Competing teams hope to claim top spot in College’s inaugural PioBiz

PioBiz competition students

Three Marietta College students, who make up two competing teams, will square off at the April 1 PioPitch to present their business plans to see who will win the inaugural PioBiz.

Psychology major Gabrielle Simmons ’18 (Cairo, West Virginia) is going up against the team of Aaron Dillon ’17 (Windham, Connecticut) and Jon Hinson ’17 (Rocky River, Ohio), who are both Petroleum Engineering majors. Dillon is also majoring in Energy Business Management.

The competition begins at 4 p.m. in Thomas 124.

Dr. Gama Perruci, Dean of McDonough, said the winner will draw up to $10,000 from an entrepreneurship incubator fund that is supported by a grant from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundation.

“We hope to build on the success of this first competition to build a culture of entrepreneurship on campus,” he said. “We would like all students to be thinking in creative and innovative ways about their future. This competition serves as a reminder that there are all kinds of possibilities out there for exciting ideas. I applaud the students who took advantage of this opportunity and participated in the competition.”

Simmons will be presenting on “Gliding through the GRE,” which she calls an innovative, hands-on tutoring program designed to prepare students for the Graduate Records Examination.

“This program would be FREE to students,” said Simmons, who will start in Marietta’s Master of Psychology program in the fall. “Students would be trained in verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing using psychological techniques designed to increase cognitive retention. Additionally, they will be instructed on various methods to significantly reduce test anxiety. Coaching has been proven effective for both the ACT and SAT, and while no study has been conducted on the effectiveness of coaching on the GRE, this new program could revolutionize learning and provide an advantage to graduate school applicants who are willing to put forth the time and effort to transform their future.” 

She said growing up in a small town in West Virginia is one of the motivating factors for her wanting to develop this program.

“I was constantly aware of the stigma associated with my home state. The saddest part was that I could see that stigma taking the form of reality,” Simmons said. “West Virginians are thought of as under-educated, ignorant ‘rednecks’ and I believe it’s that way of thinking that has caused many bright individuals to give up on their dreams of higher education.”

Dillon and Hinson are presenting their work on Thunder Resources Consulting project, which aims to provide affordable consulting services for landowners, small oil & gas firms and the government agencies that are in need of locating and identifying orphaned or abandoned wells.

“It’s exciting to see an idea that we have developed over the past year this close to fruition,” Hinson said. “We’ve been talking about the PioBiz competition for a while now, and with the presentation date right around the corner we are anxious to share our idea with the judges.”

Hinson believes their endeavor would be a positive addition to the region.

“What’s even more exciting is the impact that we could have if we win,” he said. “With much of the public eye on the potential environmental implications of hydraulic fracturing, many people are overlooking a subtle but definitely hazardous footprint from the oil & gas industry: orphaned and abandoned wells.”

Oil and gas well have been actively produced in Ohio since the 19th century and records of many these wells are sparse.

“Currently, there are thousands of wells that are undocumented and releasing brine, oil & gas, and carbon dioxide into the environment. Thunder Resources aims to work with clients that may have these wells on their property and are worried about the environmental implications,” Hinson said. “With little cash on hand, few firms have the fiscal capacity to plug all of these old wells. By providing well analysis, Thunder Resources Consulting can provide our clients with an itemized list of urgency, based on the level of environmental hazard each well represents. Our goal is to provide each of our clients with the information they need to make an economically sound decision for the environment at an affordable price.”

Both teams are excited about the potential of their projects.

“Being a finalist in this competition means that I can be that beacon of hope for other students,” Simmons said. “I can help them realize how talented and intelligent they are and help them see that they are more than capable of attaining a graduate education. It seems as though the world has forgotten that knowledge is power.”

Dr. Jacqueline Khorassani, Chair of the Business & Economics Department and Lead Organizer of the PioPitch and PioBiz programs, is pleased to see the expansion of entrepreneurial programs at Marietta College. PioPitch, a venue for local established and aspiring entrepreneurs to present their experiences and ideas, started in the spring of 2015.

“Starting this fall we will also add a minor in Entrepreneurship,” she said. “This is an exciting time to be a student at Marietta College — especially for those with an entrepreneurially spirit.”

PioPitch presentations are free and open to the public. For more information or if you want to request to present go to or contact Dr. Khorassani at, (740) 376-4633.