Igniting Change Through the Built Environment

Four Students with Trophy
Pictured Left to Right: Ella Wheeler ’25 VSB, Naija Nelson ’24 COE, Isaiah Taylor ’23 VSB and Elsaid Youssef ’24 COE

Villanova, Pa., August 7, 2023 - In August 2021, Isaiah Taylor ’23 VSB, was a junior pursuing a Finance and Real Estate double major at the Villanova School of Business who wanted to create a new real estate case competition that would engage students with diverse perspectives, majors, backgrounds and class years on campus.  

With the help of the Daniel M. DiLella Center for Real Estate, he brainstormed ways to make his idea a reality. “Villanova’s Real Estate students are future leaders in the real estate industry. Therefore, it is crucial for them to be aware of the inequities that exist in our built environment,” said Taylor. “I wanted to create this case competition to help bring understanding to those with different backgrounds and help equip future leaders with the skills to adequately effect change in their communities. This competition helps to foster Villanova’s “Caritas Commitment” while it also grows a community that is more socially aware.”

Each year, the new case competition focuses on a specific social or environmental concern within the built environment. The 2022 inaugural case centered on gentrification, and participants had the opportunity to connect with students from different areas on campus and initiate conversations about real-world problems. 

In 2023, student teams were tasked with brainstorming creative solutions to either combat food insecurity or address the lack of affordable housing in Philadelphia. Judges comprised of industry and non-profit professionals who came to campus as part of The Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship’s (IIE) Pitch Day to hear ideas generated by Villanova’s students. 

The first-place team, Avenue Avengers – Ella Wheeler ’25 VSB, Naija Nelson ’24 COE, Isaiah Taylor ’23 VSB and Elsaid Youssef ’24 COE – received a grand prize total of $5,000 and was given the opportunity to donate an additional $5,000 to a non-profit of their choosing that had a significant impact on their project’s proposal. They selected Sharing Excess, an organization that redistributes food waste to food-insecure neighborhoods in Philadelphia.

“We are so proud and thankful for the students at Villanova University for their interest and commitment to improving their community and local food security scene,” said Victoria Wilson, Operations Director at Sharing Excess. “This generous donation will enable Sharing Excess to rescue and distribute over 50,000 meals to the Philadelphia community. We applaud the Avenue Avengers for their great pitch and for selecting Sharing Excess as their impact partner.”

Students will be invited to participate in the third annual Ignite Change Case Competition on Thursday, April 18th, 2024. 


About VSB: The The Villanova School of Business (VSB) undergraduate program is top-ranked among business schools in the nation. Its online graduate business programs are ranked #16, and its online MBA program is ranked #19 by U.S. News and World Report. VSB has been at the forefront of business education since it was founded in 1922. Serving over 2,700 undergraduate and graduate students, VSB is home to five Centers of Excellence – the Daniel M. DiLella Center for Real Estate, the Elenore and Robert F. Moran Sr. Center for Global Leadership, the Center for Business Analytics, the Center for Marketing & Consumer Insights and the Center for Church Management – with each designed to foster innovative, cross-disciplinary research and applied opportunities for students. VSB is known for academic rigor; creativity and innovation; hands-on and service-learning opportunities; a firm grounding in ethics; and an applied education that prepares students to become outstanding leaders and global citizens within the ever-changing, complex, and fast-paced world of business. For more, visit business.villanova.edu.

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