A prominent local foundation expects great things for Western New York from UB School of Law student Andrew Latona—and it’s putting significant resources behind those hopes.
Latona, a JD/MBA student who has a year of business school and a year of law school behind him, is the recipient of the Prentice Family Foundation’s Western New York Prosperity Fellowship, described as “a truly innovative program for college and graduate students with an entrepreneurial drive who want to make a difference in Western New York.” About two dozen fellowships are offered annually to UB and Canisius College students.
The designation comes with some welcome scholarship money, as well as access to an enrichment fund available to cover professional development opportunities. Just as important, Latona says, is the networking it facilitates with the local business community, including the area’s thriving start-up business ecosystem, through internships and mentoring.
“One of the big advantages of being a Prosperity Fellow is the resources and connections it provides, and I’m already seeing that,” he says. “To me, the most valuable piece is the opportunities that come with the fellowship—networking, talking with local industry leaders, opportunities for volunteering. I really just want to be a sponge and soak everything up.”
Latona is particularly interested in working with start-up companies that have outsize potential for strengthening the local economy. He experienced several such companies during an internship last summer through UB School of Management’s Entrepreneurial Clinic, working on projects for companies in sectors as diverse as busing, yacht brokerage and mining.
“It got me really interested in the creation of a business, and how it builds on an original idea,” he says. “There’s this interdisciplinary crossover. You can work on the corporate side, litigate an issue, use those business skills to market an idea. A JD/MBA can open up so many opportunities.”
This summer, Latona will work with the law school’s e-Law Center, under the direction of Matthew K. Pelkey ’10. “Andrew's background is very well suited to what we do and I’m excited to have him on board,” says Pelkey. “Last summer he worked on three projects involving winners of 43North – a startup competition designed to attract new high growth businesses to Buffalo. Those are exactly the type of companies we are looking to help at the e-Law Center. As a Prosperity Fellow, Andrew certainly brings the sort of enthusiasm and community-focused approach that is necessary to build a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem.”
A native of the Chautauqua County city of Jamestown, Latona attended Jamestown Community College for two years before transferring to UB, where he earned social science and business degrees. “Grad school has always been in my plans, it’s just a matter of what I wanted to do,” he says. “But business was always my first choice. My dad is a businessman, and I like the idea of following in his footsteps.”
The Prosperity Fellowship Program requires fellows to commit to working in Western New York for at least two of the 10 years following graduation, “giving back economically to the region they have pledged to support.” For Latona, that’s no problem.
“I do love Buffalo, and I see myself being here,” he says. “I feel like I owe the area a lot and I’m excited about contributing to its potential.”