I reached out to the DYER Center a few weeks before returning to school for my final semester. Since my course load had withered to two classes, this was the perfect time for me to engage. That said, I had little knowledge as to what I was getting into and what the Center did. Since I have been involved, three things stand out that all students could benefit from:
I first learned about the Center after I had attended two or the Center’s talks, one given by the CEO of Levi Strauss and one by the co-founders of Joe Maddon’s Hazelton Integration Project. It was nice to hear not only the stories behind these successful entrepreneurs but also the advice they had for students about to start their respective careers. I felt more access to these types of people and stories could help me as I prepared to start life after Lafayette College. While I have a lot of valuable and useful academic experiences, life stories and powerful street knowledge was something I felt I lacked up until then.
Drive & Diversity of Fellows
After meeting with Yusuf Dahl, the director of the DYER Center, I was excited to try and find a role as a fellows but was skeptical as to how I would fit in. I thought it might have been too late in my tenure at Lafayette to join an organization of a few well-established people. Further, I have little experience or ideas as an innovator or entrepreneur (despite a future desire). Instead I typically sit on the sideline while friends discussed start up ideas. My doubt further creeped in when I saw that many of the current fellows were currently in the process of planning events that were of their own creation. I felt this type of innovation was left for people in the Silicon Valley, not me. In addition to their drive, I was quickly amazed by the diversity of the Center’s fellows. The group consists of people from a myriad of grades and backgrounds. Each member brings a unique perspective to the table, one that creates a plethora of ideas that can be used to find an encompassing solution to a complex problem.
New thinking, Not Entrepreneurial Thinking
What shocked me about our weekly meetings was that the focus was not solely on innovation and entrepreneurship. Rather, life as a fellow consisted of brainstorming and vigorously working to implement programs that helped other students pursue their dreams as innovators. To make an analogy, the DYER Center is a startup launched for the purpose of allowing Lafayette students to better create their own startups. I found myself thinking about topics, such as how do I get students to attend this specific DYER Center talk or how do I create more awareness about the Center among some of my fellow student athletes. If looking for glory, there is little of that in the work itself. The true glory comes from the mission of the Center and the future of the fellows. The true reward comes from watching this gritty work turn into events and ideas that really benefit students.
While I have only been part of the team for a little over a month, I can say with confidence that it has had a positive impact on me. The Center forces me to combine what athletics has taught me and what my academics have taught me: to grind and to use the resources and knowledge I have in order to tackle different problems. While I don’t have any more ideas as to what company I could potentially develop or what startups are needed to positively change the world, I do have more of an idea on what it takes to work for a company with a mission. I understand that work is not always going to be laid out for me, but will be something I have to go and find.