The Pava Marie LaPere Center for Entrepreneurship empowers and equips Johns Hopkins students, alumni, and community changemakers to build impactful, sustainable ventures. Grounded in Baltimore, with an eye toward the world, the Center convenes diverse stakeholders and resources to create a dynamic innovation ecosystem. We support founders doing good, creating value and opportunity. 


The Origin Story: FastForward U

Johns Hopkins’ student entrepreneurship hub first launched in 2018 as a program with The Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures, the university’s commercialization and entrepreneurship hub. A 10,000 square feet co-working hub was opened adjacent to the Homewood campus to ground this activity.

Over five years, FastForward U evolved from a support system grounded in pizza and mentorship into a robust program and campus ecosystem. Leveraging partners on and off campus, FastForward U supported hundreds of unique student-led startups each year.

Instrumental in this evolution was an undergraduate student, Pava Marie LaPere, who started several organizations on campus dedicated to entrepreneurship and then leant her advice to university leadership about the need for more institutional commitment to student innovation.

In the Fall of 2023, Pava’s life was taken at the age of 26, cutting short an incredible trajectory of influence and leadership in the Johns Hopkins and Baltimore startup ecosystem. To honor her legacy and maintain the momentum that Pava set in motion, the Pava Center was launched in April 2024. At the core of the center is student programming and the FastForward U ecosystem.

For more about the history of FastForward U:

Social Innovation Lab

The Pava Center is also home to The Social Innovation Lab, which began as a student organization at Johns Hopkins University. Students, staff and faculty came together from the Bloomberg School of Public Health, the Whiting School of Engineering and the Carey Business School to support one another in building socially impactful ventures.

Over the years, access to this program has expanded to welcome non-JHU affiliates. The result is a diverse ‘laboratory’ for innovation where students, community members, mentors, partners and friends come together to use entrepreneurship as a tool for enriching the city that Pava Marie LaPere loved so much.

For more about the history of The Social Innovation Lab:

About Pava

Pava LaPere was a foundational student voice in the early days of our student programming, where staff worked closely with her first, on-campus entrepreneurship organization, TCO Labs. She went on to work as a part-time employee for the program after graduation, while launching multiple entrepreneurship-support initiatives across Maryland. Her influence is felt throughout our programming, especially with our Spark and Fuel accelerators, that she co-created. Well over a thousand ventures (and counting) have benefited from the curriculum that she worked on.

As a student entrepreneur and then young alum, she won multiple awards from FastForward U, including our highest prize at the time, the Bisciotti student award. Today, her company remains in Baltimore, has raised millions in venture funding, and does business all over the world. 

Pava was a friend to hundreds across our campus, city, and state. She embodied the words still on our wall better than anyone: take risks, move forward. 


Founding donor: Johns Hopkins University trustee Ethan D. Leder is a 1984 graduate of the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences. As an entrepreneur, he has been focused on building and managing innovative, market-leading companies that address critical gaps in the health-care industry. Mr. Leder has served as an advocate for undergraduate education and innovation. Together with his wife, Karen, the Leders have focused their philanthropy on areas such as education and healthcare.

The Center is possible due to additional significant early programmatic support from:

  • Ethan Agarwal and VK Agarwal Innovation Award
  • Stephen and Renee Bisciotti Foundation
  • Shekar Davarya and Jay Crim
  • David L. Koch
  • Migliara Family Foundation
  • Mary J. Miller
  • Jeffrey and Laura Raider
  • Louis B. Thalheimer
  • Noga and Antonio Villalon
  • Yury Y. Yakubchyk, Jr.

The Center also owes deep gratitude for the tireless investment and talents of its staff over the years, including former leaders Brian Stansky, Kerrie Carden, Kerry Ingram, Alex Riehm, Kevin Carter, Darius Graham, and Madison Marks.

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