Professional & Career Development
President’s Innovation Challenge: Fall 2023 Web Director | January 2, 2024

Throughout the semester, a handful of elite Thomas College students have partnered with local businesses, implementing the Design Thinking process to help solve the problems of real organizations in the community. Brought to Thomas College’s campus by President Laurie Lachance, the President’s Innovation Challenge (PIC) allows students to be immersed in organizations around the State, talking to numerous residents, employers, and industries to develop action plans and innovative solutions to real life challenges faced by companies, non-profits, or municipalities. This semester’s project partners included Freedom’s Edge Cider, Quarry Road Trails, and the Kennebec Valley Community Action Program (KVCAP). 

The team working with Freedom’s Edge Cider included Julia Reny, Molly Sottak, Mary Disanto, Nicholas Alexander, Gail Beyor, and Lila Pottle who worked with Ned Irvin, co-owner of Freedom’s Edge, to create marketing strategies for the opening of the Freedom’s Edge Cider tasting room opening this spring in the Old Port in Portland. Students interviewed other companies who operate in the same space to gain insight into best practices within the industry, allowing them to produce the best possible marketing plan for the new establishment.

Another PIC team consisting of students Alyssa Williams, Eli Principato, Brodi Freeman, Parker Demelia, and Elle King all worked with Jeff Tucker, program director for Quarry Road Trails to formulate a plan to successfully recruit and retain a steady flow of volunteers at the facilities. The group joined forces with the Freedom’s Edge PIC team to put on a volunteer appreciation event at Quarry Road on Friday, November 10th to say “thank you” for those who have already been involved and to introduce a whole new contingent of people who may consider volunteering in the future. Attendees toured the facility, were asked to fill out questionnaires for the PIC teams and enjoyed a cider poured by Freedom’s Edge Cider’s co-owner, Ned Ervin.

Lastly, Emma Boucher, Bailee Mallett, Brooke Phillips, Daniel Brewer, Nick Weiss, Caleb Daigneault, Olivia Labonte, Connor Camire, Faith Perrier, Samuel Tjalsma, and Hadassah Leighton worked with Erin Binghalib, the Senior Transportation Director for KVCAP to analyze the most effective bus routes and communicate with local government entities to uncover funding sources. Also, the team explored the possibility of KVCAP’s Kennebec Explorer bus servicing the campus twice per week. The KVCAP team conducted outreach to multiple levels of government to discuss transportation funding, meeting with Ward 1 Waterville City Councilor, Brandon Gilley, Maine State Transportation Committee member, Representative Bruce White as well as Senate President Troy Jackson and Representative David LaFountain at the State House.