By Stephen Wilson
Warm weather. High energy. Breaking away from the daily grind.
Sound like a pitch for a vacation?.
Instead it was the Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization (CEO) global conference and pitch competition in Tampa, Fla., where eight Lafayette students and their faculty adviser soaked in the innovation.
Now in its third year on campus, CEO is an organization that has been operating for over 30 years with the goal “to facilitate students in their mission of becoming entrepreneurs by providing various opportunities as well as a supportive atmosphere.”
With Dyer Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship as sponsor for the trip, Lafayette CEO members spent three days with over 700 students from 150 national and international CEO chapters to “network with other entrepreneurially minded students and listen to presentations from seasoned entrepreneurs.”
Keynotes included the CEO of Sheetz and leaders from Penny Hoarder and The Grommet.
Chris Ruebeck, associate professor of economics and faculty director of Dyer Center, served as a judge for chapter awards as he helped select the best chapters and chapter leaders.
“It was useful to see what other chapters are doing to foster entrepreneurship on their campuses,” says Ruebeck. “It was clear in networking with other chapter leaders and faculty mentors that innovation is not necessarily tied to business schools or programs. While students may learn useful skills in studying business, innovative thinking draws from a wider set of disciplines than just business. I met students from many different majors, both within business schools as well as in the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities.”
Student participants felt that throughout the conference as they hit breakout sessions, participated in marketplace simulations, and attended pitch competitions and a future founders boot camp.
“Everyone in that environment had an entrepreneurial mindset,” says Joseph Seyoum ’20, economics major and startup ideator. “Students were sharing ideas, running businesses, and talking process. It was a real opportunity for learning and mentorship.”