The Collegian
Thursday, December 08, 2022

Opening doors: entrepreneurship opportunities for UR students

The entrance to the E. Claiborne Robins School of Business.
The entrance to the E. Claiborne Robins School of Business.

University of Richmond students have the opportunity to engage with some of Richmond’s top social innovators, participate in fully-funded travel abroad and create their own businesses through the Creativity Innovation and Entrepreneurship initiative.

The CIE initiative seeks to identify resources and opportunities for students to explore creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship within Richmond and beyond, according to the program website. Many of the CIE’s programs address compelling themes including climate change, sustainability and social innovation. 

In 2021, the CIE initiative hired its inaugural director, Somiah Lattimore. Since then, the initiative has established new programs and opportunities for UR students. 

One of the latest additions to the CIE’s offerings is the 2023 EnCompass MayMester program. During spring 2023, students will travel to Copenhagen, Denmark, and Stockholm, Sweden, to learn about entrepreneurial ecosystems within startups, corporations, governments and other organizations.

Tyler Pallotta, a junior participating in the EnCompass program to Denmark and Sweden, said that his past exposure to entrepreneurship was largely confined to Richmond, Virginia. 

“I’m excited to push my boundaries,” Pallotta said.

The Denmark and Sweden program is part of the CIE’s collaboration with the Office of International Education, which is also offering other fully-funded experiences to New Zealand, Cambodia and Germany through the EnCompass program. 

EnCompass is directed toward increasing access to international opportunities for students who are less likely to study abroad including first-generation, African-American, Latinx, student-athlete, STEM majors and male students

“Students are showing up with an expectation of a global impact early in their career,” Lattimore said. “The EnCompass program and mission … is to allow students to have a bit of a bite-sized study abroad experience who otherwise would not entertain going abroad period, much less for a semester, and to remove any additional financial barrier for them.” 

Applications for the 2023 Encompass programs are closed, but the CIE has also launched other offerings for the 2022-23 academic year. 

In fall 2022, the CIE introduced a new course: Innovative Approaches to Driving Social Change. The class incorporates community-based learning to study how local strategies can be used to address global challenges like climate change and food insecurity through social innovation. 

“So if you’re trying to end world hunger, that is a really big, lofty goal,” Lattimore said. “But what’s a thing you can do during your four years either on campus or in the Richmond community or in Central Virginia where you can start seeing meaningful change?”

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Lattimore says the half-unit course includes excursions within Richmond and a cumulative project where students tackle a social problem. 

“It’s been a great opportunity for me,” said Daniel Verdi do Amarante, a junior enrolled in the course. “It’s something I’m deeply concerned about and I have an interest in doing something in some shape or form related to social innovation.” 

This school year, the CIE has continued some of its previous student opportunities. Bench Top Innovations, a year-long offering of the CIE where students create a food product company, was the origin for the alternative trail mix brand Absurd Snacks

The CIE will also offer the Summer Incubator powered by Startup Virginia Idea’s Factory, where students eligible for up to a $5,000 stipend to test and design ideas for products and non-profits, according to the program application

“By learning those pretty objective ways of analyzing your idea, I couldn’t have even imagined the time I would have saved,” said Pallotta, who participated in the 2022 Summer Incubator. 

Many programs offered by the CIE are open to a variety of class years and majors. More information can be found on the initiative’s website

“I really hope that students and the university-wide community see themselves being able to engage in creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship,” said Lattimore. “And that if they do identify something that is a global problem, that they have a pathway that allows them to know the first place to begin.” 

Contact features writer Will Iboshi at will.iboshi@richmond.edu.

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