68 incoming students + 16 mentors + 16 new business ideas + 2 days of training = 68 entrepreneurial-minded students ready to tackle college with creative thinking and problem solving.

The inaugural Freshman Innovation Immersion at the University of St. Thomas, a program unlike any other across the country, brought incoming students together before the academic year began, to learn what it takes to think like an entrepreneur. With more and more studies showing this generation of college-aged students’ growing interest in entrepreneurship, the two-day event gave members of the class of 2019 a crash-course in creative thinking, problem solving, teamwork and business creation.

“I want to start my own ophthalmology practice,” said freshman John Thurner, a chemistry major from Eau Claire, Wis. “I’ve interviewed a couple doctors who wish they took a few more business classes in college. They’ve had to hire people to run the business side and said starting the business was very difficult. I thought learning entrepreneurial skills would help me out.”

Students were put on teams of four-five, to create a business concept in two days. Along the way, they learned principles of entrepreneurship from Schulze School of Entrepreneurship faculty and staff, including design thinking, ideation, prototyping, business model canvas, financials and more. Combining what they learned with expertise from business professionals who served as mentors, teams presented ideas to local business leaders. The top five teams then pitched to a panel of judges, with the winning team being surprised with each member earning a $2,000 scholarship.

“We designed the program to immerse first-year students across the university into a common experience while being true to our mission,” said Brian Abraham, Ph.D., the associate dean of the Schulze School of Entrepreneurship. “It was a thought-provoking, educational and community building event, exposing the student body to significant world problems and allowing them the opportunity to begin to address these problems with solutions to advance the common good.”

Logan Felbab, a Business Finance major from Lakeville South High School gave his team’s winning pitch, based on the two days of learning concepts that were new to him. “The biggest thing I took out of it was design thinking,” said Felbab. “I had never heard of that process before. I also enjoyed the prototyping. Before coming through the program, I would have tried to build something perfectly and looked for a solution, not necessarily what I could change quickly.”

Students ended their two-day experience with a keynote from Guy Kawasaki, the former chief evangelist at Apple, who is known around the globe as an influential entrepreneur, investor and author. Kawasaki shared his message from his book, “The Art of the Start 2.0,” which has been called a “must-read” by Mark Cuban, and the “Ultimate entrepreneurship handbook,” by Arriana Huffington.

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