It takes more than munchies to motivate undergrads to attend events and programs, but we all know offering food never hurts. The StartUp Learning Community recognizes and embraces the vital community building aspect of a shared meal and we plan one of our signature programs — our monthly Community Dinners — around the opportunity to eat and learn together.
The Community Dinners, which take place immediately following our StartUp seminar, allow our current residents to indulge in Ian’s Pizza or a meal from a local food-scene launch, while introducing them to area startup founders and learning community alumni. We also use this group gathering to help build our residents’ capacity for innovation by strategically utilizing creative icebreakers and games. Not only is this dinner our residents’ chance to connect with their 2A neighbors who may live on the other side of the elevator banks, but just as importantly, it is a regular reminder that only through challenging conventional thinking can big ideas become reality.
In 2018-19, StartUp was thrilled to welcome numerous founders to the 2A floor as Community Dinner speakers. Starting the year off, we hosted Max Fergus (BBA ’18) and the rest of the LÜM team, who gave our students a glimpse into what inspired the launch of their revolutionary new music streaming platform. Later in the semester, Erin Tenderholt (BBA ’19) shared her experiences as the co-founder and CEO of the innovative early-stage medical waste disposal company, Blexx Technology. This past spring, Luke Presberg (BA ’19) of WOAV, an app-based curated mobile shopping experience, engaged residents with stories of the sacrifices and rewards of startup life. We also had the unique opportunity this past December to welcome Michelle Ching (BFA '12), founder of the education technology company Literator, back to the floor. A member of the Community’s founding cohort over 10 years ago, Michelle inspired students with tales of her innovation journey. From being a Dream Big grant winner for her photography business her freshman year, to receiving a Forbes 40-Under-40 honor for launching Literator, an award-winning app which helps teachers track their students’ academic success, Michelle embodies the type of success we believe all StartUp students can achieve.
And sometimes the road to that success starts with a slice of pizza.