background image
In 2010, the Merrimack Valley
Sandbox (MVS) was launched
by a multimillion-dollar
grant from the Deshpande
Foundation, and is housed
at the Merrimack Valley
Center for Innovation
& Entrepreneurship at
UMass Lowell. The
Sandbox initiative's aim is to strengthen
and expand innovative leaders and entrepreneurs in the
Merrimack Valley. While UMass Lowell hosts the physical
center, MVS operates as a coalition between UMass Lowell,
Merrimack College, Middlesex, Northern Essex Community
College and nonprofit organizations in the Merrimack
Through its Campus Catalyst program, the Sandbox awards
grants to students at the four colleges to experiment with
their entrepreneurial ideas in development stages. Campus
Catalyst offers initial $500 grants to help students develop
business and social entrepreneurship initiatives. Each year
since the program began, several Middlesex students have
received funding for projects that are creative and diverse.
(See related story, facing page)
Students participate in Campus Catalyst Showcase and Pitch
Contests, events held throughout the year that often feature
more than 150 student and youth entrepreneurs showcasing
their projects.
The Merrimack Valley Sandbox regularly
holds educational and networking events
to connect individuals and organizations
from the campuses and the community.
These events give participants an arena
to share ideas, develop new relationships,
and bridge communities.
The MVS has also developed the Sandbox Leadership
Institute (SLI), a 10-month program that brings together
leaders from various sectors to strengthen their socially
responsible leadership skills, in order to enhance their
organizations and, ultimately, their communities. Middlesex
staff members Sheri Denk, special programs coordinator in
the Center for Leadership & Engagement, and Moses Kirori,
coordinator of television programming, recently completed
the SLI program.
Deborah Kearney
Merrimack Valley Sandbox
Desai Launch Pad Takes Off at MCC
Last spring, Middlesex announced the creation of the Desai Launch Pad. Funded by the Desai
Family Foundation, the Launch Pad will provide additional funding to MCC students who have
received Campus Catalyst grants to help in the beginning stages of a business or social
entrepreneurial endeavor. In addition to their innovative ideas, students must develop a budget
that accounts for expenses involved in the rollout of their proposed enterprise. By joining the
resources of the Deshpande and the Desai Family foundations, Middlesex students can take
their "genius!" ideas from the development stage to implementation.
Samir A. Desai, founder of the Desai Family Foundation, has been a longtime member of the Middlesex family. He is a
founding member of the MCC Foundation, has served on its board since 1991, and has been part of shaping the college
since 1989. Through the creation of the Desai Launch Pad, he will lend his expertise in new-venture creation to a number
of MCC students who need significant guidance during the beginning stages of their business development. He will also
gather resources to provide guest lecturers for college courses and panels of experts who will share their knowledge with
interested students at Middlesex.