Above: His Holiness the Dalai Lama presents the second place award to the Syracuse University team at the Tibetan Innovation Challenge in New York City. From left to right: Rinchen Dolma, Tenzin Lama, Tenzin Kusang, Norzom Lama, and Pasang Lhamo.

A team of students from Syracuse University won second place in the Tibetan Innovation Challenge this weekend, and received their award from His Holiness the Dalai Lama at a ceremony in New York City.

The Tibetan Innovation Challenge is a competition, organized by the University of Rochester, created with the goal of promoting economic development and stability that Tibetan refugees can apply in their communities

The challenge involved the creation of a business idea for Tibetan refugees living in India. In May, six universities across the country held competitions for teams of students to develop practical business ideas that the refugees might implement in their communities. Each university selected one team to advance to the National Finals in New York City, where Tibetans and supporters of the cause served as judges and selected the winning business plan.

The refugees in India face daily challenges and difficulties, and the competition can greatly improve their lives by connecting them with innovative ideas to help serve their struggling population. Each business plan will be provided to the Tibetan community and the refugees are allowed to apply any of the solutions to aid their community.

After learning about the competition, School of Information Studies (iSchool) Professor of Entrepreneurship, Bruce Kingma asked iSchool student Norzom Lama ’17, if she was interested in competing. Lama recruited four other Tibetan students at Syracuse University, and together they created Tsampa – A Taste of Tibet, a nutrition bar that can be produced by the refugees and sold in the U.S.

Tsampa is a staple food in the Tibetan culture. It is roasted barley flour that is normally mixed with Tibetan butter tea. Tsampa – A Taste of Tibet’s mission is to provide a nutritious and organic product that is ethically produced while working to improve the lives of Tibetans in India. Sixty percent of the profits made by the nutrition bar will be donated to the Federation of Tibetan Cooperatives in India.

The finals of the competition were held on Saturday at the Tibet House in New York City. Each team presented their idea in front of a panel of judges including Kaydor Aukatsang, representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to North America, Lobsang Nyandak, executive director of the Tibet Fund Trustee to the Dalai Lama Trust based in the United States and His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

“The University of Rochester did a great job running this competition, the teams from the other universities were teams from top-flight graduate business programs,” said Kingma. “Against strong competition, our students were amazing, and it was a pleasure to meet the Dalai Lama and an honor for him to give the award to the students from Syracuse University.”

In addition to iSchool student Norzom Lama, the Syracuse team included Rinchen Dolma, Tenzin Kusang, and Pasang Lhamo from the College of Arts & Sciences, and Tenzin Lama from the College of Engineering and Computer Science.