Press Release
Thomas College Students Win Spring Innovation Challenge & Cash Prize MacKenzie Riley Young | April 28, 2022

WATERVILLE, MAINE, April 2022 — Teams of Thomas College students competed in the President’s Innovation Challenge earlier this week on campus. Students collaborated with Maine employers and used design thinking for a semester-long project to solve real-world problems.

Winners of the President’s Innovation Challenge pitch competition were Shawnna Frost, of Milford, NH; Griffin Mayhew, of Wilton, ME; and Elisabeth Sanborn, of Hebron, ME. Shawnna, Griffin, and Elisabeth worked with Thomas College on a mental health project. They won $1,000 for their first-place win.

“It felt surreal to win this challenge! We have been working so hard for the past 10 weeks on a topic that we are passionate about, and to win the whole competition, it was an incredible moment,” said one of the members of the winning team, Shawnna Frost.

Another winner, Elisabeth Sanborn said, “This challenge helped me feel so incredibly secure in my abilities to change the world and the place in which I call home. The power and strength that I received from this challenge is unmatched and I cannot wait to apply it in my professional career.”

Amanda Nguyen, Program Director for the Centers of Innovation at Thomas College, spearheaded this program working with students and employers. Nguyen says, “Over the past 10 weeks, our students had the opportunity to learn design thinking in order to tackle authentic problems. They were mentored by employer partners and campus administrators who gave feedback, and helped the students develop skills that will make them more career ready. Ultimately, they were empowered to share their feedback and recommendations to project hosts and an audience with Thomas students, staff, faculty, trustees, and special guests  – and in a really wonderful end to the day, almost everyone got to hear a commitment from host organizations that their ideas would be implemented.”

Other employers who were involved with this semester’s innovation challenge were the Maine Department of Corrections / Long Creek Youth Development Center, Waterville Creates, and JMG.  Employers collaborated regularly with the students throughout the semester leading up to the pitch competition.

Second place winners, who won $500, included Evelyn Goulette, of West Gardiner, ME; Sebastian Holland, of Readsboro, VT; Nick Linkel, of Bowdoin, ME; and Tyler Winchester, of Bucksport, ME. They collaborated with Long Creek Development Center for their project.  

Third place winners, who won $250, included Achen Charles, of Portland, ME; Apiyo Charles, of Portland, ME; Onyx Emelo, of Portland, ME; and Luul Hassan, of Auburn, ME. They collaborated with JMG for their project.

Participants of the President’s Innovation Challenge also earned the Design Thinking digital badge as well as made connections with Maine employers. Learn more about the other challenges and participants.

The next President’s Innovation Challenge will launch in the fall of 2022. Learn more.

About Thomas College: Thomas College has been preparing students for success in their personal and professional lives for over 125 years. Thomas College nurtures the unique potential within each student. Our Guaranteed Job Program, 3-year accelerated offerings in all undergraduate degrees, individualized advising, career counseling, and our Innovation Centers in Business and Education meet a student’s determination to succeed with the direction, confidence, and tools to realize the highest version of themselves. Our graduate degree offerings fit your lifestyle ranging from in-person and on-campus to 100% online degree programs. From the classroom to community activities, or on the athletics field with our 19 varsity sports, Thomas College provides a personalized experience that prepares you for the workplace of tomorrow. U.S. News & World Report ranks us #1 among colleges in Maine and #10 in the Northeast for social mobility of our graduates. For more information, visit or contact MacKenzie Riley Young at [email protected] or 207-859-1313. Find us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.