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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. 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.

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 mitigation, financial acumen and business planning capabilities. We enable students to work collaboratively on projects that address real-world challenges.


Monica Dean, Administrative Director
Monica is the administrative director of the Jill Ker Conway Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center at Smith College. Previously she was the administrative director of the Lawrence N. Field Programs and Center for Entrepreneurship at Baruch College, City University of New York. 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, Program Director
René has been active in the field of collegiate program development for more than 15 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. 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. René is a graduate of Smith's Ada Comstock Scholars program (BA, Afro-American Studies/Ethnics cum laude with honors, 2008) and the University of Arizona's School of Sociology (MA, 2014).

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.


Course Instructors

Student Interns

  • Indira Aoudou '20, Research
  • Imane Berrada '21, Collateral Marketing
  • Kaitlyn Coyne '19, Draper Competition
  • Danielle Davis '21, Research
  • Talia Deady '21J, Research
  • Lillian Emenogu '20, General
  • Katharina Geppert '19, Blog Editor
  • Fatima Keita '20, Newsletter Editor
  • Sara Kragness AC, Video Editor
  • Daniela Martinez '21, Social Media Marketing
  • Michaella Mentu '19, Social Media Marketing
  • Zoleka Mosiah '20, Draper Competition
  • Finn Murray '21, General
  • Whitney Mutalemwa '20, Webmaster Trainee
  • Katy Rosen '19, Social Media Marketing
  • Rose Soumare '21, Collateral Marketing
  • Josephine Surer '19, Draper Competition

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