Rethinking Entrepreneurs

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Sierra Kennelly and Amadin Agho represented Kelley Indianapolis with fellow IUPUI students at Google headquarters as University Innovation Fellows.

The next Steve Jobs might be a business student. Or an art major. Or a nursing graduate. Breaking through stereotypical barriers of background, age or discipline is an important way to invite new ideas.

“There isn’t a typical innovator - it could be anybody on campus,” says Sierra Kennelly, a Kelley Indy sophomore. “It’s all about having an entrepreneurial mindset and how you pursue your goals that makes the difference.”

Sierra was one of four IUPUI students to recently spend Spring Break in Silicon Valley as one of the University Innovation Fellows. Both Sierra and Amadin Agho represented Kelley Indy on the trip.

“We have an active group of undergraduates who are interested in pursuing entrepreneurship. The acceptance of Sierra and Amadin as Stanford University Innovation Fellows this year is a wonderful milestone for these students,” says David Steele, Kelley Indy lecturer who mentored the team. “This week-long immersion experience will help these Kelley students bring their ideas to life for the benefit of our economy and society.”

The Stanford University program was created to bring students together from various disciplines and universities and teach them how to be innovative and then take those ideas back to their respective campuses.

“The goal of trip is to grow personally and help your university grow as well,” says Sierra. “Whether we come back and create a ‘maker space’ on campus based on this opportunity or we start our own business, this experience helps us grow.”

Prior to the Spring Break trip, students like Sierra completed a six-week online course with other University Innovation (UI) Fellows. During the visit to Silicon Valley, the UI Fellows visited Google headquarters and Microsoft while also experiencing various innovation workshops at the Stanford University “d.school” or Institute of Design.

“At Google, they put us through a new-employee workshop that taught us about prototyping, brainstorming, how to give feedback in the most productive way and how to analyze different situations. It was extremely helpful,” she says.

The biggest lessons for Sierra came from workshops at Stanford’s d.school where typical entrepreneurial stereotypes were challenged and UI Fellows brainstormed ways to bring innovation and entrepreneurship back to their college campuses.

“They showed us how to set up different physical spaces and rooms to create a feel for the most productivity and they also had high school students come in to teach us a drawing prototype. This helped discourage the idea that age is a barrier – you can learn something from everyone,” says Sierra. “One of the biggest takeaways for me was learning the concept that mistakes are actually healthy. I don’t like to make mistakes but I learned that they can be a key aspect in advancing your ideas.”

In keeping with the goal of the Silicon Valley trip, Sierra and her student colleagues are working on creating a physical space to inspire innovative and entrepreneurial thinking on the IUPUI campus.

“All of us came back wanting to create a space on campus, open to all students, that could help foster that innovation mindset for any student,” she says. “Personally I’d like to break down that whole stereotype that there’s a certain type of entrepreneur or certain type of innovator. That’s not the case. I didn’t think I was an innovator or entrepreneur when I got to Silicon Valley. But through the program I realized I do have ideas I want to implement in the future. I’d like to break down that barrier for other people and get really good ideas out there.”

Sierra and her student colleagues are working on these conceptions in the student innovation group they founded called “The Brain Trust at IUPUI.” Meanwhile, new University Innovation Fellows will be recruited for next year’s trip to Silicon Valley. For more information, contact Sierra at sinikenn@umail.iu.edu.