Innovation Fellows Cohorts

Cohort 1

  • Sarah Burns
    Sarah Burns

    Finance
    Minor in Entrepreneurship
    Master of International Business

Sarah Burns is a senior at the University of Florida’s Heavener School of Business, graduating with an undergraduate degree in Finance and a minor in Entrepreneurship, as well as a combined Master of International Business from the Hough Graduate School of Business.

Throughout her time at UF, Sarah has been involved with student organizations and leadership roles that focus on professional and personal development, mentorship, and academic and extracurricular interests. She has served as the Treasurer of the Chi Omega Sorority during the last year, creating and managing a $250M budget for over 280 members, while working alongside multiple Chi Omega National and Advisory groups to maintain the overall satisfactory financial standing of the chapter. Sarah has been a member of the Florida Leadership Academy (FLA) for three years as a mentee, mentor, and advisory board member. Through FLA, she has mentored 12 students and attended numerous guest speaker presentations pertaining to multiple industries, diverse companies, and personal and professional growth activities guiding students toward a successful future outside of the Heavener School of Business as a young professional. Sarah has been a Teaching Assistant for both the Principles of Entrepreneurship and Business Law courses for three semesters aiding hundreds of students in each area of study. Sarah has also studied abroad twice with the University of Florida; first during a summer in Florence, Italy learning culture and language, and second participating in a Global Immersion Experience in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam focusing on the aspects of a domestic and international business as well as the current and future economy of Vietnam. Sarah is also a violinist in the University of Florida’s Symphony Orchestra.

Sarah has worked for SunTrust Bank as a Wholesale Development Program summer analyst in the Commercial Banking line of business. During her time at SunTrust, she worked in the Central Florida market aiding analyst teams throughout the state of Florida and focusing on multiple industries such as government and aerospace, food and agriculture, technology and professional services, transportation and logistics, healthcare, supply chain management, and retail and leisure. The clients she worked with in this market had annual revenue between $10M – $100M, and she participated in client meetings focusing on the companies current situation, future growth strategy, or exit strategy of the business depending on their individual structure and life stage. Sarah also spent time with Red Ventures, a digital marketing and data & analytics firm based in Charlotte, North Carolina. There she learned from digital media, business operations, product specialty, data & analytics, mergers & acquisitions and engineering teams. She attended meetings discussing project planning, user interface and user experience, and database structure for clients within their healthcare, telecommunications, and home security verticals. After college, Sarah has accepted a position with SunTrust Bank as a full-time Wholesale Development Program analyst in Atlanta, Georgia.


  • Maxim Davis
    Maxim Davis

    Business Administration
    Minor in Entrepreneurship

Maxim is a 3rd year student pursuing a Business Administration major, concentrating in physics, and minoring in Entrepreneurship. Maxim has found purpose by experimenting and taking calculated risks often, reevaluating himself along the way. He has devoted his life to escape society’s mediocrity by crossing the jungle of challenge to discover life’s secrets. The mystery of the unknown drives him to get out of bed every day, to learn and to be useful to humanity. Curiosity is his tool, and the universe is his sandbox.

Born in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, Maxim moved to the United States at the age of 5. Growing up, Maxim found his love for hard work. In his early teens he was once taunted by a neighbor, who questioned Maxim’s desire to do seemingly endless hours of manual labor. When asked, Maxim simply said he enjoyed nothing more than weekends consisting of construction projects that spanned all day. His creative tendencies also drove him to constantly learn. In high school, he became fascinated about space after receiving a telescope for Christmas. He was often found late at night gazing at astrological phenomena writing down his findings in a journal. As he grew older, he realized that he could apply his work ethic and deep curiosity to more meaningful projects.

He has always been curious about science and engineering, but at the age of 19 he found other interests in business, when he co-founded an e-commerce company. He created and maintained a brand, negotiated international deals, and learned from experts in the field. In his spare time, Maxim also created video and visual content. While abroad in Australia, despite logistical and cultural barriers, he launched new products by leveraging resources. After an ineffective product launch abroad, he found a way to conduct customer research by surveying people on the streets of Melbourne, uncovering the problem. After every failure, Maxim would reassess his decision- making process and instate new systems. He learned more practical skills in this business venture than in all of his educational career thus far.

He ultimately realized that his passions and purpose in life did not align with e-commerce or content creation. He reexamined himself and took his work experience to pursue his next big idea. Maxim is currently exploring the rapidly developing field of AI, self-teaching himself a new programming language to explore opportunities in machine learning.

As Maxim pursues his entrepreneurship journey, he is taking steps to not only make entrepreneurship his passion, but his life. He is a full believer in lifelong learning, meditation and living a healthy active lifestyle to be able to work and think at full capacity. He spends every spare moment reading, listening, and learning about successful people and the intricacy of the world. He is a determined person who passionately pursues his largest ambitions.


  • Riley Marshall
    Riley Marshall

    Industrial and Systems Engineering
    Minor in Engineering Innovation
    Engineering Leadership Certificate

Riley Marshall is a junior at the University of Florida, currently pursing a degree in Industrial and Systems Engineering, with a minor in Engineering Innovation and a certificate in Engineering Leadership. She anticipates graduation in summer of 2020. Thus far in her collegiate career, she has received several professional accolades including the Heavener Business Ethics Case Divisional Winner and a Solid Works Design Program Certification. Riley has also enjoyed a variety of service projects within the Alachua county area including Habitat for Humanity, All Greek Service Day, and volunteer work for the Alachua County Humane Society.

In terms of collegiate involvement, Riley has enjoyed positions in a variety of organizations across campus. Within the Industrial Engineering major, Riley is involved as a member in the Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers, as well the IISE mentor/mentee program. Riley’s extracurricular passions lie most prominently in the group Engineers without Borders. In the last academic year, she served as the organizations secretary, as well as a member of the clubs foreign outreach team within the project management sector of the Nepal project. She was recently elected Vice President of Fundraising for the 2018-2019 academic year and will continue to serve within the Nepal foreign outreach team. Outside of academics, she enjoyed participating in the planning and execution of the Gator Growl Homecoming music festival as Assistant Director of Cameos in 2017. Within the Panhellenic community, Riley has taken positions within her sorority such as pledge class vice president and new member educator assistant/team leader. Riley was currently serves as the sustainability chairmen of a more than 250 member chapter organization.

Riley has held several specialized positions within the workforce thus far in her professional ventures. Riley most recently served as a Research Assistant for the Engineering Innovation Program and Interned for Bridge Angel Investment. These positions required extensive professional and analytical knowledge as well as organization and communication skills. Riley is now employed at Bridge Angel Investment as a remote part-time processes/deal flow assistant. Beginning is January of 2017; Riley has worked as an OPS Assistant for the University of Florida Athletic Association. Within this work environment, Riley employs technical and communicative skills to facilitate efficient athlete-advisor relations and ensure efficient day-to-day function of the UAA.

In the future, Riley hopes to earn her MBA with aspirations of working in a business affiliated engineering organization.


  • Alex Messinger
    Alex Messinger

    Mechanical Engineering
    Engineering Leadership Certificate

Alex Messinger is a senior at the University of Florida, studying Mechanical Engineering. He has focused his education on examining the business side of the engineering and technology industries. He is a recipient of the Certificate of Engineering Leadership, awarded after taking extensive courses from top industry, military, and public leaders to determine the skills and virtues most critical in preparing for leadership roles in engineering careers. After graduation Alex plans to pursue his MBA at the University of Florida.

While at UF, Alex has gotten involved with a few organizations on campus. He has served two terms as the Alumni Relations Chair for the Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity. Alex aided in streamlining and reorganizing the outdated
communication process between current brothers and alumni. He also spent a year long term as the Event Coordinator for the Florida Clum Swim and Dive Team. In his time on the Team’s Executive Board, Alex created and implemented a chair-position program to increase team member involvement and productivity. Alex also serves as a recruiter for Birthright Israel. He encourages former Birthright participants to continue exploring their Jewish identity by helping them find active roles in Jewish organizations nationwide.

Alex has been a Sales Development Representative at a local company, The Selling Factory, for the last two years. The Selling Factory has a high energy selling environment that coaches students, entrepreneurs, and sales professionals in the skills they need to be successful in business. While at the company, Alex developed strong sales and communication skills through email, phone, and social media marketing campaigns. He also learned how to conduct extensive market research and perform detailed B2B lead generation and sales channel development. Most notably, Alex is the project manager for a $1.5-million-dollar partnership between two of the company’s largest clients.


  • Francis Mijares
    Francis Mijares

    Mechanical Engineering

Francis Mijares is a 5th-year mechanical engineering student at the University of Florida. He was born and raised in Miami, FL to Cuban and Lebanese parents. Francis has a competitive spirit and is passionate about the outdoors, service and sports.

Before attending the University of Florida, he was actively involved with the Escuelita Maya Non-Profit in Lake Worth, FL. For his work with the Escuelita Maya, he earned the Charity and Social Service award by the Basilica of the National Shrine in Washington, DC. Francis was a varsity athlete and captain of his baseball team for three years in high school.

Since enrolling at the University of Florida, Francis has worked at Edwards Lifesciences in CA, GE Healthcare in SC and Gainesville Prosthetics in FL. He has acquired diverse professional experience in rapid prototyping, process validations and R&D in the cardiovascular, medical imaging and prosthetics space. He is passionate about using his technical skills to improve the quality of life of others through medical devices.

Outside of the classroom, Francis has been involved with the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), Theta Tau Professional Engineering Fraternity, and the Generational Relief in Prosthetics (GRiP) organization at UF. On the weekend, you can find him cheering on the Florida Gators football team or enjoying a nice trip down Ginnie Springs in Alachua County.

Francis will be earning his Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering in December of 2019. He will then enter the medical device industry and begin his journey of impacting others as a professional engineer.


  • Manuel Robles
    Manuel Robles

    Music Composition and Theory
    Minor in Entrepreneurship

Manuel Robles is a composer, guitarist, and international student from Venezuela. Finishing his fundamentals of guitar in Valencia, Venezuela on 2011, he continued his studies on his own, and in 2013 became the guitarist of the Alt Rock band “INCOGNITA” until 2014, while also playing with several other musicians from Valencia. Afterwards, he emigrated to the U.S to finish his English studies as a second language on the ELI: English Language Institute at the University of Florida. Graduating from the ELI in just 2 semesters, Mr. Robles was accepted to start his AA at Santa Fe College on summer of 2015. At Santa Fe College, Manuel began his formal studies in music, and in short time gained the position of Guitarist for the: Jazz Combo, Jazz Big Band, and R&B Combo for 2 years under director Dr. Steve Bingham, while also being one of the percussionists for the Concert Band of the college for 1 semester.

He became the recipient of the Fine Arts Scholarship, and kept the award for the totality of his time in the college. On January of 2016, Mr. Robles was invited to represent Santa Fe College together with a select number of musicians at the University of North Florida’s 2016 Music Symposium, where he performed together with the UNF Guitar ensemble, formed by guitar players from around the country only for this event. On summer of 2016, he performed as the guitar player for the musical: Sweet Charity, which took place in the Fine Arts Hall at Santa Fe College. On fall of 2016, he was accepted at the University of Florida to continue his studies in music, and to start his studies as a composer.

At the University of Florida, Mr. Robles started his formal studies on guitar with Prof. Ulisses Rocha, where he instructed him on classical guitar, and jazz. Manuel also became part of the University of Florida’s Guitar Ensemble. On spring of 2017, he became part of Swamp Records, a student run record label from UF, where he started as part of the promotions team, and quickly moved to be part of the Florida Basement, a section dedicated to write articles about the local, and national music scene. As part of Swamp Records, Manuel helped with the organization of 2 festivals in total: Heartwood Fest, and Changeville 2017. Under the tutelage of Dr. Michael Polo,Manuel presented his first original composition to be performed “Hungarian Dance No. 1” at the SCI: Society of Composers, Inc. 2017 Festival, a festival for new contemporary composers at the University of Florida.

Over the summer, after doing voluntary work at Heartwood Soundstage, Manuel became an intern in the studio, where he worked as a sound technician, and assistant to the sound engineer, helping with the organization of festivals, concerts, and recording sessions inside the facility. Over the fall of 2017, Manuel continued his guitar studies under Dr. Welson Tremura, while still participating in the UF guitar ensemble. After a period of application, Mr. Robles won the Diane Fisher award for outstanding community service on the Gainesville Community. He currently is still pursuing his education, being the recipient for both the Diane Fisher award, and the LAC scholarship at the University of Florida.


  • Bridgett Sullivan
    Bridgett Sullivan

    Food and Resource Economics
    Minors in Entrepreneurship and Agricultural Law & Policy

Bridget Sullivan is a Food & Resource Economics major specializing in Agribusiness Management & Marketing, with a minor in Entrepreneurship. In 2016, she was designated a UF Lombardi Scholar- one of eight students selected from the freshman class to enter the most prestigious group of scholars in the UF Honors Program. As a Lombardi, she joins her scholar cohorts on a unique study-abroad learning experience every summer. Most recently, she traveled to Peru for a service-learning project in a rural community outside of Cusco.

Before attending UF, Bridget took weekly entrepreneurship classes through the Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA) program. At age 17, she was selected as a Saunders Scholar after winning the Orlando YEA business pitch competition, where she received startup funding from an investor panel. With this funding, she founded Americamo® LLC, and began to design and sell made-in-America apparel & accessories. In 2017, Americamo® shirts and tank-tops were sold on campus in the Reitz Union as part of the inaugural Gator Retail Hatchery program.

Outside of her economics and entrepreneurship curriculum, Bridget is a freelance graphic designer, writer, and musician. She will graduate from UF’s College of Agricultural & Life Sciences in May 2019, and plans on pursuing a career in agribusiness.