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Meet the Team

Meet the Team

The Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation team is paving the way for Chicago’s entrepreneurial spirit. Housed on a collaborative campus, we are a group of committed professionals dedicated to promoting and supporting students, faculty, staff, alumni, researchers and local entrepreneurs as they navigate the complex process of creating and growing a startup. To see a full list of Polsky Council members, click here. For general inquiries, questions, and feedback about the Polsky Center, please contact us at polsky@uchicago.edu.

Education and Programming

Starr MarcelloStarr Marcello
Starr Marcello

Starr Marcello

Executive Director; Adjunct Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship

5807 South Woodlawn Avenue, Suite 207
Chicago, IL 60637
773-834-2838

Starr Marcello, AM ’04, MBA ’17, oversees the strategic development of the Polsky Center and works with University of Chicago students, faculty, and staff to launch the next generation of high-impact ventures as the Polsky Center’s executive director. She has been with the Center since 2005.

She runs the Edward L. Kaplan New Venture Challenge (NVC), which awards over $500K in funding and services to top entrepreneurial companies each year. This year the NVC is celebrating 22 years and is ranked the #1 university accelerator program in the nation. Since 1996, the NVC has fostered more than 800 startups, with 230+ that are still in operation and growing strong, has created thousands of jobs, and has produced exits of over $13 billion, including Grubhub (NYSE: GRUB) and Braintree (acquired by eBay’s PayPal for $800 million). In 2017, Starr testified before the U.S. Congress’ Committee on Small Business on the merits of accelerator programs for job creation and economic development.

With funding from the National Science Foundation, Starr launched the Polsky Center I-Corps Program and helped designate the University of Chicago as an official I-Corps site in 2014. Through this interdisciplinary program, Starr teaches elements of the customer development process and human-centered design to researchers and technologists on campus with the goal of helping teams test the commercial viability of their STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) projects.

Starr spends her free time teaching entrepreneurship to high school students. She sits on the Executive Advisory Board of TechWeek and is a board member for United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship (USABE).

Starr holds a B.A. from Wesleyan University and both an M.A. and MBA from the University of Chicago.

Melissa Byrn
Melissa Byrn

Melissa Byrn

Director, Innovation Programs

5807 South Woodlawn Avenue, Suite 207
Chicago, IL 60637
773-702-9108

melissa.byrn@chicagobooth.edu 

Melissa oversees the Polsky Center’s cross-campus entrepreneurship initiatives—including the NSF-funded I-Corps Program and the Collaboratorium—which cater to diverse audiences of graduate students, post-docs, undergraduates, and faculty. Melissa works on aligning Polsky’s current portfolio of educational offerings to scientific and technical audiences and identifying areas for strategic growth.

Melissa spent 10 years working in clinical research operations and regulatory compliance at the University of Chicago and the University of Pennsylvania, most recently as a director in the UChicago Biological Sciences Division’s Office of Clinical Research. In these roles, she was responsible for developing and delivering educational content to faculty and staff, collaborating with clinical departments and the medical center to identify and implement solutions to complex problems, and translating regulatory requirements into local policy and procedure.

In addition to her work in clinical research, Melissa is also the founder and CEO of Foresee Analytica, and participated in the Polsky I-Corps, Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge, and George Shultz Innovation Fund. FORESEEaBILL, the company’s initial product, is a platform technology that provides life sciences organizations with decision support to identify the appropriate payer for every test, procedure, and service performed during a clinical trial.

Melissa holds a BA from DePauw University, a Master of Biomedical Ethics and Health Policy from the University of Pennsylvania, and a Master of Science in Biomedical Informatics from the UChicago Graham School. Her hobbies include running, bicycling, discovering good podcasts, and spending time with her family.

Waverly DeutschWaverly Deutsch
Waverly Deutsch

Waverly Deutsch

Academic Director for University-Wide Entrepreneurship Content

5807 South Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
1-773-834-0484

Waverly Deutsch is responsible for cataloguing and coordinating how entrepreneurship is taught across campus. She looks at for-credit classes, workshops, programs, events and online materials to understand how information and tools are delivered to all University constituents across our entire Innovation Path journey. Additionally, Waverly teaches Building the New Venture. The class won her the 2005 Innovative Pedagogy for Entrepreneurship Education award from the United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship. She also teaches a course on Elements of Entrepreneurship to CPS students over the summer as part of the Collegiate Scholars Program. Deutsch’s advisory board experience includes Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center and Chicago Community Ventures.

Will Gossin
Will Gossin

Will Gossin

Senior Associate Director, Cross-Campus Entrepreneurial Education and Training

5807 S. Woodlawn Ave., Suite 207
Chicago, IL 60637
773.834.0034

will.gossin@chicagobooth.edu 

Will Gossin works with Waverly Deutsch to evaluate the coursework and educational programming serving the Polsky Center’s various constituents (scientists, researchers, students, community members, etc.) and ensure that it serves the diverse needs of all schools and divisions across the University of Chicago. In addition to his role at the Polsky Center, he supports several initiatives at the Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation.

Will is also a Lecturer at the Harris School of Public Policy where he teaches graduate courses on social entrepreneurship, human-centered design, and innovation.

Will holds a Master’s degree in social science research from the University of Chicago, a Master’s degree in mental health counseling from the University of Cincinnati, and a BA in economics from Wake Forest University.

Kyla Hill
Kyla Hill

Kyla Hill

Office Manager

5807 South Woodlawn Avenue, Suite 207
Chicago, IL 60637
773.834.1522

kyla.hill@ChicagoBooth.edu

Kyla Hill is the first point of contact for inquiries about the Polsky Center and its work at is Harper Center location. Kyla works on Polsky Center operations, accounting and budgeting, vendor relationships, and stewardship. Additionally, she provides support to Starr Marcelle on scheduling.

Kyla was previously an executive administrative assistant at Village Leadership Academy, where she held a variety of responsibilities, interacting daily with students, parents, teachers, community members, and donors. Previously, while a student at the University of Missouri, she worked in the Department of Residential Life and Career Center. In these roles, she advised students, planned workshops, and presented on career-related topics. Kyla holds a BS in Business Administration from the University of Missouri.

Gorana KolarGorana Kolar
Gorana Kolar

Gorana Kolar

Senior Associate Director

5807 South Woodlawn Avenue, Suite 207
Chicago, IL 60637
773-702-4073

Gorana Kolar leads the Polsky Center’s alumni and global programming efforts, including the Alumni Growth Forums, Startup Summer, the Entrepreneurial Internship Program, and the Global New Venture Challenge. She enjoys working with students across campus as well as University of Chicago alumni who are aspiring entrepreneurs and growth-stage entrepreneurs.

Prior to the Polsky Center, Gorana Kolar spent four years working at Carnegie Mellon University’s technology transfer office. She worked with faculty and students to help commercialize their research and technology out of the University. She holds a BA, MS, and MBA from Carnegie Mellon University.

Mary Kay LoncarMary Kay Loncar
Mary Kay Loncar

Mary Kay Loncar

Associate Director, Operations

5807 South Woodlawn Avenue, Suite 207
Chicago, IL 60637
773-834-4526

Mary Kay Loncar organizes and supervises the administrative duties of the Polsky Center, working closely with leadership and staff across the university.

Hannah ManninoHannah Mannino
Hannah Mannino

Hannah Mannino

Associate Director

5807 South Woodlawn Avenue, Suite 207
Chicago, IL 60637
773-702-4047

Hannah is responsible for leading and administering the New Venture Challenge, the Polsky Center’s capstone program. This includes oversight of all tracks of the program, including coordination of marketing, fundraising, logistics, and strategic planning.

Nora MansfieldNora Mansfield
Nora Mansfield

Nora Mansfield

Senior Program Manager

5807 S. Woodlawn Ave., 207
Chicago, IL 60637

773-834-9767

nora.mansfield@ChicagoBooth.edu

Nora splits her time supporting the activities of the George Shultz Innovation Fund and Harper Center initiatives, including student awards and fellowships, Booth student-facing conferences, and programs in private equity and venture capital. Additionally, she works closely with Starr Marcello to support the Polsky Center’s key priorities.

Erika MercerErika Mercer
Erika Mercer

Erika Mercer

Director, Entrepreneurship Programs and the Svider Private Equity Program

5807 South Woodlawn Avenue, Suite 207
Chicago, IL 60637
773-834-1521

Erika Mercer oversees private equity and venture capital programming at Chicago Booth, including the Private Equity and Venture Capital Lab, the Sterling Partners Investment Thesis Challenge, and the Oxford Chicago Global Private Equity Challenge. In addition to advising students on career-related questions, she helps organize the annual student-run private equity and entrepreneurship/venture capital conferences.

Cerise MillerCerise Miller
Cerise Miller

Cerise Miller

Assistant Director

5807 S. Woodlawn Ave., Suite 207
Chicago, IL 60637
773-702-3998

cerise.miller@chicagobooth.edu

Cerise Miller primarily focuses on programs in Polsky’s private equity, venture capital, and entrepreneurship through acquisition portfolio, including the Private Equity and Venture Capital Lab, the Oxford Chicago Global Private Equity Challenge, the Sterling Partners Investment Thesis Challenge, and the Venture Capital Investment Competition. Additionally, Cerise manages annual conferences such as SeedCon and the Private Equity Conference, and co-runs the Entrepreneur- and Investor-in-Residence programs.

Lucas PeraltaLucas Peralta
Lucas Peralta

Lucas Peralta

Assistant Director

5807 S. Woodlawn Ave., Suite 207
Chicago, IL 60637
773-702-8310

lucas.peralta@chicagobooth.edu

Lucas Peralta focuses on  innovation programming including the Polsky I-Corps program, the Collaboratorium,  the Polsky Founders’ Fund Fellowship (PF3), and the New Venture Challenge among others. Lucas has valuable experience coordinating volunteer boards, implementing mentoring programs, managing digital marketing, and recruiting volunteers for key programs.

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