Innovative ideas emerged as University of St. Thomas students Maddie Bent and Alex Morgan huddled with their four teammates in the corner of an event space at U.S. Bank headquarters. Five other Schulze Innovation Scholar teams were similarly situated across the room. In the background was the Minneapolis skyline, lit up by the Foshay Tower as dusk was setting.
Each team in this inaugural Idea Jam competition was tasked with determining: “How might U.S. Bank become more central to the lives of students and young professionals?” The Opus College of Business students came prepared.
The excited voices of the 35 students were constant, but low so not to be overheard by other participants. After all, the team with the most innovative idea after three hours of brainstorming would reign victorious, invited to return a few days later during Innovation Week to present their proposed solution to the entire company. U.S. Bancorp Chairman, President and CEO Andy Cecere ’82, a St. Thomas alumnus and Board of Trustees member, would be there to give the keynote address.
No matter the competition outcome, however, they are all winners.
“It was a really good experience to see how entrepreneurship is working in (established) companies compared to a start-up kind of culture,” Schulze Innovation Scholar Isabell Geiger ’25 said.
The winning team at Idea Jam, “Dollar Dreams,” consisting of scholars Katie McDonald, Georges Macheta, Fletcher Dirkers Johnson, Maddie Bent, Alex Morgan and Amelia Ehlers, received the honor of a return presentation.
Schulze Scholar Georges Macheta ’25 was grateful for the opportunity the Idea Jam provides, valuing the useful experience and great exposure. He described how the program at the Schulze School of Entrepreneurship prepared them for this, making them comfortable presenting in front of corporate professionals.
“There’s so much problem-solving involved with entrepreneurship,” Macheta smiled confidently when describing the lessons provided by the Schulze School. Perfectly summing up the Tommie mindset, he continued, “knowing what’s possible but shooting for the impossible.”
Dakota Crow, the head of the innovation programs at U.S. Bank, emphasized the importance of innovation in our society.
“Innovation… it’s really the only way we'll ultimately grow. If you’re not trying to find what’s next, you’re going to get left behind,” Crow said. “The Schulze Innovation Scholars are leaning in and really doing the work. Tommies have been amazing to work with.”
Dakota Crow, the head of the innovation programs at U.S. Bank
The Schulze Innovation Scholars are leaning in and really doing the work. Tommies have been amazing to work with.
Laura Ronlund, who leads alliance partnerships at U.S. Bank, smiled when describing the impact of the relationship between St. Thomas and U.S. Bank.
“Innovation is a big part of the culture at St. Thomas. It’s also a big part of the culture at U.S. Bank,” said Ronlund, a Tommie who graduated in 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in international business.
U.S. Bank and the University of St. Thomas have a long-standing partnership, with U.S. Bank providing financial support as well as professional development events and internships. The partnership creates opportunity and network for Tommies with a passion for business.
U.S. Bank works with dedicated St. Thomas staff to develop a program that powers potential for students, helping them thrive while they’re on campus and setting them up for success after graduation. As part of a recent initiative launched to support financial well-being, new resources and benefits are being made available for St. Thomas students, faculty and alumni, including an on-campus goals coach and a new purple Tommie debit card.