3 teams advance to semifinals in Alliance for the American Dream competition

Teams are a step closer to $1 million in funding from Schmidt Futures

December 2, 2019

Three teams recently won the local Alliance for the American Dream competition at Arizona State University. The teams, Enfuego, me3 and Care4Me, received seed funding and will advance to the national semifinal event in March 2020, where they will compete for a slot in the finals and be eligible for up to $1 million of funding from Schmidt Futures, a philanthropic initiative, founded by Eric and Wendy Schmidt, that finds exceptional people and helps them do more for others together. 

ASU’s top teams each pitched different technological solutions to respond to the Alliance for the American Dream’s ambitious challenge to devise innovative solutions that increase by 10% the net incomes of 10,000 middle class households by 2022, either by increasing earnings, decreasing expenses or a combination of both strategies.  calculator Schmidt Futures is investing up to $1 million in a team that can help increase middle class net income. Download Full Image

“A vibrant, thriving middle class depends on the ability of the labor force to find meaningful work,” said Andrew Nelson, the program manager who leads this effort. “Each of these proposals are promising, novel solutions that strengthen the economic security of local middle class families by improving their employability and reducing the barriers to employment.” 

Over the coming months, teams will work closely with ASU and local entrepreneurship coaches to further develop and enhance their proposals. The selected finalists will pitch their solutions to a screening panel convened by Schmidt Futures alongside the top three teams from each of the other Alliance members, including The Ohio State University, University of Utah, and University of Wisconsin-Madison. Up to five teams will then be invited to the finals, where they will compete for up to $1 million of implementation funding from Eric Schmidt.

Teams were selected by a community review board comprised of prominent local leaders from various sectors, including Ed Borromeo of Tallwave, Monica Villalobos of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Carl Zaragoza of Leadership for Educational Equity, Neil Giuliano of Greater Phoenix Leadership and Christy Moore of Social Spin Laundromat. 

Finalists were chosen from among eight innovative proposals working on solutions ranging from upskilling lifelong learners to food business incubation. Teams were evaluated on a number of criteria, including the likelihood of achieving the goal, benefit to diverse communities, depth of research and being partner focused, among others. 

This is the second cycle of the Alliance for the American Dream competition. In the inaugural cycle, an ASU-led team, Project Benjamin, shared first place and received a $1 million investment from Schmidt Futures to create and integrate an AI-powered chatbot into existing efforts to increase FAFSA completion rates for high school seniors in Arizona.  

Meet the semifinalists


Paul Hughes of Enfuego (left) and Dragan Boscovic of ASU. Photo by Alexander Davis

Enfuego: Enfuego helps job seekers, especially those currently un/underemployed, to better communicate their skills and find employment by optimizing their resume for each job to which they apply. The technology, developed at Arizona State University, gives users critical insights before they even apply to a job by comparing the skills required against the users’ experience. Enfuego also connects users to educational opportunities to gain the missing skills.

From the team: “Even in a good economy more than 77% of people are looking for work,” said Paul Hughes, founder of Enfuego Technologies. “We’ve built a new platform that advocates on behalf of the job seeker and puts an end to the question, ‘What should I put on my resume?’ We’ve automated the hours-long task of rewriting your resume and are helping people in transition such as active duty military who are on their way back to the civilian workforce or people with English as their second language, who’ve got the skills and capability, but don’t know how to market themselves.”

Me3 team

From left: Lisa Flesher, Sylvia Symonds, Jennifer Malerich, Bethany Weigele, Katherine Ricker, Alex Brown, all with Arizona State University. Photo by Alexander Davis

me3: This enhancement of me3 provides lifelong learners a low-stress way to identify pathways to career advancement by matching users with short-term, valuable educational opportunities and credentials. It also helps its users looking to re- or upskill identify economically viable ways to cover associated expenses. 

From the team: “We want to expand me3 to meet the needs of the lifelong learner looking to identify the necessary skills, related short-term educational opportunities, and employer tuition reimbursement benefits that will help them either maintain their current position, or get a new position to better provide for themselves and their families, in this rapidly changing global marketplace,” said Jennifer Malerich, executive director for academic and global engagement at ASU.

care4Me team

(From left): Cyndy Lawshe, Kristi Griffin, Shaun Yunt, Marie Raymond, Cynthia Garcia, Melissa Placencia, all with the city of Tempe. Photo by Alexander Davis

Care4Me: Care4Me helps families find quality, affordable child care that meets their needs. By assisting parents as they navigate this complex system, Care4Me enables users to return to work, increase their work hours, seek promotions, and/or pursue additional educational opportunities, all things that enhance their earnings or earning potential.

From the team: “Care4Me is for all families who struggle finding quality, affordable child care and it especially helps those who may have delayed entering the workforce or who rely on a patchwork of unreliable care because they simply cannot afford the options that are out there for them or they don’t know how to access financial assistance,” said Marie Raymond, family and community support manager at the city of Tempe.

Learn about all eight teams here

Please direct all inquiries about ASU’s participation in the Alliance for the American Dream to Andrew Nelson, program manager – strategic network advancement: 480-727-3491 or nelson.andrew@asu.edu

ASU Cronkite students spend Thanksgiving with Dean Callahan — one last time

December 2, 2019

On a cool and cloudy Thanksgiving day, 25 people gathered for “Thanksgiving with the Callahans,” one of the great unofficial traditions of Arizona State University and the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. 

For over more than a decade, about 150 students have been invited for Thanksgiving turkey and all the trimmings at the home of founding Cronkite School Dean Christopher Callahan and his wife, Jean.  Cronkite School students enjoy Thanksgiving dinner with Dean Christopher Callahan Cronkite School students and other guests enjoy Thanksgiving with Cronkite Dean Christopher Callahan and his wife, Jean. Download Full Image

This year took on the added significance that it would be the last in the Valley: Christopher Callahan in July becomes the next president of the University of the Pacific in California.

“Jean and I just hated the idea that our out-of-state freshmen who couldn’t get home for the holiday would spend Thanksgiving in a mostly empty Taylor Place,” Callahan said of the residence hall. “So we thought they would appreciate spending Thanksgiving with our family.”

Jean Callahan prepares a 27-pound turkey in the oven, traditional style. Dean Callahan goes to work on a couple of smaller ones, one smoked with sugar maple wood chips for most of the day, and the other deep-fried in peanut oil. There’s plenty of sides, including Jean’s famous sweet potatoes with marshmallows.

Also on the menu: lively conversation, football games on TV in the family room, bocce and cornhole games on the lawn and hanging out with a star of the show, the Callahans' 14-year-old golden retriever mix, Chase.

“We love everything about it,” Callahan said. “The students get to enjoy each other’s company, watch some football, play lawn games outside, and then of course devour Thanksgiving dinner!”

Cronkite student Ashley Engle thanked the Callahans for the Thanksgiving experience on behalf of all the students there.  

“It would have cost me $700 to go home for two days,” she said. 

Taylor Moon remembers well Thanksgiving with the Callahans back in 2010. Besides the food, she still recalls the conversation around the table with others, including Dean Callahan, who wanted to know more about the students, where they were from, their goals and what they usually did on Thanksgiving.

“I think the best part was simply having somewhere to go,’’ she said. “I was from out of state and couldn't afford to travel back home. As a freshman, this was my first Thanksgiving away from home. The fact that this was even offered was amazing. I initially in my mind had it figured out that I would be eating a turkey sandwich alone in my dorm, but thanks to this kindness, I had somewhere to go.”

Jazzy Quick also attended Thanksgiving at the Callahans back in 2010.  

“It was quite wonderful,” she said. “It was my first year that I was not going to be able to go home for Thanksgiving. It was really lovely to feel a part of a family and share some laughs … I hope someone else hosts this once Dean Callahan leaves. It was a really wonderful tradition that was super unique to Cronkite.” 

Like in years past, the students this year left after dinner and dessert with smiles and plenty of leftovers, loading onto a bus for the trip back to the Cronkite School. Though this was the last “Thanksgiving with the Callahans” at ASU, you can bet a slice of smoked turkey that students will be gathering next Thanksgiving in the President’s Residence at the University of the Pacific. 

“Most definitely, Jean and I are taking this tradition with us,” Callahan said. 

Assistant vice president, Media Relations and Strategic Communications