Sabrina Belleci: SNC Graduate Wins MiddCORE Innovation Challenge

For four-weeks, the MiddCORE Immersion Program held in partnership with Sierra Nevada College, turned SNC’s campus in Incline Village into a hub for innovative thinking, problem-solving, and leadership development.  The collaboration marked the first time that MiddCORE, a creation of Middlebury College, the Vermont-based liberal arts college widely regarded as one of the top schools in the country, held their program in conjunction with another college.

Sabrina Belleci, a 2013 SNC graduate, was announced the winner of the program’s culminating event, the individual Innovation Challenge Competition, amidst a field of thirty-six students from colleges around the country, including SNC, Middlebury, Brown, Stanford, Illinois, and Williams.  Specifically designed to foster innovative thinking across a diverse array of majors, the students represented a range of fields of interest and included students from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Zimbabwe currently studying at U.S. institutions.

Over the course of the four weeks, each MiddCORE participant was required to develop an innovative idea for a new business, product, or service; to perfect the idea; and to present it during a three minute “pitch” session in front of a panel of external judges. Based on these preliminary presentations, eight finalists were selected and went on the following day to deliver an expanded, ten-minute pitch, followed by seven minutes of intense questioning from a panel whose entrepreneurial pedigrees included Oracle, Chevron Energy Solutions, and Hewlett Packard, among others.  In selecting Belleci, the judges singled out her poise, the clarity of her thoughts, and the depth of her business plan preparation.

SNC President Lynn Gillette, commented that he had known Sabrina since he had taught her Macroeconomics during her freshman year, “at the time, I was struck by her grit and tenacity and by her desire to work hard to become great – and over the course of her four years at SNC she proved what she could do.”  While at SNC, Belleci competed in its business plan competition on two occasions, with her team taking 2nd place in this year’s Jȃlé and Warren Trepp Business Plan Competition and also qualifying to present at the statewide Donald W. Reynolds Governor’s Cup this past spring.  Belleci also served as President of SNC’s Student Government Association and as a mentor to other students.

Gillette commented that “Sabrina’s selection during the MiddCORE competition is a testament to what we are doing at SNC to prepare our students.”  On the experience of partnering to bring MiddCORE to SNC, Gillette indicated that he believes that the Middlebury immersion experience “represents the cutting edge of where higher education needs to go.”  He noted that given SNC’s commitment to active learning, “it was a natural fit for us and invigorating to have the opportunity to work with colleagues from the other side of the country who share a vision that education must be relevant, applied, and transformative for the students, and that it must prepare them to be able to get things done in the real world.”