The most challenging part is, how to not only write to explain this kind of complicated, technical thing, but also how to get people to care."
“I didn’t know if sustainable architecture was going to be something that was enough to grab people’s attention. But it turns out it is," Zorrilla said.
Among the graduate participants, Shane Ray Martin, a first-year Kogod MBA student, came away victorious with a pitch for the use of artificial intelligence as a means to reduce suicide hotline wait times.
“At some hotlines, wait times can be too long, thus calls for people who are in distressed might go unanswered,” Martin said, leaning on front-line experience as a former hotline negotiator.
“I want to leverage AI for good and use it as a peacemaking tool rather than a warmaking machine,” he said, alluding to discussion about AI’s uses and threats that’s dominated discussion all year.
Martin credits coaching provided by the Kogod Center for Professionalism and Communications as a key to making his pitch more focused and compelling. The center provides students with services like peer feedback and coaching on verbal and slide-driven business presentations
“We made it catchier. We made it more interesting. We made it more relatable to the audience, which is so key,” Martin said.
Alexa Socquet AU’27 and Sanjana Goel MBA’25 were the respective undergraduate and graduate runners-up.
Altogether, the presentations helped showcase the remarkable changemaking capacity present in the AU student body, said Danielle Vogel, Assistant Director of the Veloric Center for Entrepreneurship and Kogod professor, who spearheaded the event.
"It was both impressive and deeply inspiring to cheer on our first-year students as they transformed their desire to make a social impact into a plan for changemaking," Vogel said. "They developed compelling pitches and shared their stories with poise and confidence. I can't wait to see what they do with their ideas — both over the course of their time at AU and well beyond."