Do you have an entrepreneurial mind, a bias for action, and a relentless drive that would impress even a Jedi Master?
John Surdyk, Director of the Wisconsin School of Business’ Entrepreneurship Residential Learning Community (“ERLC”) in Sellery Hall, recognized an opportunity to share an entrepreneurial lesson with a floor of 64 freshmen in Sellery Hall interested in entrepreneurship by participating in a Star Wars half marathon at Disneyland on January 15, 2017.
“It seemed like a perfect storm: a challenging distance run for me and a teachable moment for our residents,” Surdyk says. “I wanted to share with students that even pain and suffering in preparation of a long-distance run can be turned into something of value with an entrepreneurial mindset. Challenges present opportunities.”
The ERLC is a nationally-recognized immersion program at UW-Madison that helps students to develop their entrepreneurial skills and leadership acumen through focused coursework, research opportunities with faculty, and community engagement with Madison-area startup founders, investors, and thought leaders. It is one of a handful of programs of its kind in the country, and it launched in 2007 with funding from the Kauffman Foundation.
“It's like a Jedi Temple. Only in Sellery Hall,” the Director adds with a smile.
Surdyk set out to raise funds for the students in the entrepreneurship community using the popular nonprofit crowdfunding site CrowdRise. More than a dozen former residents, colleagues in the Weinert Center, and partners in the community donated nearly $800 within a few weeks.
While students learn about lean startup practices and business models in the classroom, opportunities to learn by doing are a hallmark of the community. Money raised from the run will be used to support everything from supplies in the community’s makerspace to “Dream Big" grants that enable students to de-risk ideas for new products and services, do research with faculty across the campus, or build community on the floor through student-led programs.
Former residents have gone on to pursue graduate degrees in engineering and law. Others have launched their own successful ventures – like former resident and WAVE alumni Daniel Litvak, a co-founder of Madison-area startup WeightUp Solutions.
Surdyk set a personal record in the race — while dressed as a Jedi knight. “The best part, though,” Surdyk notes, “was seeing the broad support for the students…and their smiles!”