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Published August 24, 2023


Entrepreneurs seek to improve their community

UB Graduate School of Education PhD students earn Prosperity Fellowships

University at Buffalo Graduate School of Education PhD students Isnino Iftin and Toniqua Lawrence were awarded Prosperity Fellowships for the 2023-2024 academic year.

Funded through the Prentice Family Foundation, the Western New York Prosperity Fellowship supports students with a passion and talent for entrepreneurship. Fellows are awarded up to $25,000 in scholarship and internship compensation for an academic year.

The program assists both undergraduate and graduate students who are researching and creating programs that will further economic development and growth in Western New York. Students must participate in an internship, and the fellowship can provide compensation if the internship is unpaid. Along with the financial aspect, the fellowship also provides mentorship and community to like-minded students with an entrepreneurial spirit.

Iftin is a doctoral candidate in the educational culture, policy and society PhD program, passionate about empowering refugees. Her dissertation will focus on how migration for Somali Bantu refugees has affected their identity. Iftin, herself, comes from a refugee background, which fuels her passion: “I want my research to focus on the education and livelihood of people with refugee backgrounds, especially women. I am interested in understanding how their educational background affects their lives and what researchers and practitioners can do to support this population.”

In the future, Iftin hopes to create her own school focusing on providing language and culturally responsive education. “The Prosperity Fellowship has been a great supplement to my program and a new opportunity for my future goals,” she said. “The fellowship also showed me how businesses and governmental entities can work together to improve our lives, and I have grown more confident in my entrepreneurial goals.”

Lawrence is a PhD student in the combined doctoral program in counseling psychology and school psychology. Her research focuses on looking for solutions to decrease mental health disparities within minority communities. “My research projects revolve around the intersection between spirituality, religiosity and mental health, particularly surrounding effective psychotherapeutic interventions for Black college students,” explained Lawrence.

An aspiring entrepreneur, Lawrence dreams of opening her own private practice. “The fellowship provides practical and in-depth advice on owning your own business,” she explained. “I have also been able to connect with like-minded community members, both within and outside of my discipline.”

Connections and networking are key for future professionals, and both Lawrence and Iftin are utilizing the fellowship to its fullest. “All in all, being a fellow has increased my community, trained me in entrepreneurship and informed my clinical practice as a student and researcher,” said Lawrence.

Iftin echoed the idea that the fellowship has helped her establish community connections in Western New York: “Through the funding of my internship, I was able to network within the community of Buffalo and connect with various organizations that will help me build my research.”