Imagine a city lit by glowing trees instead of streetlights

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Could genetically engineered trees that have been crossed with bioluminescent algae be the emissions-free lighting source of the future?

If you happened to be in San Diego last week and stood on the beach at night, you might have seen the ocean glowing an electric shade of blue as bioluminescent algae bloomed, a relatively rare natural phenomenon. In a lab in Denmark, researchers are trying to isolate the genes that makes the microalgae glow for another purpose: potential natural streetlights.

If the genes could be tweaked and added to trees, they say, it could be possible for trees to stand in for standard street lighting. “We could try to change some of that lighting from conventional, electricity-consuming lights to a more natural way of creating light,” says Kristian Ejlsted, CEO of Allumen, a new startup based near Copenhagen.

Ejlsted began researching bioluminescent algae as a student at the Technical University of Denmark, and his startup now sells kits with the algae that teachers can use to help visually explain photosynthesis, respiration, and other natural processes in science classes. Another product, for home use, will be a little like a lava lamp, with algae living in a saltwater-nutrient mixture, taking up sunshine during the day, and glowing at night. But Ejlsted is most interested in the larger potential for the genes that make the algae glow.

The tens of thousands of streetlights in large cities can make up, in some cases, the largest piece of city’s energy bills. Over the last decade, cities have increasingly switched from older technology to LED lights; in Los Angeles, for example, where the city began switching its 200,000-plus streetlight to LEDs in 2013, it cut energy use for the lights by more than 63%, saving nearly $10 million a year on energy and maintenance bills. But the lights are still a major source of emissions.

“In Denmark, almost all streetlights are now being replaced by LED lights,” Ejlsted says. “That’s a huge deal right now, and it’s going to save a lot of energy. But the fact is that they’re still using electricity–they’re using a little bit less, but it’s still electricity, and it still comes from burning fossil fuels. The real advantage of changing to a biological system is that the algae, for example, or the plant, they only need CO2 and sunlight and some water.”

The company is not the first to explore the idea of glowing plants and trees. One Kickstarter project, the Glowing Plant, raised nearly half a million dollars, but later told backers they’d failed in their quest to genetically engineer small plants that could glow. A team of researchers at MIT embedded nanoparticles with an enzyme from fireflies into plants, creating a faint glow. In France, biologist Pierre Calleja is experimenting with prototypes of lamps filled with glowing microalgae. Designer Daan Roosegaarde has also experimented with the idea of glowing trees.

Continue onto Fast Company to read the complete article.

Google’s desktop search results get a redesign

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Laptop open on table with the screen open to Google search

Google search pages are going to look different on desktops starting this week, according to the tech news website 9to5Google, which closely monitors the search engine and its related brands.

The change will make domain names, favicons and ad labels prominent in search result listings the same way the company has implemented these features on mobile device views in May.

The verified Twitter account, Google SearchLiaison, announced the design update Monday afternoon on Twitter.

“Last year, our search results on mobile gained a new look,” the tweet began.

That’s now rolling out to desktop results this week, presenting site domain names and brand icons prominently, along with a bolded “Ad” label for ads.”

The tweet included an attached mockup that shows how the search result pages will look going forward.

Favicons will appear first, followed by website domains in black font and clickable page names in Google’s iconic blue.

Updated look for Google search thread on a computer

Ad labels will lose their green hue but will be more noticeable with a distinct marker.

In an official statement, representatives at Google said this format will help people “better understand where the information is coming from” and “more easily scan the page of results and decide what to explore next.”

Additionally, Google’s redesign is meant to improve site branding since the favicons serve as an introductory logo.

Continue on to Fox Business News to read the complete article.

Cigna will now let you go to the doctor on your phone

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Close-up Of A Man Using Laptop To Communicate With Doctor

Health insurance company Cigna is launching a new video-based primary care service that will reach over 12 million people.

The company is partnering with MDLive, which already provides telehealth services to several hospitals including Humana and some locations of Blue Cross Blue Shield. However, this is the first time it has waded into primary care.

Due to fears that a whole generation of doctors will soon be retiring, reducing the supply of available doctors and therefore appointments, there is an increasing push from the medical community to conduct as many medical visits as possible online or at home. As it is, doctors feel overextended in their day-to-day practice, and burnout is recognized as a pervasive problem in the industry. Unless in-person presence is absolutely necessary, virtual care has the promise of making individual appointments more efficient, freeing up doctors’ time.

It is also a lot more convenient for patients. According to an 2019 Accenture survey, 29% of respondents said they’ve used virtual care, up from 21% two years ago. Cigna has been working with MDLive and its platform of 1,300 physicians for the past five years on 24-7 online urgent care services. The insurer has now added MDLive’s therapy and behavioral services to its client benefits and will roll out primary care in April. The hope is that by putting services online, Cigna will be able to get members who historically have not gone the doctor to finally go.

“There’s a whole portion of our population not seeking any care, and we need to find convenient and affordable ways for those patients to be accessing care,” says Julie McCarter, head of product solutions at Cigna.

The deal between Cigna and MDLive comes at a time when virtual care may finally be hitting the mainstream.

Continue on to Fast Company to read the complete article.

Here are the top tech trends of 2020, according to top experts

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computer technologies UI by Artificial intelligence (AI) hand touching low poly icon

In 2020, technologies will move toward the mainstream and begin impacting daily life. The next generation of wireless network, 5G, will begin to take hold, for example, and may work as a catalyst for other things like smart cities and smarter mobile and wearable devices.

Augmented reality eyewear, which places digital content in the context of the real world, will begin to appear, and may use fast 5G connections to the cloud to identify people and things for us. The role of AI will increase in business, and the public will become more aware of it.

Next year’s tech will appear in the context of a turbulent political scene and perhaps the biggest election in U.S. history, a warming planet, an inefficient healthcare system, and a growing skepticism that tech companies will do no evil. Tech companies (and their investors) will be more aware of the public’s expectation that new products solve real, non-trivial, problems.

We talked to venture capital pros and other in-the-know sources to get an idea of the technology that we’ll be talking in 2020 and beyond. Their statements have been lightly edited for clarity.

HEALTHCARE AND SCIENCE
Vijay Pande, general partner, Andreessen Horowitz:

AI has the potential to democratize healthcare. With a natural place in virtually all areas of care, from prevention to diagnosis to treatment, it can lower costs, provide greater access, and give everyone the very best doctor, leveling the playing field on a global scale.

Beth Seidenberg and Sean Harper, founding managing partners, Westlake Village Biopartners:

We believe gene therapy will continue to take shape as one of the most promising and exciting technologies to emerge in the treatment of cancer. The field has been validated with approved therapies for B cell malignancies and the goal is to apply the technology and therapy to the treatment of solid tumors such as prostate, pancreatic, ovarian, and other cancers that remain some of the toughest to cure.

Bryan Roberts, partner, Venrock:

Inscripta’s automated desktop gene editor, Onyx takes a single/low multiplex, laborious manual process of CRISPR gene editing to a highly multiplexed, automated, industrially robust workflow.

Bob Kocher, partner, Venrock:

Suki has created the most advanced, easy to use, and intuitive enterprise oriented voice application. Their product is a digital assistant for doctors that allows doctors to no longer type as they see patients and dramatically reduces the time it takes them to write notes and orders.

Joseph Huang, CEO, StartX:

We’re expecting medical device and biotech innovation to see increased attention, together with sustained interest in machine learning and AI in the coming year. My dark horse candidate for 2020? Biosensing. Imagine wearables measuring your temperature to predict that you’re catching a cold before you have one and then matching you with a distributed online pharmacy that delivers medicine straight to your door. Many exciting things coming in this sector.

Shez Partovi, MD, director of global business development for healthcare, life sciences, and genomics, Amazon Web Services:

As the country moves toward value-based care, artificial intelligence and machine learning, paired with data interoperability, will improve patient outcomes while driving operational efficiency to lower the overall cost of care. By supporting healthcare providers with predictive machine learning models, clinicians will be able to seamlessly forecast clinical events, like strokes, cancer, or heart attacks, and intervene early with personalized care and a superior patient experience.

Andrei Iancu, founder & CEO, Halo Industries:

In the coming year, we’ll see the beginning of a large-scale shift in focus from software to science-based innovations. Despite the additional technology risks involved in science-oriented endeavors, the upsides of market creation and defensibility will begin to outweigh them and significantly more capital will flow to the associated enterprises. This will lead to meaningful advances in the functionality and form factor for varied products such as next-generation consumer electronics, industrial hardware, vehicles and infrastructure.

POLITICS, GOVERNMENT, AND INFRASTRUCTURE
Shomik Dutta, cofounder and partner, Higher Ground Labs:

We used to reach voters by calling them on their cellphones, [but] calling people is actually falling off a cliff. And I predict that texting will soon face a similar challenge. We’re starting to see diminishing returns there, in part because the electorate is going to start developing antibodies to texting. And so what we have to do is lean into a place where trust is still very high, which is amongst friends. The ability to use your phone and find your friends online and talk to them about a Democrat is a very influential channel that we’ve invested heavily behind, and we expect to see it scale the rest of the way in 2020.

Peter Rojas, partner, Betaworks Ventures:

As many have feared, in 2020 we’ll see the first malicious use of deepfakes and other forms of synthetic media with the aim of influencing the Presidential election. Though there will be at least one attempt that does initially cause a good deal of outrage, these efforts will largely fall flat. This will be due to a combination of greater awareness by the general public of the need to be more skeptical of video evidence circulating online, combined with publishers and social platforms employing detection tools to help them identify deepfakes and blunt their impact.

Chip Meakem, cofounder and managing partner, Tribeca Venture Partners:

An unnamed large search engine will face formal antitrust action claiming systematically using search data to build out content to retain a greater share of internet traffic is anticompetitive. Also, the incredibly resilient third-party cookie will finally die.

Dan Hays, U.S. technology, media, and telecommunications corporate strategy leader, PwC U.S.:

Undoubtedly the headlines in 2020 will be dominated by announcements of new 5G networks, expanded coverage, and new mobile devices which incorporate 5G connectivity. While we expect coverage at the start of 2020 to still hover in the single digits across the United States, this should rise rapidly in 2020 as new devices become available and demand increases. Look for more announcements at the global MWC Barcelona 2020 event in late February.

AI AND VOICE TECHNOLOGY
Omoju Miller, senior machine learning engineer, GitHub:

The public needs an introductory understanding of how AI works. They need a general sense of how data meets algorithm and turns into a decision. For example, facial recognition is being readily used in our smart home security systems, and for that reason we need to understand the abilities and limits of the technology to protect our loved ones.

Kuldip Pabla, senior VP of engineering, K4Connect:

As predicted, voice has had huge success in adoption by older adults. They like the ease of use and how they’re able to use the technology in a natural way. In 2020, voice technology will become an integral part of older adults’ lives with proactive voice. Current voice solutions require conversation to be initiated by an older adult. With the advancement in voice technologies and with the maturity of chatbots and custom digital assistants coming into the market, voice will bring a two way conversation in 2020.

[K4Connect creates tech solutions for older adults and those living with disabilities.]

Continue on to Fast Company to read the complete article.

You don’t need to be tech savvy to be a tech caregiver

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woman showing mother how to be tech savvy on computer

Kevin Hanna’s class on cyber safety in Upstate New York attracts adults of all stripes, from 40-somethings to those well into their 80s. Some are tech neophytes, drawn in by the need to video chat with children no longer living in the area. Others are retired computer programmers looking to keep up on the latest online and phone scams. What they have in common is relative financial security and the fact that they’re often too trusting. And now they’re targets.

Hanna is the regional director of external affairs for AT&T. He teaches this class because 95% of Americans age 60 or older have experienced a scam online, costing them an estimated $1 billion last year alone. For two hours, the students sit rapt as Hanna draws from local news and AT&T’s Cyber Aware website to identify the major themes, tactics, and tricks that scammers use: pop-up boxes warning of computer viruses or calls that imitate authority to trigger a sense of fear and urgency. “I get voice mail messages that I have warrants out for my arrest,” Hanna says. When he asks if anyone in the class is, like him, supposedly on the lam, “evading law enforcement,” many hands go up.

It’s not just seniors who are at risk. According to a recent survey sponsored by AT&T, 90% of Americans across generations have experienced phishing via email or robocall, while roughly 25% have discovered a virus or malware on one of their devices. So once Hanna gets home to his family, his workday continues. He advises his teenage son never to assume online strangers are who they claim to be and educates his mother-in-law that providing seemingly innocent information to a stranger over the phone is, in fact, over-sharing, opening the door to a nefarious follow-up call.

Hanna is on the front lines of a burgeoning cyber trend called “tech caregiving,” in which people give or receive help on tech matters from those close to them. Hanna points out that a tech caregiver does not require educating an audience like he does; it’s often an unwitting role. “Folks who have older parents are often caregivers but might not be familiar with the label,” Hanna says. “While people as young as 12 can play caregiver to grandparents on things as simple as sending a photo. If I had a question about social media, my wife would be the expert. We each play our role based on what we do online and use the technology for.”

HELP IS ON THE WAY

When it comes to cyber security, the role of caregiver is ever changing. “Scammers and their techniques and tactics are constantly evolving,” Hanna observes, citing the trend in social-media mining, in which scammers target people based on what they post in their feeds. “As our use of technology grows in its sophistication, scammers likewise use that against us.”

Neil Giacobbi, assistant vice president of corporate social responsibility for AT&T, acknowledges the challenges his industry faces in both cyber security and digital safety. “There’s overwhelming awareness that there’s a problem,” he says. “It’s evidenced by daily reporting on scams, parental anxieties, children’s self-esteem—I can go on and on with all of the social issues. [But] where do you go for help, and what form does that help take?”

The Cyber Aware website, which provides tips to consumers to keep them secure online and protect them from scams and fraud, is one such resource. Another is ScreenReady, an innovative pilot program in New York City that is training the company’s retail sales force to be digital-safety consultants. Consumers—whether they’re AT&T customers or not—can get free support on how to use parental controls and safety settings. The program has been so welcomed by consumers that AT&T is considering expanding it to all of its retail stores in 2020.

Continue on to Fast Company to read the complete article.

Google Impact Challenge selects Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems for Innovative Workforce Development Program

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3 people are pictured working on a drone project at the NAIS, Arise workshop activity

The Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems (NIAS) was selected as a Google Impact Challenge winner under the Google.org Impact Challenge Nevada for its innovative Workforce Development Program called ARISE – Attaining Resilience and Independence through Support and Education.

All Nevada non-profits had the opportunity this past summer to compete for one of five coveted Google Impact Challenge winners by submitting their innovative proposals to Google to create economic opportunity in Nevada.  NIAS was further screened by Google through a rigorous interview process before they were recommended to a Nevada panel of judges to further evaluate and select as one of five winners.  The panel of judges was made up from senior Nevada business and economic development leaders across Nevada including former Governor Brian Sandoval.  The Nevada judges based their selection decision on four key criteria: community impact, innovation, reach, and feasibility.  All five winners will receive $175,000 in grants and training from Google to jumpstart their ideas.

For the first time in Nevada, with the training and support of Google, NIAS can help bridge the labor supply and skills gap for future aviators by harnessing the power and excitement generated by the world’s fastest growing Autonomous Systems Industry. ARISE will change the lives of under-served young adults by combining a new resiliency perspective with STEM training, on-the-job work experience, and mentorship to equip the under-served with skills to better adapt within the increasingly dynamic environment of the modern-day workforce and apply those skills to the challenges they face in their everyday lives.

According to Google and the National Skills Coalition, middle-skills jobs account for 51% of all jobs in Nevada, but only 49% of state workers are ready to access these jobs. According to a FAA press release in 2018, titled, “FAA Hits 100K Remote Pilot Certificates Issued,” more than 100,000 people have obtained autonomous systems pilot certification and licensing, and the FAA predicts that the autonomous systems service industry will demand over 400,000 pilots by 2021 – a 400% increase from today. Large employers are already paying up for drone pilots—about $50 an hour, or over $100,000 a year. Recognizing this exponential demand and growth potential, ARISE is the first program of its kind to train under-served young adults to tap into this highly in-demand and lucrative employment opportunity.  The NIAS goal under the Google Impact Challenge with its small cadre of volunteers is to develop and prove-out a scalable program that can be replicated in any community at the state, national, and international level.

“NIAS leads the FAA-designated Nevada Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Test Site to grow the Drone Industry on behalf of the State of Nevada government and FAA.  NIAS has received both national and international attention through a 2019 business industry report that ranked the Nevada Drone Industry in the top two positions in the U.S for a second year in a row.  As a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation, part of our obligation is to give back to the community and drone industry by supporting workforce development.  This is why NIAS #Vote4NIAS launched ARISE to help under-served young adults gain access to the autonomous systems industry and inspire the next wave of future aviators through STEM training, on-the-job work experience, mentorship, and a new resiliency perspective that could give young adults the skills to better adapt within the workforce and apply these skills to their everyday lives to overcome challenges, barriers, or crises,” said Dr. Chris Walach, Executive Director of the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems (NIAS), FAA-designated Nevada UAS Test Site, and the NIAS Unmanned Aviation Safety Center of Excellence.

The biggest stumbling block to the UAS industry gaining significant proliferation throughout various markets has been a lack of a real commercial path to do it.  NIAS once again shows their understanding of this through their workforce development program, which will help companies like us source key employees in this growing industry,” said J.B. Bernstein, CEO of AviSight, Inc.

“Drone America understands that a robust and qualified workforce is central to healthy communities, employers, families, and individuals. Achieving our mission of utilizing UAS technologies as a means to survey, protect, and preserve human life and strategic resources around the Globe requires good people.  Partnering with NIAS will assist us in providing real-world opportunities, offering the candidate industry experience in unmanned systems technology together with a potential of long-term future employment,” said Mike Richards, CEO and Founder of Drone America.

And the best part? The challenge isn’t over yet! In the next phase, the public will have an opportunity to vote for their people’s choice starting on Tuesday, November 19 until 11:50pm on Tuesday, November 26.  The organization with the most votes will receive an additional $125,000 to further support their program, so please be sure to show your support and #Vote4NIAS today!   Please vote at:  impactchallenge.withgoogle.com

FAA Certifies UPS to Operate Nation’s First Drone-Delivery Airline

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UPS drone flying in the sky with a UPS delivery box underneath the wings

UPS recently announced that it is the first to receive the official nod from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to operate a full “drone airline,” which will allow it to expand its current small drone delivery service pilots into a country-wide network.

In its announcement of the news, UPS said that it will start by building out its drone delivery solutions specific to hospital campuses nationwide in the U.S., and then to other industries outside of healthcare.

UPS racks up a number of firsts as a result of this milestone, thanks to how closely it has been working with the FAA throughout its development and testing process for drone deliveries. As soon as it was awarded the certification, it did a delivery for WakeMed hospital in Raleigh, N.C. using a Matternet drone, and it also became the first commercial operator to perform a drone delivery for an actual paying customer outside of line of sight thanks to an exemption it received from the government.

This certification, officially titled FAA’s “Part 135 Standard certification,” offers far-reaching and broad license to companies who attain it — much more freedom than any commercial drone operation has had previously in the U.S.

Obviously, it’s a huge win for UPS Flight Forward, which is the dedicated UPS subsidiary the company announced it had formed back in July to focus entirely on building out the company’s drone delivery business. But there’s still a lot left to do before you can expect UPS drones to be a regular fixture, or even at all visible in the lives of the average American.

Continue on to TechCrunch to read the complete article.

Two female astronauts make history. How to watch NASA’s first all-female spacewalk

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two women in spacesuits pictured working outside spaceship

Men have floated out the hatch on all 420 spacewalks conducted over the past half-century. That changed recently with spacewalk No. 421.

NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir ventured outside the International Space Station recently and spevt over five hours replacing a broken battery charger, or BCDU. NASA’s livestream of the historic spacewalk features astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson as one of the female narrators.

The units have previously been replaced using a robotic arm, but the newly failed unit is too far away for it to reach.

The units regulate how much energy flows from the station’s massive solar panels to battery units, which are used to provide power during nighttime passes around Earth. Three previous spacewalks had been planned to replace lithium-ion batteries, but those will be rescheduled until the latest BCDU issue is resolved.

The hardware failure does present some concern, especially since another BCDU was replaced in April and there are only four more backups on the station. In total, there are 24 operational BCDUs.

The battery charger failed after Koch and a male crewmate installed new batteries outside the space station last week. NASA put the remaining battery replacements on hold to fix the problem and moved up the women’s planned spacewalk by three days.

All four men aboard the ISS remained inside during the spacewalk.

The spacewalk is Koch’s fourth and Meir’s first.

Continue on to USA Today to read the complete article.

Mexican Scientist Creates Biodegradable Plastic Straw From Cactus

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Sandra Ortiz stands in kitchen behind table filled with vaiations of her new plastic

Researchers from the University of Valle de Atemajac in Zapopan, Mexico have created a biodegradable plastic from the juice of the prickly pear cactus.

The new material begins to break down after sitting in the soil for a month and when left in water, it breaks down in a matter of days. Plus, it doesn’t require crude oil like traditional plastics.

“There were some publications that spoke of different materials with which biodegradable plastics could be made, including some plants,” Sandra Pascoe Ortiz, the research professor who developed the material, told Forbes.

“In this case the nopal cactus has certain chemical characteristics with which I thought it could be feasible to obtain a polymer, that if it was combined with some other substances, all of them natural, a non-toxic biodegradable plastic would be obtained. The process is a mixture of compounds whose base is the nopal. It’s totally non-toxic, all the materials we use could be ingested both by animals or humans and they wouldn’t cause any harm.”

This means that even if any of this material made its way into the ocean, it will safely dissolve. It’s estimated that between 1.15 million to 2.41 million tonnes of plastic are entering the ocean each year from rivers. Last month, divers found a plastic KFC bag from the 1970s during an ocean clean-up off the waters off Bulcock Beach in Queensland, Australia and earlier this year, during a dive to the bottom of the Mariana Trench – the deepest point in the ocean – a plastic bag was found.

According to Ortiz, the project was born in a science Fair of the The nopal cactus sitting on table with blender in the backgroundDepartment of Exact Sciences and Engineering, in the chemistry class with industrial engineering students of the career. They began to make some attempts to obtain a plastic using cactus as raw material.

“From that I decided to start a research project in a formal way. Currently in the project collaborate researchers from the University of Guadalajara in conjunction with the University of Valle de Atemajac.”

Continue on to Forbes to read the complete article.

Great Minds in STEM (GMiS) Conference

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Great Minds in STEM Flyer with details for the event

Great Minds in STEM (GMiS) invites you to the 31st Annual Conference taking place September 25-29, 2019 at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort in Lake Buena Vista, FL.

The GMiS Conference is the nation’s most prestigious stage for building and reinforcing networks and honoring excellence. The place where top executives, innovative professionals, and the brightest STEM students convene.

GMiS draws thousands of diverse high caliber STEM students from a broad array of institutions, including top‐ranked U.S. News & World Report Institutions, Research I Institutions, and Minority‐Serving Institutions.

Network with over 3000 STEM executives, college students and recruiters from all major industries and sectors. Secure an internship, fellowship or full time career!

Click here for a full flyer view.

For more information,  visit  greatmindsinstem.org .

Apply For The Reaching Out MBA (ROMBA) Fellowship Sponsored by ADP

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The Reaching Out LGBTQ MBA Fellowship (ROMBA) was created as a joint effort between top business school programs and Reaching Out to demonstrate that business schools are the top destination to develop the out LGBTQ and active ally business leaders of tomorrow.

​The LGBTQ MBA Fellowship recipients each receive a minimum of $10,000 scholarship per academic year or $20,000 total scholarship, and also receive access to exclusive mentorship and leadership development programming through Reaching Out. 55 members of The Class of 2019 will collectively receive over $1,300,000 for each year of their MBA experience!

Click here for full view of flyer

Learn more about the fellowship at reachingoutmba.org