New Inclusive Entrepreneurship Program Launching through Generous Gift from Intelligence++TM Foundation

Registration now open for the first interdisciplinary course this fall

An innovative, interdisciplinary program focused on inclusive entrepreneurship and design is being offered for the 2020-2021 academic year in partnership with the Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars (LaunchPad) at Syracuse University Libraries, the Taishoff Center for Inclusive Higher Education (InclusiveU), and the  College of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA) through the generous donation from Gianfranco Zaccai and the Zaccai Foundation for Augmented Intelligence (Intelligence++TM).  The program will offer new courses open for fall enrollment and will culminate in a design and entrepreneurship competition with $30,000 in prizes.

The inclusive entrepreneurship and design course, DES 400-600, is being taught by VPA School of Design professor Don Carr, with support from School of Education inclusive education assistant professor and executive director of the Taishoff Center, Dr. Beth Myers, and adjunct faculty member at Whitman and executive director of the LaunchPad, Linda Dickerson-Hartsock. The two-semester program, taught in the LaunchPad at Bird Library, is available as an elective to both undergraduate and graduate students from any school or college at Syracuse University, with an emphasis on interdisciplinary and collaborative innovation, including students with intellectual disability from InclusiveU.

“The Libraries is a central hub for the campus community, providing the environment to utilize research and create new information. Hosting this program at the LaunchPad will not only infuse innovative thinking but will provide the tools and resources to bring great ideas to fruition and market,” said David Seaman, Dean of Syracuse University Libraries and University Librarian.

This flagship program is made possible through the generous donation of the Zaccai Foundation for Augmented Intelligence, founded by Gianfranco Zaccai. The Zaccai Foundation seeks to develop, stimulate, and leverage technological, educational, and organizational innovation to enable and empower individuals with intellectual disability, their families, and their communities to improve quality of life, enhance independence and productivity, lower cost, and benefit society. 

Renowned global innovator and designer Gianfranco Zaccai ’70 H’09 (VPA) will serve as a mentor for the course. Gianfranco was co-founder of Continuum, now EPAM Continuum, a global innovation by design consultancy with offices in Boston, Milan, Seoul, and Shanghai. He is a champion of holistic and interdisciplinary innovation research, design, and development, and his vision has resulted in highly successful category-defining products including the Reebok Pump, P&G’s Swiffer, and the Omnipod Insulin Delivery System, as well as helping Boston College redefine its Core Curriculum. For over 35 years, Continuum has been recognized for outstanding innovation and design for projects spanning medical devices to consumer products. Gianfranco was Chair of the Design Management Institute and past President of the Aspen Conference. He holds degrees in industrial design from Syracuse University and architecture from the Boston Architectural College. Zaccai also previously served on the VPA Council and was conferred an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts in Industrial and Interaction Design by Syracuse University.

Gianfranco’s wife, Carmencita Bua, was formerly head of operations at Continuum and is now Chief Executive Officer of “Tenuta Donna Gilda a Meleto” Social Farm, an organization that provides neurodivergent college students an abroad experience that enhances their educational opportunities, communications skills, curiosity, and harmony among nature and family members supported by a therapeutic team of experts. In addition, the organization also offers a Gap Year Program for high school students who need extra time before approaching college life. She is a graduate of the Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna Law School of Pisa, Italy.

As parents of a Syracuse University student, Guglielmo Meriggi ’22 (Whitman), as well as parents of a young adult with an intellectual disability, this program is especially important to Gianfranco and Carmencita. “I am confident that this program will be revolutionary in stimulating brilliant students, educators, and researchers to deeply explore and meaningfully innovate a better future,” said Zaccai. “We have an opportunity to blend in-context research, people-centered design, and the strengths and skills of diverse people and disciplines in a way that can change the world for the better for people of all abilities and talents. That’s why we’re so excited to partner with Syracuse University – we see the potential that a cross-disciplinary, multi-dimensional, innovative approach can bring to our society, and we want to propel young people to be at the forefront of developing real-world solutions.”

Concepts developed throughout the course will be presented to a panel of experts in a culminating competition in the spring 2021, with $30,000 in seed funding awarded to the most promising ideas for further development.

“By taking an inclusive design approach, we’re able to consider innovative ways to address a wide-range of challenges and in doing so unlock the potential of numerous individuals. Thanks to ADA (the Americans with Disabilities Act) legislation, there exists an awareness to create public spaces, services, transportation, and telecommunications that are accessible.  However, the exploration of design ideas that address Intellectual Disability (ID) offers a new set of affordances to move beyond compliance and envision ideas that embrace an ever-wider range of opportunities,” said Don Carr.

The program was developed with the support of Quinn King ’20, VPA Industrial and Interaction Design, founder of MedUX and a Rubin Family Innovation Mentor at the LaunchPad. King had a keen interest in working on the project as a student founder with a design company that focuses on user experience and because, like many others, he has a close family member with an intellectual disability.

“To my knowledge, this is the only program that integrates students from various disciplines with students with intellectual disability into collaborative teams to problem solve design solutions,” said Beth Myers. “Incorporating perspectives from all users and participants will most certainly result in an enhanced and sustainable user-focused experience.”

For more information about the program contact Donald Carr at, Beth Myers at, or Linda Dickerson Hartsock at

profile of head in two shades of blue and black with swirls above and below

Sound Beat Access Audio Chronicles to Release “You Don’t Surrender: Journal and Memoirs from Don Waful, a World War II P.O.W.”

Sitting in radio city around table with microphones are Don Waful, an elderly gentleman, student Tyler Youngman, Libraries' employee Jim O'Connor, and Inclusive U intern Gabby Iannotti
From Left to Right: Recording in WAER’s studios are: Don Waful ’37 and G’39, veteran; Tyler Youngman ’20, Sound Beat intern; James O’Connor, Sound Beat producer; Gabby Iannotti ‘19, Sound Beat intern from InclusiveU.

Syracuse University Libraries will be releasing its first audiobook titled “You Don’t Surrender: Journal and Memoirs from Don Waful, a World War II P.O.W.”  in October 2019.  This original audio content was produced by Sound Beat: Access Audio Chronicles, which creates audio projects that highlight iconic Syracuse University community members. Don Waful, who received his bachelor’s degree from Syracuse University’s College of Arts & Sciences in 1937 and his master’s degree in 1939, has been an icon in the community and on campus for decades. A member of the Alumni Glee Club, Waful is one of Syracuse’s oldest-living alumni and longest-tenured football fans. As an American Prisoner of War (POW) from 1942 through 1945 during World War II, Waful maintained a journal of his experiences. “You Don’t Surrender: Journal and Memoirs from Don Waful, a World War II P.O.W.” chronicles both the journal he maintained, along with a memorial perspective from Waful himself in the form of interviews conducted at WAER. The audiobook also includes historical commentary interspersed throughout the chronicles.

Historically, Sound Beat has been a 90-second daily radio program based on recordings from the Belfer Audio Archive, part of Syracuse University Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center. Sound Beat is broadcast in over 360 markets nationally and internationally, and each episode focuses on a particular recording and provides a short backstory detailing its place in the landscape of recorded sound. Sound Beat: Access Audio Chronicles is a new longer form program that extends the Sound Beat concept by enabling the creation of new knowledge and cultural exchange and advancing teaching, learning and research through the oral documentation of interviews, journals, experiences and perspectives from primary sources. It also extends Syracuse University Libraries’ commitment to accessibility and inclusion by providing resources to those who may not be able to read or process traditional print books or prefer listening to books.

Sound Beat, both the 90-second interstitials and the longer form Access Audio Chronicles, also provides an opportunity to incorporate applied learning for Syracuse University students who help to research, write and promote the episodes.  Recently students with intellectual and developmental disabilities from The Taishoff Center for Inclusive Higher Education (InclusiveU) have begun working with Sound Beat. Syracuse University alumnus Brett Barry ’97, G’13, is the program host and narrator.  James O’Connor, Sound Beat producer, Bianca Caiella Breed, assistant director for development at Syracuse University Libraries, Tyler Youngman, production assistant, Sound Beat intern and Syracuse University student ‘20, Gabby Iannotti ’19, production assistant and InclusiveU graduate, and Ian Coe, Sound Beat intern and InclusiveU student ’21 have been working on the “You Don’t Surrender: Journal and Memoirs from Don Waful, a World War II P.O.W.”  audio project. In addition to reading and recording the journal entries, they have interviewed Don several times on topics ranging from his time as a student to key events that occurred during the war. Each interview and interaction has provided more depth to Waful’s character and unique story as a student and veteran, his outlook on life, and his loyalty to his alma mater. Through the interviews and his journal writings, Waful has shared his despairs while captured along with his hopes for his future.

As part of Orange Central, Syracuse University’s alumni weekend event, the team will be speaking about the experience of bringing the journal to life, complete with a question and answer session with Waful himself. The presentation will be on September 14, 2019 at 10:30 a.m. in Bird Library.