What Matters to Teachers and School Leaders? Supporting Students and Preparing Them For Success


image001 (1)In fall 2014, EdVestors launched the School Solutions Seed Fund issuing an open call to educators seeking funding to support problem-solving, experimentation, and innovation in schools.  The beauty of the Seed Fund is that through this fund, EdVestors and its granting partners hear from the experts we value most – teachers and school leaders. Matched with flexible resources and tactical support from EdVestors, these educators are empowered to put their plans into action, to experiment, and to share their struggles and successes with a community of like-minded educators.

The Seed Fund also provides a window into the common challenges faced by schools that slow their progress. This year two issues stood out: the need to better address social emotional learning and the importance of preparing high school students for post-secondary success.

Social Emotional Learning and Support: The prevalence of childhood trauma is alarming, often cited at affecting more than 50 percent of children, and likely higher in urban areas. Programs that teach social emotional skills and problem-solving to students are showing promising results. Through the Seed Fund this year, EdVestors is supporting approaches aimed at equipping students with skills to make positive choices in the face of challenges, and teachers with skills to understand and holistically support students’ learning and development:

This issue has become more visible recently thanks to federal and state policies, efforts by organizations like the Rennie Center, CASEL, and Transforming Education, and the hiring of Boston Public Schools’ new Assistant Superintendent of Social Emotional Learning. These efforts will provide on-the-ground evidence of what works and what challenges emerge in implementation.


Preparing Students For Post-Secondary Success: Despite rising high school graduation rates, students are arriving at colleges unprepared for the coursework. National estimates suggest between 28 and 40 percent of college students are required to enroll remedial courses. EdVestors’ Seed Fund is supporting the Margarita Muniz Academy, in partnership with the Boston HERC, in designing supports for Latino students to be successful in their post-secondary pursuits. Creating and strengthening career pathways for students at Madison Park Vocational Technical High School and the English High School will allow students to graduate with industry-certified credentials prepared to enter the workforce or continue their education.

Mayor Marty Walsh, with the Boston Public Schools and the Boston Opportunity Agenda, has a broad high school redesign process underway in Boston. Our hope is that the piloting and testing of models at these schools will inform Boston’s high schools of the future.

Please join us at the School Solutions Seed Fund Showcase on April 11 at District Hall to listen directly to school leaders and teachers about these issues as well other innovative efforts underway in schools in Boston.

Alison Headshot 2013Alison Stevens is Senior Director of School-Based Investments at EdVestors, a school improvement nonprofit working to increase the number of schools in Boston delivering dramatically improved educational outcomes for all students. For more info about the School Solutions Seed Fund, contact EdVestors at, check the website at or follow @EdVestors.

Fellow Profile: Kevin Yang

kevin-yang_MSNEWhere are you from? Orange County, California

School/grade/major: Harvard, Junior, Computer Science and Statistics

Last thing you searched on Bing: Best Sushi in NYC

Why did you choose Microsoft’s fellowship program? Previously, I led a nonprofit called the Digital Literacy Project, which brings undergraduates into middle schools to teach an introduction to computer science. From these experiences, I naturally became interested in understanding how to magnify my impact on communities and how communities function. As a leader in the Civic Tech space, Microsoft seemed like a great way to continue exploring my passions.

What’s the most exciting tech venture the City of Boston is working on? Naming the most exciting tech venture in Boston is particularly difficult. Boston has an unparalleled ecosystem of innovation with startup accelerators like Mass Challenge, spaces for entrepreneurship like the Cambridge Innovation Center, and partnerships between companies and policy makers like the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council. These organizations help innovative tech ventures thrive in Boston and make me particularly excited to work on civic tech in Boston.

Who is your civic tech mentor? I find Hadi Partovi’s mission to demonstrate the transformative power of technology through particularly inspiring. Over the past two years since its inception, has engaged over one hundred million people to learn how to code.

What excites you about civic tech? Within the civic tech space, there are plenty of opportunities to make meaningful and lasting improvements to the lives of community members. As shown by the uptake of applications like Microsoft Pulse and OpenGov, local governments enhanced with technology can be transparent and responsive.

What’s one problem you hope civic tech will solve for cities? Through new civic tech services where governments can connect with citizens, I hope communities will become more involved with their local governments.

Microsoft’s New England SMSG Organization Moving to Burlington


Microsoft Burlington Office, 5 Wayside Road

Later this year, Microsoft’s New England Sales, Marketing and Services Group (SMSG) will move to Nokia’s former offices in Burlington, Massachusetts, from our current Kendall Square location.

Let me be clear, Microsoft is not leaving Kendall Square! Microsoft will continue to have a large presence here. Microsoft research and development teams will remain in Cambridge where they can easily collaborate with leading, nearby academic institutions and the broader technology community. Debi Mishra, Partner Director of Engineering for Azure Machine Learning, and site leader for this Microsoft Global Development Center, will continue to focus on growing our research and development presence here, and our conference center at NERD will continue its mission of hosting industry meetings and meet-ups.


Microsoft New England Research & Development Center

In fact, the plan is to renovate the more than 150,000 sq. feet we occupy at One Memorial Drive, providing more collaborative work spaces for our research and development teams and giving us room for business growth.

As for my SMSG team, our footprint in the Northeast continues to grow, and Burlington places us in a centralized location close to Boston, but with easier access to all the surrounding states in our sales region.

The move will see all SMSG employees at Microsoft’s 255 Main Street, Kendall Square office, including those in our world-class Microsoft Technology Center (MTC), relocate to 5 Wayside Road in Burlington. The Burlington office will complement our New England satellite offices in Hartford, CT and Rochester, NY. It’s also just two miles from our Microsoft Store at the Burlington Mall.

This move will allow SMSG to truly capitalize on our company’s mobile-first strategy and provide an easily accessible, state-of-the-art hub where we can work more effectively with customers, partners, developers and user groups throughout our Northeast territory.

As I indicated at the outset, this move won’t occur until later this year, but I want our New England customers, partners, employees and friends to be aware of our intentions. We’re looking forward our new Burlington home, but in the meantime we’ll continue to meet your needs from our current Kendall Square offices.

Robert Davy is general manager of Microsoft’s Northeast Enterprise and Partner Group.

MLK Day: Service & Education

EdV_Prize_033In recent years, MLK Day has become a day of service, and as MLK Day approaches it always makes me consider the volunteer opportunities I my life. I am fortunate to be able to volunteer at my kids’ school and my synagogue’s religious school. I even coach my 7 year old son’s soccer team in the Fall and Spring – and as a non-soccer player, that one is pretty funny!  But with two school age children and a husband who is an Elementary School principal, my personal passion to enhance education with technology leads to me often centering my volunteer time around education.

With so many amazing non-profit orgs in Boston, sometimes it is difficult to find just one meaningful volunteer opportunities that can also take advantage of my skills, but I feel lucky to have connected with a few groups that I can contribute to and that leave me feeling very fulfilled — and I’d like to highlight a few:

  1. Generation Citizen– Providing all students with an education in Action Civics. Action Civics provides students with the knowledge and skills necessary to participate in our democracy as active citizens. GC envisions a country of young people working as active and effective citizens to collectively rebuild our American democracy.
    • VOLUNTEER to speak to a class, judge at Civics Day or attend the Civic Tech Challenge.
  2. Museum of Science– Ensuring students receive science and engineering education through innovative exhibits and events like the recent Science Behind Pixar exhibit.
    • VOLUNTEER at a special event like Computer Science Education Week or support the museum with your expertise through a task force focused on Technology, Food, etc.
  3. Youth Cities– Teaching students about entrepreneurship by engaging local startup founders, venture capitalists and other entrepreneurs in our community and teaching them how to build a business.
    • VOLUNTEER by becoming a mentor or attending the March to May bootcamp concluding event to hear more about the student projects.
  4. EdVestors– Improving urban education with a focus on Boston Public Schools.  The work of EdVestors focuses on delivering dramatically improved educational outcomes for all students.
    • VOLUNTEER by attending the Seed Fund Showcase or School on the Move event to support the org and the innovative schools in their network.
  5. Resilient Coders– Teaching young people from traditionally underserved communities to code, creating skilled workers, increasing diversity in the tech industry and filling the pipeline for the tech industry.
    • VOLUNTEER as a mentor to RC students or to speak to a cohort of students during a bootcamp.  You can also hire Resilient Coders to for technical projects like building web sites or apps.

This list is just a start.  I hope you will share your favorite organizations where you spend your time @asprung or in the comments below.  Happy volunteering!

Promoting Financial Security With Beldwell


Pop quiz. Which of these experiences do you find more mortifying?

  • Finally, at age 30, moving to the big city but only being able to afford housing options that include four housemates
  • Having your credit card declined in front of all your friends
  • Over drafting your bank account
  • Learning your car has been repossessed

If any of these scenarios hit too close to home as plausible, I completely understand. All of these humbling experiences were mine. Why? Because, like most, I learned about finances through the school of hard knocks.

Full disclosure: my parents set me up with a great academic foundation – private school education that culminated into Ivy League graduation – but zero financial literacy.

The reality of an entry-level salary plus student loan debt minus basic cost of living expenses didn’t leave room for error. Hello self-sufficient adulthood. Never mind, this version of adulthood included living paycheck to paycheck and “nuisances” like overdraft fees and making minimum payments on credit cards. Not looking at your bank account balance equals blissful ignorance, right?

Wrong. The day my relationship with my finances changed is still crystal clear. At the age of 24, after a missed loan payment, my car was repossessed. That was it; the wake-up call that there had to be a better way to handle my money.

So where does one go to learn health financial habits when turning to family is not an option? Traditional sources like banks, financial advisors, and other financial institutions can be perceived as intimidating and often assume even a basic level of financial literacy. Antiquated approaches to financial literacy have a way of repelling those of the ‘I cringe when I look at my bank account persuasion’. Recognizing emergency savings is a critical factor in financial health, we sought to reimagine how might we change individuals’ experience with money in a relevant and beautiful way and created Beldwell.

Beldwell is dedicated to helping people build happier, more financially secure lives through beautiful physical artifacts that connect to, and reflect, your financial progress. We believe that every person should have the opportunity to achieve financial independence and understand the solutions offered should keep up with the times. Think Fitbit for saving money, minus the wearable part. Beldwell is designed to fit in with the décor of your home or office. We value a non-invasive approach. Beldwell is simply there to genuinely encourage your progress.

Follow our blog at to learn about the meaning of our company’s name.

Microsoft New England Picks: 6 Not-To-Miss Events This Week

Events 1-4-16

It’s a new year, and it’s time to brush away the holiday lethargy and kickstart 2016. Join us this week for some of our top picks for events you don’t want to miss:

sumu-app1) Tech + Real Estate Meetup
Tuesday, January 5, 5:45pm — 7:45pm
Warehouse Bar & Grille | 40 Broad Street | Boston
Twitter: @sumuapp

Whether you’re interested in investing in real estate, investing in a startup, in real estate, or making your own startup, get to know the lay of the land! Get to meet the movers and shakers of the industry.

tom-maloney2) Well Formed Outcome for Starting Your Business
Tuesday, January 5, 6:30pm — 8:30pm
Microsoft New England R & D Center | 1 Memorial Drive | Cambridge
Twitter: @outcomedriven

Well Formed Outcome thinking is a very powerful approach to achieving what you want. The elements of outcome thinking are drawn from people in all walks of life who consistently achieve what they want in a way that is compatible both with those around them and with their environment. By following the steps to setting a well formed outcome you are modeling the way these successful people think about outcomes. This way of thinking works in all situations and at all levels, from setting an outcome for a five minute discussion, to establishing a vision for a company. The success comes from ensuring that your thinking about your outcomes meets all the conditions for a well formed outcome. Each element is crucial to the eventual likelihood of success.

venturewell3) VentureWell E-Team Stage 1 Workshop
Thursday, January 7 — Saturday, January 9
Microsoft New England R&D Center | 1 Memorial Drive | Cambridge
Twitter: @venturewell

The E-Team Program provides early-stage support and funding for collegiate entrepreneurs working on market-based technology inventions. E-Team grants have been funding collegiate student and student/faculty teams to move ideas out of the lab and classroom and into the marketplace. The program enhances this opportunity by providing expert entrepreneurial and venture coaching, experiential workshops, and a potential investment opportunity to help realize the commercial success of the technology inventions and innovations that come through our organization.

ga-LOGO4) WeWork + GA Present: Intro to the Boston Startup Community
Thursday, January 7, 6:30pm — 8:30pm
General Assembly Boston | 51 Melcher Street | Boston
Twitter: @GA_boston | @WeWorkBOS

This free class is an orientation to help newcomers to the startup scene get acquainted with the exciting world of tech in Boston. We will give you the inside scoop on key events/meetups to attend, people, companies, VCs, blogs, incubators, programs, hot issues, and more.
Come meet others getting started in the local startup community and enjoy an after work drink on us!

ga-networking5) General Assembly Open House: Your Year Of Yes
Friday, January 8, 4:30pm — 7pm
General Assembly Boston | 51 Melcher Street | Boston
Twitter: @GA_boston 

It starts now. Swing by our local open house, and find out how GA can help you say “yes” to a more fulfilling career in 2016.

bac-logo6) Brookline Arts Center Annual Snowflake Festival
Saturday, January 9, 12pm — 4pm
Brookline Arts Center | 86 Monmouth Street | Brookline
Twitter: @brooklinearts

The Brookline Arts Center is pleased to host its annual Snowflake Festival and Open House Saturday, January 9, 2016 from 12:00-4:00pm. Join us for an afternoon filled with artwork, activities and fun for all ages!


Meet the Haute House University: Fashion Business EdTech

HHU-flyer-front for jpeg

Teaching Business to aspiring fashion designers and start-ups

There is a growing debate happening in the global fashion industry. You might think the debate is around topics like green manufacturing, sustainability, diversity and the portrayal of beauty and the ideal body image…you will be surprised. The subject that is starting to make the rounds is whether or not fashion-related university students need to know the fundamentals of business. You know, things like the marketing mix, cash flow planning, industry research, creating a business strategy, integrated marketing and professional conduct.

Enter The Haute House Design Studio

Taneshia Camillo-Sheffey, the owner & founder of the premier eRetail company The Haute House Design Studio, has been signing and mentoring some of the best global private designer brands, and fashion design graduates to her studio. It quickly became apparent that her new designers didn’t have business knowledge and lacked an understanding of how the business side of the fashion industry actually worked. During the course of her mentoring, these designers quickly came to understand that this knowledge was crucial to the development of their designer brands. 9 out of 10 start-ups failing within the first 18 months. Taneshia was committed to ensuring that her designers would be among the success stories and not the failures in this statistic.

Taneshia realized there was a gap in the fashion education marketplace and quickly set about addressing it.

Enter The Haute House University

Taneshia wanted to re-format her mentoring program from a one-to-one “in-house” approach to a more formalized educational setting. She teamed up with the British-American Integrated Marketing professional and academic, Alex di Savoia. As program Leader, Alex developed a bespoke, robust and engaging online learning platform using Joomla. The site supports a variety of learning styles and has been built with ‘on the go’ learning in mind. Students can learn anywhere, any time on any device.  Technology also allows module leaders to provide summative (on-the-go) and formative (final) feedback to students.

The site’s technology allows module tutors to interact with students either in real time via online teleconferencing or via forums and system emails. Students can communicate and collaborate with each cohort can also interact online via various site and online tools. Whether it’s mind mapping, interactive canvases, scenario activities, SWOT analysis or event planning – the practical learning activities are reflective-learning intensive and crafted using online tools. Students not only learn the business side of fashion through this process. They also pick up digital and online skills that make them even more competitive in the marketplace.

Working In Synergy

The two sides of the company work in synergy. The Haute House is in the business of developing fashion businesses. The Haute House Design Studio focuses on the creative side of the industry, building tomorrows brands today via its online boutique. The Haute House University is the Edtech / “software as service” arm teaching the business side of the fashion industry to aspiring designers.  Together, both strive to reduce the number of fashion-related start-ups.

The use of technology in educating designers about the business side of fashion is core to the company achieving its objectives.

Microsoft Philanthropies: Empowerment Begins with Inclusion

Today we’re announcing an expanded commitment to our corporate philanthropy around the world with a broader ambition and a new organization within the company, Microsoft Philanthropies, to make this ambition a reality.

Our CEO, Satya Nadella, has defined a clear mission for Microsoft: Empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. In his letter to shareholders this year, he said, “In the year ahead we will continue to ask ourselves what are the challenges mankind faces, how can technology help, and what is the contribution of Microsoft?”

This new organization within Microsoft will bring together a range of assets to address digital inclusion and help ensure the benefits of technology reach every person and every organization on the planet.

Read more about Microsoft Philanthropies on the Official Microsoft Blog from Brad Smith and check out the Fire Hose post on the leaders for Microsoft Philanthropies, Mary Snapp and Lori Harnick.

Microsoft New England Picks: 3 Not-To-Miss Events This Week

Events 12-14

2015 flew by, and with our last full (non-holiday) week of the year, we want to leave you with events you just can’t miss. End the year with our top picks for events this week:

Gencit1) Generation Citizen Greater Boston Civics Day
Tuesday, December 15, 9:30am — 1:30pm
Massachusetts State House | 24 Beacon Street | Boston
Twitter: @gencitizen | #civicsday

This December, Generation Citizen students, Democracy Coaches and community leaders from across Boston, New York City, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Providence will gather in their cities to celebrate a semester of young people engaging in local political action and to brainstorm strategies for leading change on important community issues.

BGN.io2) December Board Game Night
Tuesday, December 15, 6pm — 10pm
WeWork (South Station) | 745 Atlantic Ave | Boston
Twitter: @bgnio | #BGNio8

Half-networking, half-gaming — it’s the only event in Boston that brings together innovation enthusiasts for an evening of friendly competition and great conversation. All proceeds benefit the ever awesome Resilient Coders, an organization dedicated to making web tech education more accessible to urban youth.

The Virtualization User Group December Meeting3) The Virtualization User Group December Meeting
Thursday, December 17, 6pm — 9pm
Microsoft New England R&D Center | 1 Memorial Drive | Cambridge

The Virtualization User group meetings provide the user community an opportunity to learn about new technologies and other virtualization topics of interest.

Presentations provide details and background on different areas e.g. Storage with virtualization, Hyper-V, Cloud Computing etc. and are requested to be technical in nature not sales oriented

Taking a 21st Century Approach to Innovation in Australia

JoinedUp Boston

Governments around the world are grappling with the concept of innovation: what is it? How does it benefit society? And how can the power of innovation be harnessed to benefit constituents? You may recall Microsoft New England had the pleasure of convening an Australian delegation in July to explore these topics and brainstorm the Boston best practices that could be leveraged in Australia.

We are honored to see this work begin to bear fruit “down under”, and are thrilled to see our Australian friends taking steps towards their own 21st century approach to innovation. We hope to continue to share and learn from our Australian colleagues.

See how Australia is leveraging some of Boston’s best practices in innovation:

Adelaide looks to Boston as SA government eyes future as tech startup centre — Australian Financial Review

Boston lessons for Roy, Husic — Australian Business Review

Joined-Up Innovation — Accelerating Australia’s Ecosystem

MICROSOFT: Australia has a lot to learn from startup powerhouse Massachusetts — Business Insider Australia