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About the Center

Two hands framing a rising sun

The Jill Ker Conway Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center is designed to support and educate the next generation of innovators and financially-savvy leaders. It is driven by our students’ demand to be constructive in the world. Our mission is to give them the tools and confidence to do so.

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.

Launched in Fall 2016, the Conway Center is a 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, and interdisciplinary teamwork as well as the development of financial literacy and entrepreneurial skills.


Monica Dean, Director
Previously the administrative director of the Lawrence N. Field Programs and Center for Entrepreneurship at Baruch College, City University of New York, Monica continues to provide students with opportunities to hone their entrepreneurial skills. Her courses have specifically focused on developing an entrepreneurial mindset and teaching students about women and entrepreneurship. Prior to Baruch, Monica was a senior vice president at the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City, a national not-for-profit founded by Harvard Business School Professor Michael E. Porter, and an associate with Booz, Allen & Hamilton. She holds an MBA from the University of California at Berkeley and a BS in civil engineering from Howard University.

René C. Heavlow, Director of Operations and Special Programs
René has been active in the field of collegiate program development for almot twenty years. She directs the Draper Competition for Collegiate Women Entrepreneurs and serves as a resource liaison for aspiring undergraduate entrepreneurs at Smith College through the Harold Grinspoon Foundation's Entrepreneurship Initiative. Her research projects focus on women’s entrepreneurship and the financial knowledge, behavior and attitudes of educated women. René received her master in sociology, with a focus on economic socioloy, from the University of Arizona and is a graduate of Smith's Ada Comstock Scholars program (BA, Afro-American Studies/Ethnics cum laude with honors).

Jennifer Kennedy, Administrative Assistant
Jennifer joined Smith College in August 2018. She serves as the primary contact for external offices and students. She spent nearly a decade working in intercollegiate athletics on three Division III campuses and in a conference office. Jennifer has an MEd from Springfield College and a BA from Cedar Crest College - where she is a lifetime member of the Alumnae Association and the Class Agent to the Class of 2007.

Rick Plaut, Entrepreneur-in-Residence
Rick became an entrepreneur after an extensive corporate career in the specialty paper business with James River Corp, REXAM, FiberMark and others. There was a logic to it; though the term had not yet been coined, Rick was a corporate "intrapreneur" throughout his career beginning in sales, and then through sales management, product and market development, directing international sales and marketing, and corporate business development. In 2008, Rick discovered his great enthusiasm for entrepreneurship and learning, using, and teaching the techniques of the Lean Launchpad. He is currently cofounding his fourth enterprise, Launch413, a group of serial entrepreneurs and veteran executives dedicated to helping startups become profitable engines of prosperity in our region. His previous enterprises include incommn, Universal Quality Machine and EOI. Rick is an advisor to a variety of startups and businesses among which are CellZone, SteamPorio, Subclipr, Tripletote, Tursus, WoofTrax, and WorkSafe Technology. He is also a facilitator and mentor at Valley Venture Mentors, an angel investor with River Valley Investors and board member for Speaker Sisterhood and The Field Club of Longmeadow.


  • Jon Crispin, Photographer
  • Michele Wick, Faculty Mentor Coordinator

Course Instructors

Student Interns

  • Maha Awaisi '21, General Office Support
  • Imane Berrada '21, Communications
  • Danielle Davis '21, General Office Support
  • Talia Deady '21J, Draper Competition
  • Theo Dean-Slobod '21, Research
  • Lillian Emenogu '20, Campus Liaison
  • Ileanna Garcia '22, Web Administration
  • Joyce Huang '22, Research
  • Luca Jaccodine '20, Campus Liaison
  • Sara Kragness 'AC, Communications Team Lead
  • June Lee '20, Draper Competition
  • Vivian Ma '22, Communications
  • Vanessa Morales 'AC, Communications
  • Finn Murray '21, Communications
  • Whitney Mutalemwa '20, Web Administration
  • Camille Ollivierre '20, Blogger
  • Rose Soumare '21, Draper Competition

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