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How ASU's Cronkite School Created a Startup Culture
It was a few days before the end of the fall 2011 semester, and a friend at a small southern university was bemoaning the lack of innovative spirit among her students. She'd built in an entrepreneurial module into her class, but only a small percentage of the students took the bait to even try to come up with a business idea.
By contrast, on that very same day, my office was buzzing with students seemingly in no hurry to pack up for the holidays and head home. And, interestingly, only one of them was my actual student. One was a Cronkite School of Journalism freshman who had heard me speak to her class and wanted to run an idea past me. A Cronkite sophomore had a major media company interested in a Microsoft Word plug-in he had come up with and wanted to make sure it was actually doable. Another was a business major at Arizona State University's Carey School who needed some advice on developing an iPad application that he got $5,000 in seed money to build. An ASU engineering major wanted to make sure he could get on my schedule before the end of the year to talk through plans for his new business for the coming year.
As I was looking into the earnest faces of the students who paraded in and out of my office that day, with their Power Point presentations and legal yellow pads filled with sketches for their big ideas, I thought about what made the difference between my friend's institution of higher education and my own.
At ASU, innovation and entrepreneurship are being pushed everywhere you go. Funding contests abound such as the Edson Student Entrepreneurship Initiative, which funds up to $20,000 per student team; the ASU Innovation Challenge, in which each student team can win up to $10,000 for an idea; the Performing Arts Venture Experience gives away up to $5,000 for student ideas, and the new 10,000 Solutions provides up to $10,000 to fund good ideas from students, staff, faculty and community members on how to impact local and global communities.
Additionally, Cronkite School students (and faculty) are encouraged to submit ideas for Knight News Challenge and J-Lab Women Entrepreneurs grants, and those winners are heralded as much as winners of journalism contests.