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A Culture of Care >> Read Smith’s plans for the fall 2021 semester.

About the Center

Conway center staff and students posing

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 signifcantly 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.


Our Team

Raj Malhotra, Director

Malhotra has over twenty years of experience in launching and managing digital startups, teaching and mentoring programs, and building strategic partnerships. He has earned his Master’s in Engineering and Bachelor’s in Science in Electrical Engineering from Cornell University, and later he earned his MBA at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

A serial innovator who transforms ideas into thriving enterprises, Malhotra has built venture-backed startups and teams within Fortune 500 companies that generated outsize returns from modest investments. Two of the startups that Mr. Malhotra founded and grew were focused on responding to challenges that disproportionately affect women. The first of these fostered digital inclusion among thousands of stay-at-home moms; another venture’s innovations treat women’s health issues that have long been under-served. 

Malhotra has taught digital transformation at a leading European business school, helped develop gaming-based coursework with a top US MBA program, and mentored winning student teams for a global social impact prize competition. He also enjoyed connecting  undergraduates with internships with high-growth start-ups and incubators.

Malhotra joins Smith to inspire and realize a new vision for Conway— to lead students in co-creating enterprises that collaborate across disciplines and economic boundaries, and which foster both individual and community wealth.

René Heavlow, Director of Operations and Special Programs
René has been active in the field of collegiate program development for over 15 years. 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 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 a master’s in education from Springfield College and a bachelor’s from Cedar Crest College, where she is a lifetime member of the alumnae association and the class agent to the class of 2007.

Student Interns

Adriana Beltran Andrade ’23
Adriana is a computer science and statistical and data sciences double major. She co-founded the Blockchain Initiative and is the co-president of Decentralized Smith. As part of the communications team, she hopes to brainstorm and execute ways to engage the Smith community with the valuable programming offered by the Conway Center.

Marlyatou Barry ’24
Marly, an intended computer science major, is one of the newest members of the team. She will be working to curate stories about alums, students, faculty and staff for the Conway Center blog.

Picture of Conway Intern Ileanna Garcia
Ileanna Garcia ’22
Ileanna is majoring in computer science and mathematics. She has been a member of the website administration team for two years and will be the team lead for 2021–22. She continues to be excited to work at the center, where she can learn about and share the many interdisciplinary opportunities available to students.

Conway Intern Lily Jin
Lily Jin ’22
Lily is a double major in statistics and quantitative economics. She is a returning intern who will help to ensure the smooth functioning of the center and its events. She is an active member of the Smith College Investment Club (SCIC) and Sazanami.

Serena Keenan ’23
Serena lives in King House and is majoring in Russian, East European and Eurasian studies. She is the assistant features editor for The Sophian and works on Labrys, the college’s literary magazine. She is excited to be helping with all logistics at the Conway Center for another year (and finally on campus!).

Christie Lee ’22
Christie is majoring in art and computer science and lives in Duckett House. She has worked on the Draper Competition team for the last two years and is excited to be helping innovative and entrepreneurial individuals again this year—for the competition’s tenth anniversary.

Picture of Conway Intern Vivian Ma
Vivian Ma ’22
Vivian is an economics major and global financial institutions concentrator. She lives in Haven House and is involved with multiple clubs, including the SCIC, Asian Students Association, Consulting Club and Chinese Student Association. She is excited to continue work on the center’s social media platforms.

Parunjodhi Munisamy ’24
Parunjodhi lives in Cutter House and plans to double major 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.

Peris Mwangi ’23
Peris, a proud Ziskind House member, is an African studies and quantitative economics double major. She actively participates in the Smith Startup Consulting Group. She’s excited to be part of the Conway Center intern team and looks forward to helping participants with their Draper Competition projects.

Jah’Shae Newman ’22
Jah’Shae is a double major in psychology and sociology interested in mental health and creating new systems that work for disadvantaged communities. She started working for the Conway Center in the summer of 2020 as a research intern and is excited to be able to promote, work with and build with the center on campus this year.

Kristina Ngema AC ’23J
Kristina is double majoring in quantitative economics and statistical and data sciences. Her passion is creativity, whether it is through words, numbers or graphs. Outside of school, you can find Kristina dancing, reading and going on long walks listening to music. She is active in the Smith Startup Consulting Group and joins the research team this year.

Michel Ruiz-Fuentes ’24
Michel is tentatively pursuing the studies of government and statistical and data sciences. She is excited to lead outreach initiatives for the Conway Center, as well as educating, empowering and spreading the word about the impact that the center has to offer.

Mariana Salazar ’23
Mariana, an Emerson House member, is majoring in environmental science and policy. She is an active member of the Latin American Student Organization. She’s excited to be a part of the communications team for the center, sharing her learnings about financial security and freedom in a supportive environment.

Zephyr Wang ’22
Zephyr is majoring in neuroscience and computer science—skills she will put to use on the center’s website administration team. She is a member of Fun Run Smith and the Asian Student Association and enjoys anything outdoorsy, especially sailing.

Alaine Williams ’23
Alaine is majoring in economics and minoring in music. A resident of King House, she is actively involved in the Black Students Alliance. She is excited to work at the CIEC to highlight the innovators and entrepreneurs at Smith.

Affiliated Instructors

Mahnaz Mahdavi
Mahnaz Mahdavi is professor of economics 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.

Susannah Howe
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. Howe also helps support entrepreneurial activity on campus, coordinating faculty mentors for students teams at Smith.

Fadia Nordtveit
Fadia Nordtveit (previously Hasan) teaches entrepreneurship courses for the Conway Center. Her research, which focuses on environmental communication, global youth movements, new media technologies and social entrepreneurships, led her to found The BGreen Project. BGreen is an international nonprofit that works on environmental action projects and sustainability education. Her doctorate and master degrees are from the communication department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She is also the co-founder of a social entrepreneurship project called Bija Bangladesh. Her academic-community engaged research connects sustainability issues in the global north and south and has led to her book, Participatory Action Research and the Environment: The BGreen Project in the U.S. and Bangladesh (2019).

Keith Fox
Keith Fox received his master’s degree in mathematics from Oxford University and his master of business administration from the Harvard Business School. A qualified member of the Institute of Cost and Management Accountants (a UK professional body), in 2011 he received the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation. He has testified on access to capital before the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, has been a guest lecturer at the Venture Capital Institute and several leading business schools, and is currently the independent chairman of the DWS funds and a director of ICI Mutual.

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


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Annual Report 2020-21

“We view human centered design as a core methodology, collaborative leadership as a critical capacity, and the development of an entrepreneurial mindset as a growth state necessary for leading positive change.”
—Borjana Mikic, Associate Dean of Integrative Learning