Sandbox Stories: Cole Cravath

Cravath Cole

Cole Cravath came to ESTEEM determined to seize every opportunity that came his way. With just a year in Notre Dame and South Bend, there is no time to procrastinate.

“What’s cool about ESTEEM is it’s kind of like all or nothing when you’re there,” says Cravath, who figures he missed opportunities as an undergraduate at Boston College because he put things off for senior year. “You’re part of it, and you’re given a lot of opportunities. Every time one of them crops up, I say, ‘I can either do this or not do this, but I’m not going to have an opportunity to do this in the future.’ I only have one opportunity to do this, and that’s now. I think that stems over into a lot of different sorts of activities, even small social engagements. There might be a networking event with just a few people from the community. I might have been tempted to stay home that night. Because I really have only that one year, I’m going to go.”

After ESTEEM: Abbey Santanello

Abbey Santanello Webpage

Abbey Santanello entered ESTEEM in 2015 with a running start: during her last semester as a Notre Dame senior, she and her father, Dr. Steven Santanello, had come up with the idea for a medical device that would make minimally invasive surgery more efficient. A year after she accelerated the innovation, using it as her Founder’s Idea capstone project during ESTEEM, the

After ESTEEM: John Flatley

When the Bay Area company SharePractice closed a few months after he joined, John Flatley viewed it as another item checked off his bucket list -- experiencing being among the 9 out of 10 startups that fail. That’s how fully the 2011 ESTEEM graduate embraces the entrepreneurial mindset and the “middle space” bridge between technology, entrepreneurship, and business. “Even though things changed, it didn't scare me away because I still wanted the experience,” he says. Flatley already had four fast-rising years at Google and a break to explore Asia, Europe, and, on a motorcycle, North America. So he set a new goal – move to Chicago – and achieved it through a job with Raise Marketplace, the world’s largest gift card marketplace, where he’s working now.

Sandbox Stories: Marisa Cameron


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Marisa Cameron was earning a mathematics degree at College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, where the AbbVie pharmaceutical company has a major office, when she was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in 2014. “In the hospital, I was so touched by the whole health care industry and had never seen the whole side of it, whether it was the doctors and nurses in the hospital. It was a terrible experience but really eye-opening. I knew I wanted to go into health care.”…

Sandbox Stories: Shawn Cook

Cook Shawn

When Shawn Cook’s Army assignment officer announced that he was selected to go to graduate school again, Cook, who had already earned a master’s in geological engineering, started thinking about what could serve the country as well as position him for life after his 20-year military career. He chose ESTEEM.…

Sandbox Stories: Brendan Hughes

Hughes Brendan

Brendan Hughes came to ESTEEM with an undergraduate major in biology, a minor in entrepreneurship, and a side identity as DJ Lumba based on his flannel shirt, bushy beard, and long hair when he bought a beginner DJ board on a whim as a Stonehill College freshman. His gigs have grown from school parties to the Boston bar scene to weddings and other social events, and he’s upgraded to a four-deck NS7III system. He performed at an ESTEEM tailgate last fall under a huge banner with his logo.…

Sandbox Stories: David Laston

“It seemed like the perfect mesh,” says Laston, who joined this year’s class after about 18 months at Cummins, where he started as a lab tech and moved to research and development. “Entrepreneurship was definitely something I’d thought about – later in my life I’d like to own my own business or manage a business or startup. When I came here I wasn’t exactly sure what I was going to do. I knew it would open up a lot of career options.”David Laston, who earned a degree in chemistry from Franklin College and went to work for the giant engine manufacturer Cummins Inc. in Columbus, Ind., always knew he wanted to go back to school. When he heard about ESTEEM, he knew where to go.…

After ESTEEM: Kris Priemer

ESTEEM Alumni Kris Primier

South Bend native Kristopher Priemer had no formal entrepreneurship experience when he participated in Entrepreneur Magazine’s College Entrepreneur of the Year, where he was one of five finalists, as a senior at Saint Louis University. He stayed in St. Louis for a year after he earned his mathematics degree, working in financial services, until he heard of ESTEEM and came home to join the program in 2010. Now Priemer has a wealth of entrepreneurship experience – from “fail early, fail often” to a promising platform for connecting bands with campus organizations looking for performers. He’s also had a significant impact on his hometown as a consultant for the city’s efforts to advance its technology sophistication.…

Sandbox Stories: Chris Stepien

Stepien Chris

Chris Stepien came to ESTEEM with a bachelor’s degree in chemical and biomolecular engineering from Notre Dame, a new-found interest in consulting, and no preparation for the big-league hiring process in that field. The program equipped him with resume-writing, networking, and interviewing skills, along with a supportive cohort of classmates, that have already paid off: Stepien is the first ESTEEM student who has landed a job with the world-class Boston Consulting Group (BCG), a management consulting firm that advises more than two-third of the Fortune 500 and ranks near the top of Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For.…

After ESTEEM: Bianca Fox

Bianca Fox was expecting to go to medical school when she majored in Science-Business as a Notre Dame undergraduate, but by graduation she was seeking other avenues for a science and health care career.

After ESTEEM: Feranmi Okanlami

Feranmi Okanlami, who grew up in South Bend, graduated from Stanford University, and earned an M.D. at the University of Michigan, suffered a paralyzing spinal cord injury from a diving accident while he was an orthopaedic surgery resident at Yale-New Haven Hospital. After inpatient therapy in Chicago, he returned home for outpatient therapy and joined ESTEEM in 2014. His capstone thesis, in partnership with the Cleveland Clinic and Custom Orthopaedic Solutions, involved a patient-specific medical device intended to make pedicle screw placement in spinal surgeries faster and more accurate – equipment that could have enhanced his own surgeries.…

From Villanova to ESTEEM

Carney Kellan

While Minnesota native Kellan Carney was earning a pre-medical degree in biology at Villanova University in Philadelphia, he couldn’t help but gain exposure to business because of Villanova’s highly respected business school. He recalls creating fantastic entrepreneurial plans with his friends in finance, economics, or marketing, knowing they probably would never come to fruition. Yet his desire to turn fantastic ideas into actual ventures led him to seek a business minor by attending Villanova’s Summer Business Institute (SBI), which turned out to be great preparation for the ESTEEM Program.…

From Xavier University to ESTEEM

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John Means, a member of the ESTEEM Class of 2016, returned to his undergraduate campus, Xavier University, and helped recruit four men to the Class of 2017. Ben Kelty, Roy Saikali, Alex Curry, and Mitchell Cornely say the program provides complementary skills – and the connection to the Notre Dame alumni network and career services help – that allows them to pursue their dream careers. The intense summer semester, with rigorous courses in mostly-new topics, helped the cohort bond and feel at home on the Notre Dame campus.…

From University of Portland to ESTEEM

Zellerhoff Tori

Victoria Zellerhoff came to ESTEEM from the University of Portland (UP), Notre Dame’s sister school in Oregon, to add business skills to the excellent technical background she gained with her mechanical engineering major and biology minor. She also found a national reputation, an unparalleled alumni network, overflowing career fairs, and an actual football team (Portland’s disbanded in 66 years ago, hence “Undefeated since 1950”). …

From St. Mary's College to ESTEEM

Prezek Sarah

Sarah Prezek majored in biology at Saint Mary’s College and minored in gerontology, a longtime interest – “I loved the elderly as a child,” she says. “People think babies are cute. I thought old people were cute.” She first considered a medical career, but when she changed her mind, the next step turned out to be across the street at Notre Dame’s ESTEEM Program, where she could gain skills for service. Another perk just happened to be another season of football and tailgates.…

Alumni Spotlight: Matt Hansen

Photo of student Matt Hansen

As a member of the ESTEEM Class of 2015, Matthew Hansen learned to canvass potential customers to gauge the demand for products and identify the most desired features. Working in the product development unit of Mobisol in Arusha, Tanzania, he plays a part in field visits for face-to-face interviews and observations, conducts telephone surveys and focus groups, helps decide whether to create the product in-house or source it elsewhere, and runs pilot programs to assess the feasibility of adding the item to the company’s line.…

Fabrication Laboratory Up and Running at Galvin Life Sciences Center

Photo of Professor Matt Leevy

ESTEEM Graduate Program Thesis Adviser Matthew Leevy, a Research Associate Professor and Director of the Biological Imaging Core, has launched a fabrication laboratory in the basement of Galvin Life Sciences Center to serve the University at large. Tony Van Avermaete, a design and fabrication specialist, will serve as the operational manager of the new facility. The laboratory, which includes three CAD workstations, has the most advanced 3D printer on campus and is adding a laser cutter this month. It offers fabrication of a finished design, consultation on designs in process, and comprehensive design and fabrication based on a back-of-the-napkin sketches. The service is set up within CORES for access to all faculty, staff, and students on campus.…

From Stonehill College to ESTEEM

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Stonehill College, a Catholic institution with 2,500 students founded in 1948 in Easton, Mass., is sometimes called Notre Dame of the East because of similar architecture, shared traditions like priests in the residence halls, and shared names like Notre Dame du Lac and Cushing. When Stonehill undergrads Emily Tokarowski, Matt Brooks, and Brendan Hughes came to the University of Notre Dame for ESTEEM, they found differences in scale and common ground in culture.…

Alumni Spotlight: Kiel Hockett

When he was an undergraduate at the University of Notre Dame, Kiel Hockett added a degree in history to his degree in aerospace engineering so that he would learn to write papers and manage documents effectively. Then he decided he want to learn more about research and development, customer service, ethics, finance, and operations, so he joined the ESTEEM Class of 2011.…

Thesis Spotlight: Gleaux, Inc.


When he was earning a degree in biophysics at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ben Kelty wrote a capstone course project on the bioluminescent plant created by BioGlow Tech, now Gleaux Inc., a fascinating technology with potential uses from landscape planting to bedroom nightlights. After two years of undergraduate science research, Kelty decided to seek problem-solving opportunities in the business field – so he joined this year’s ESTEEM class.

From St. Edward's University to ESTEEM

Hayyat Ralph

For Ralph Hayyat and Karl de Zoeten, ESTEEM offered an opportunity to move from their undergraduate education at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Tex., to its sister school – both founded by Father Edward Sorin – for an education focused on providing options for real-world career impact. The science majors say they’re thriving in a rigorous environment of challenge and collaboration.…

From Gonzaga University to ESTEEM

2017 Gonzaga

Taylor Johnson was at an information session with ESTEEM Director David Murphy at Gonzaga University when he texted his friend and fellow mechanical engineering major Michael Sedor: “Hey, you should go check this out.” Sedor made it in time for Murphy’s 5-minute pitch, and the two started investigating the program. Now they’re roommates at Notre Dame in the ESTEEM Class of 2017.…

From the College of the Holy Cross to ESTEEM

Kenney Jack

At the College of the Holy Cross, a 2,900-student Jesuit institution in Worcester, Mass., Jack Kenney earned degrees in both chemistry and economics while playing hockey and serving as a social leader. He was ready for the demands of the first semester at ESTEEM.

“I think that experience of being able to contribute to campus life in a big way athletically, academically, and socially prepared me for ESTEEM,” Kenney says. “It had this distinct sense of community that Notre Dame has too. Being able to contribute to that community prepared me to do so on a larger stage. I think one of the key benefits of the ESTEEM program is the fact that they throw a lot at you. They throw a lot at everybody. It’s a good opportunity to learn how to deal with a lot on our plate.”…

Faculty Spotlight: Lawrence Greenspun

Just before they graduate, ESTEEM students get an in-depth look at leadership and decide what kind of leader they want to be. Lawrence Greenspun, an Adjunct Assistant Professional Specialist teaches a one-credit course on Leadership that includes theories, profiles, Harvard Business School cases a survey of literature from the field of effective leadership, and in-person examples to provide material for students to define their own leadership strategies.…

Alumni Spotlight: Annie Kotz

When Annie Kotz was taking her first accounting course in ESTEEM, she wondered, like many math students, how this would help her in the future. Now she does end-of-month accounting for the startup where she works in Houston.


When a colleague at PROS left to start Sycamore Life Sciences, a lab supplies distributor, Kotz became the first employee, starting with multiple responsibilities and specializing in marketing strategy as the company has grown. “We’re really focused on e-commerce,” she says. “We’re trying to figure out how to get into that market.”When she graduated, Kotz went to work for PROS, a decades-old software company in Houston that had started in airline revenue management software and expanded into pricing optimization software for manufacturers and distributors. She worked for about two years as an implementation consultant for medical device manufacturing companies such as Johnson & Johnson and Zimmer, then two more years in product management with development teams, sales teams, and strategic innovation teams to ensure the sustained sales of established products as well as the introduction of new products for large companies with large product portfolios.Kotz, who earned a science-business degree at Notre Dame and joined ESTEEM in 2011, worked as a marketing intern for F Cubed in Innovation Park while she was developing her capstone thesis on a microfluidic testing platform with Professor Hsueh-Chia Chang of the Department of Chemical Engineering. “It was a great experience,” she says. “I had classes at Innovation Park, so I would just walk across the hall and work there too.”…

Alumni Spotlight: Arturo “A.J.” Tablada

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Arturo “A.J.” Tablada, who earned a degree in science-business with a minor in theology at the University of Notre Dame before he joined the ESTEEM Class of 2015, is putting his entrepreneurial skills to work for his nonprofit startup, St. Michael’s Angels ™. St. Michael’s Angels ™, a Christian nonprofit organization, provides individuals undergoing hospitalization the gift of a loving presence ™. Following a period of discernment, Tablada noticed the extent of the problem of patients without visitors after spending time with a family member in a local hospital. He raised $10,000 in a recent fundraising campaign for the nonprofit, including a matching grant from the Knight Foundation that recognized the group among the top 20 social entrepreneurs in South Florida as a part of the Create Miami initiative. …

Faculty Spotlight: Gale Bowman


Gale Bowman, the Managing Director of the IrishAngels investors group, shares her expertise with ESTEEM students in a class on early stage financing. Students hear a series of five lectures and also complete final projects based on real-life companies that they select at the beginning of their time in the ESTEEM program. …

ESTEEM Student receives Fulbright Scholarship


Genevieve Crum, who will graduate from the ESTEEM program in May, has received a scholarship from the International Fulbright Committee and the U.S. Department of State to study and conduct research in Italy for a year as a Fulbright U.S. Student Program Scholar. She will earn a master’s degree in gastronomy at the University of Gastronomic Sciences in northern Italy starting in September and spend four months as an intern or researcher after the eight-month program. Her focus is the slow food movement and the food industry in Italy. …