Schmidt Futures Announces Reimagine Challenge Winners, $1M for Students & Universities

February 2, 2021

20 students and their universities around the world now eligible for $1M in scholarships & prizes

Proposals published in anthology include most innovative solutions from next generation leaders to address COVID-19 impact and pressing global challenges 

NEW YORK, Feb. 2, 2021 — Today, Schmidt Futures announced 20 winners of the Reimagine Challenge, a competition among college and university students around the world to present the most innovative solutions to build back from COVID-19 and spark global movements for change. Each of the 20 winners is now eligible to receive up to $25,000 in tuition scholarships, and the institution where each winner is currently enrolled is now eligible to receive up to $25,000 in additional prizes per winning entry from their school, amounting to $1,000,000 in scholarships and prizes. 

Launched in August 2020 alongside the Reimagine Podcast hosted by Eric Schmidt, the challenge is part of a broader $1 billion commitment by Schmidt Futures co-founders Eric and Wendy Schmidt to identify and support global talent. 

“I’m inspired by the bold ideas we received and the rising generation of leaders who developed them,” said Eric Schmidt. “Although the long-term impact of this pandemic is daunting, we cannot forget we live in the most educated, interconnected, empowered period in human history. If we come together with all of our tools, knowledge, and talents—as these students have done—I’m confident we can build a world that’s fairer, safer, and more prosperous for everyone.”

“At Schmidt Futures, we seek to make the world a better place by finding and funding some of the world’s smartest people,” said Stu Feldman, Schmidt Futures Chief Scientist. “With this challenge, we sought to engage the brightest young minds around the globe. Their proposals represent fresh ideas that are scalable, measurable, and have the potential to help many people.”

The challenge invited college and university students from any country to submit proposals addressing one of two topics: Sparking a Global Movement and Community Impact from COVID-19. The submissions focused on a range of issues, many of which included solutions to tackle mental health issues; expand access to telehealth services; increase access to high-quality education; mitigate the pandemic impacts on the elderly and aging population; alleviate refugee and migrant worker hardships; end global food insecurity; and more. 

Schmidt Futures worked with the 20 winners to refine their proposals and publish them in an online anthology, which can be read and downloaded here

The Reimagine Challenge 2020 Winners: 

  • Atish Shah, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow
  • Bhavya Gupta, Parsons School of Design at The New School
  • Christine Cannon, Pomona College
  • Glenda Xu, University College London
  • Julian Kanjere, University of Cape Town
  • Khushi Shelat, Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania
  • Lerato Motaung, University of Cape Town
  • Lia Bote, University College London
  • Manas Punhani, Yale University
  • Muzzammil Ismail, University of Cape Town
  • Neha Halebeed, University of Southern California
  • Phyllis Mugadza, Yale University
  • Rowyn Naidoo, University of Cape Town
  • Simbarashe Herbert Mambiri, McNeese State University
  • Steven Wang, Harvard University
  • Suhani Jalota, Stanford University
  • Thomas Bizzell, University of Queensland
  • Tongqing Zhu, University of Southern California
  • Valeria Robayo, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Yvette Homerlein, University College London


More information about each winner and their proposal is available on the Schmidt Futures website here

About Reimagine Challenge 2020

Schmidt Futures received 838 submissions from students enrolled in 264 schools in 40 different countries, representing 86 nationalities and speaking 53 primary languages. Participants spanned a variety of backgrounds, such as undergraduate freshman at liberal arts schools, PhD candidates in the sciences, graphic designers, and aspiring lawyers, among others. 

The winning entries were selected by a panel of global judges through two rounds of proposal submissions, including both a written and video or graphical component to explore the idea and explain its origins, details, and implications.

Questions prompting submission ideas included: What is the most surprising or unusual insight you have had about your community in the wake of the pandemic?  What is one concrete way you could motivate 1,000,000 people to work in concert to make the world meaningfully better within 10 years? 

For more details, visit: 

About Schmidt Futures

Schmidt Futures bets early on exceptional people making the world better. Founded by Eric and Wendy Schmidt, Schmidt Futures is a philanthropic initiative that brings talent together into networks, bets on the most promising ideas through competition, and equips people to scale through partners and thoughtful application of modern tools.

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