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Business as (almost) Usual in the StartUp Learning Community

by Sari Judge Monday, May 4, 2020

John Surdyk, Sari Judge and StartUp Learning Community
StartUp life pre-pandemic


It was not the semester any of us expected to have in the StartUp Learning Community. When you are a self-selected group of freshman who have decided to spend the year living together on the second floor of Sellery Hall  to explore the wild and wonderful world of innovation and entrepreneurship—and you can no longer live together—it puts a bit of snag in the experience.

But our 64 StartUp students are incredibly resilient, thus already exhibiting a key trait necessary to be a successful entrepreneur. While the COVID-19 pandemic forced them to move out in mid-March, their startup spirit is alive and well, across the state, the country and the world.

For starters, our spring Learning Community seminar, Social Entrepreneurship (MHR 321), went off without a hitch with the enrolled students pivoting their nonprofit analysis projects towards Madison-area organizations making an impactful difference with their Coronavirus responses. Other students continued to apply for Big Dream grants which are allowing them to make progress on ventures ranging from a new way to share music to exploring solar technologies for outdoor cafes. 

Our 2019/20 cohort also knows that terrific opportunities can arise from uncertainty. This spring, we had a record number of students apply for valuable internships through programs like SNAP at StartingBlock Madison. We have heard from students who are volunteering at food pantries in their home communities and others who are now considering innovative ways to approach public health.

This was not the end to a freshman year the students of the StartUp Learning Community could have ever predicted.  And it certainly is not the one they, or StartUps faculty and staff, ever would had wanted.  But our residents will return to campus as sophomores with a new world view, an enhanced ability to adapt and a chance to fully engage with StartUp programming once again. This time as program Alumni.