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Better Preparing Students

Zach Wilson started a winery as a sophomore in college.

So far, more than 1,000 Penn State students have engaged with the E&I Program. Sometimes, it's as simple as helping students realize their ideas matter and encouraging them to take a first step with an idea — good preparation for any future career.

Zach Wilson, who graduated in 2011 with a degree in agribusiness management, is turning his family’s farmland and dairy heritage in Nottingham, Pennsylvania into a thriving new family-run winery.

He grew up loving to build things. As a sophomore, he began building a vineyard and started talking to Dr. Mark Gagnon as a sounding board. Gagnon teaches  classes in entrepreneurship and agribusiness, and mentors undergraduate students with startup ideas. He is the Harbaugh Entrepreneurship Scholar & Entrepreneurship Coordinator, supported by one of the Harbaughs’ early gifts.  

Wilson planted 90 vines in 2009 and another 3,000 the next year. By 2011, he made 500 bottles of wine. In fall 2016, he harvested 45 tons of grapes to make 35,000 bottles of wine.

Zach Wilson, a 2011 agribusiness management graduate from the College of Agricultural Sciences, started building a vineyard on his family’s farmland in his sophomore year. He explains plans for Wilson Vineyard in Nottingham, Pa., to Mark Gagnon, Harbaugh Entrepreneurship Scholar and Coordinator for the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program in the College of Agricultural Sciences.

Since 2014 students can also pursue an E&I Minor with a focus on Food and Bio-Innovation, thanks to $200,000 in E&I scholarships funded through the generosity of donors.

Through the Ag Springboard student business pitch competition, E&I has mentored more than 50 student teams and awarded $32,000 to new ventures. ROY BIV — renamed from Blue and White Potato Chips — is launching its specialty potato chip business following its 2016 Ag Springboard win.