Students’ big dreams are front and center at Philadelphia event
By Jill Spotz
The Dyer Fellows share information about their experiences with attendees at the event in Philadelphia on Feb. 1.
Their goals are ambitious with worldwide impact, including building solutions and systems in India to improve quality of life, and launching a nationwide startup aimed at improving mental health. Meet the Dyer Center Fellows, a cohort of aspiring student entrepreneurs whose talents and aspirations were represented in Philadelphia on Feb. 1.
Hosted by fellow entrepreneur and CEO of PerPay Chris DiMarco ’98 and his wife, Brooke ’00, the event not only showcased the talented Fellows but provided a venue for the students to learn from alumni. As the students shared their stories, a common theme emerged: The Dyer Center, and the Fellows program specifically, helps students to develop an entrepreneurial mindset that will allow them to become the leaders and changemakers of tomorrow.
DiMarco, a longtime supporter and champion of the Dyer Center, is the cohort sponsor. His passion to engage an entrepreneurial mindset in students and mentor them throughout their Lafayette journey is synonymous with his desire to pay it forward for recent graduates (20% of PerPay employees are Lafayette alumni).
“I am consistently impressed by the Dyer Center students and always look forward to any opportunity to meet with them,” DiMarco says. “I appreciate their curiosity and grit, and especially enjoy hearing about what they are working on. It was great to talk about everything that is happening with the Dyer Center, and I am excited for what is to come.”
Both as a student and alumnus, DiMarco credits the mentorship he received over the years from fellow alumni including trustee Harry Cherken Jr. ’71, who served as a lifelong mentor to DiMarco, as well as Bradbury Dyer III ’64, who supported the Dyer Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship in 2018 through a major gift.
Created in 2021, the Dyer Fellows (Designing Your Entrepreneurial Roadmap) program is a four-year, cumulative pathway for students interested in entrepreneurship. In partnership with Admissions, the paid fellowship begins with the foundational mechanics of innovation and entrepreneurship, and culminates with a financial investment in each student’s development and personal project. The program offers skill building, personal development, networking and early career experiences (like the event at PerPay), the opportunity to pursue hands-on projects, and more. The 2027 cohort includes 10 fellows hailing from all over the world.
Four students, Remy Oktay ’24, Swetha Tadisina ’25, Reni Mokrii ’26, and Paulo Garcia ’27 are each at different stages in their Lafayette journey. During the evening, they presented their projects, future plans, and shared their thoughts on the Fellows program. Junior Dyer Fellow Swetha Tadisina ’25 shared that the Fellows program provided the opportunity “to go beyond the typical college experience.” Tadisina entered Lafayette as a first-year student interested in leveraging knowledge gained through her studies as a double major in engineering studies and computer science to develop solutions for her community back home in India. Her work as a Dyer Fellow is focused on the Lafayette Easton Alliance, a venture enabling a greater exchange of ideas, culture, and spaces between the College and Easton through partnerships and festivals.
“All four of us expressed our deep gratitude for (and joy of) the fellowship,” Tadisina says. “The conversations that we had with Lafayette alumni were powerful; it was great to see how supportive they are, and how strong the community is in the world outside of Lafayette.”
Remy Oktay ’24, Innovation Lead, spoke about his experience bringing new ideas to fruition. Oktay helped shape the Dyer Fellows program and has successfully completed several passion projects during his four years at Lafayette. As a first-year student, Oktay converted a school bus to a tiny house on wheels, fully equipped with solar panels and all. This project was a continuation of work that he started during a gap year and completed during his sophomore year. As a junior, Oktay flew what is presumed to be the first electric plane over a sporting event during the 2022 Rivalry game in Fisher Stadium. The flight was made possible through the support of a team of alumni, faculty, administration, and students.
Today, Oktay is focused on the next phase of the Lafayette campus swing project that was launched in 2022 with alumna Kristin Steudel ’22, focused on positively impacting mental health and bringing students outdoors. Oktay shared the story about the project and how it not only helped many students but it brought a new look to the campus.
“I had no idea that a thought on a whim could turn into a business,” said Oktay during the event. “My efforts to seek partners for swing technology through Dyer Center resources and a Bergh Summer Accelerator experience have helped me to begin a startup that I plan to take nationwide. I am inspired by this program that allows you to apply what you’ve learned in class to effect change and provides an opportunity to build an ecosystem of contacts on and off campus.”
“I have been fortunate to involve many alumni in my businesses, and their guidance and support have been instrumental in my success,” DiMarco says. “I am able to give back by offering career experiences to students who may not want to pursue a traditional career path. As a result, I have rediscovered what I really love about Lafayette—it’s the community.”
In 2022, the Dyer Center was awarded an Outstanding Emerging Entrepreneurship Center at schools with fewer than 5,000 students by the Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers.