplinary teamwork and development of business and entrepreneurial skills.

Our core pillars are:


Support students, faculty and alumnae to generate, share, test and refine new ideas that create value.

Entrepreneurial Spirit

Provide instruction, mentorship and resources to help Smith entrepreneurs convert their passions into viable enterprises.

Financial Education

Empower Smith students to make sound financial decisions for themselves and their ventures .

Through all aspects of our programming, the center fosters cross-disciplinary thinking, risk taking, financial acumen and business planning capabilities. We enable students to work collaboratively on entrepreneurial ventures that address real-world challenges.


The CEIC is designed to support and educate the next generation of innovators. It is driven by our students’ demand: they want to be constructive in the world. Our mission is to give them the tools and confidence to do so.


Mahnaz Mahdavi, Faculty Director
Mahnaz Mahdavi was the founding director and the Ann F. Kaplan ’67 Faculty Director of the Center for Women and Financial Independence (WFI) and director of the Global Financial Institutions Concentration. Currently, she is the faculty director of the Conway Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center. Mahdavi’s research focuses on topics in international macroeconomics, financial markets, and more recently, the economics of women’s personal finance education. She was awarded Smith’s Distinguished Professor of the Year in 2008 and the Sherred Prize for Distinguished Teaching in 2004.

Monica Dean, Administrative Director
Monica Dean has more than 26 years of professional experience in the public, private and nonprofit sectors. She has been an adjunct lecturer in the Baruch College Department of Management, where she co-taught and co-created three courses: Women and Entrepreneurship, Gender Differences Among Entrepreneurial Leaders and Business Meets 3D Digital Design & Fabrication. Dean holds a master's from the University of California at Berkeley and a bachelor's in civil engineering from Howard University. She has a number of publications and workshops to her credit, served as a panelist at several major business conferences, and has spoken on urban business and entrepreneurial issues before various academic, government and business groups worldwide.

René Heavlow, Program Director
René Heavlow has been active in the field of collegiate program development for more than 15 years. Formerly the director of the Center for Women and Financial Independence, she was 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 more than 50 aspiring undergraduate entrepreneurs at Smith College and developed and led interactive financial education workshops for middle and high school students. Heavlow currently serves as a research associate for projects focused on women’s entrepreneurship and financial knowledge.

Judith Fountain, Administrative Assistant
Judy Fountain has worked at Smith College for more than 25 years, joining the center in July 2013. She serves as the primary contact for external offices and students. She has an associate’s degree in executive secretarial science from Holyoke Community College and in her other life is a watercolor and oil landscape painter. Fountain has been married for more than 40 years and is the parent of two adult daughters.

Course Instructors

  • Randall Bartlett, Professor, Economics; Financing Life and Backpack to Briefcase
  • Keith R. Fox, Lecturer; Financial Accounting
  • Susannah Howe, Design Clinic Director; Economics of Innovation
  • Roger Kaufman, Professor, Economics; Principles of Investing
  • Mahnaz Mahdavi, Professor, Economics; Introduction to Global Financial Markets and Economics of Innovation
  • Roisin O’Sullivan, Associate Professor, Economics; Introduction to Global Financial Markets
  • Rick Plaut, Entrepreneur-in-Residence; Entrepreneurship I and II

Student Interns

  • Latifa Al-Mohdar '18
  • Zoya Alam '19 - Collateral Marketing Team
  • Kaitlyn Coyne '19 - Presentation Coordinator 
  • Natalie James '18 - Financial Education Team
  • Elizabeth Kneebone '18J - Digital Marketing Team
  • Oumayma Koulouh '19 - Entrepreneurship Research Team
  • Brianna Moore '18 - Financial Education Team & Webmaster Trainee 
  • Andrea Olivera '19J - Collateral Marketing Team
  • Julia Franchi Scarselli '18 - Digital Marketing
  • Lizzie Sturtevant '18 - Newsletter 
  • Josephine Surer '19 - Collateral Marketing

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required
Email Format