By Alex Garcia (Kai Entrepreneurship Wesleyan co-president)
This Fall was Kai’s most eventful semester yet with an event almost every week that helped us accomplish our mission of entrepreneurship education and exposure for Wesleyan students of all backgrounds. We started off the semester with an all student panel that featured stories of what it’s like to intern in tech and new-media. Wesleyan summer interns from Instagram, Beyond Games, Vimeo, NGP Van, and Angelhack discussed their experiences over the summer and also the internship search process. Not only was the event great for students still early on in the search process, but it was also an opportunity for the students that interned in the tech field to get to know each other.
October had three big events that Kai helped organize: Startup Weekend Central Connecticut, the Kai Speaker series, and the NYC Fall Break trip to tech offices. Startup Weekend Central Connecticut, Wesleyan’s first on-campus startup weekend, brought in college students from all over Connecticut and professionals from nearby Hartford and New Haven. A total of 65 participants, 15 mentors, and handful of organizers, Katya Sapozhina being one star student organizer, helped make this Wesleyan first a success. Students that stayed on campus over the weekend were grateful for the hospitality and opportunity to experience Wesleyan’s campus culture.
The Kai Speaker series speaker was Greg Horowitt, co-founder of T2 venture creation and co-author of the book “The Rainforest: The Secret to Building the Next Silicon Valley.” Horowitt’s talk discussed innovation ecosystems and he pulled from his experience as a venture capitalist and consultant intermediary between the public and private sectors. The event filled the career center’s Olson Commons with a range of class years and majors that asked Horowitt questions related to projects students were involved in on campus.
The Kai NYC fall break trip brought 10 students selected from an application process for an educational experience about the possibilities in the tech and entrepreneurship fields. Wesleyan alumni toured students around their work places and discussed the often winding path to how they got to their position. Students wrote reflections about their experiences on the trip and they can be read here and here.
November was another packed month, but thankfully more of the events were organized by our partners such as the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship, which is led by our incredible advisor Makaela Kingsley. We played more of a supporting role in those events. Events in November included the KaiwesHACK hackathon, Strauss Zelnick Talk, and the Wesleyan Social Impact Summit.
The KaiwesHACK hackathon occurred over Family and Homecoming Weekend and was spearheaded by Victor Chu, Arjun Shah, and Evan Ortiz. The event was a test-run of the logistical requirements needed to make a successful and inclusive hackathon for the Wesleyan community in Fall 2016. The test-run helped us establish partnerships with the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship, the Quantitative Analysis Center, the Office of Equity and Inclusion, Student Activities and Leadership Development, and Dentons. The 24/7 Fishbowl lounge in Exley Science Center that was recently renovated in the past year turned out to be a great venue for the test-run and will be highly considered for the Fall 2016 event.
The Strauss Zelnick talk was organized by our partners at the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship and the Career Center and was a fantastic opportunity for students to hear from a super successful media-tech alum. Strauss Zelnick is the CEO of Take Two Interactive Software, the maker of the notorious Grand Theft Auto franchise and sports games such as NBA2K. Strauss based his talk completely on student questions he asked for throughout the talk.
Caroline Liu, a student coordinator in the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship, helped plan and organize the Wesleyan Social Impact Summit with school administrators. In another first for the year, the summit brought Wesleyan alumni in the impact and non-profit sector back to the Wesleyan campus to learn from each other and also share their experiences with the community. In a keynote presentation open to all-campus prominent alumni such as Kennedy and Jessica Odede, co-founders of Shining Hope for Communities, gave inspiring talks about their impactful work. Most important to the Odedes was taking those first steps of wanting to do something and persevering through the tough lessons to make that something happen. Shining Hope for Communities was just an idea only a few years ago, and now it is an internationally acclaimed non-profit providing tuition free education to girls in Kibera, one of the world’s largest slums.
December went by very quickly and we managed to get Kai contributors together before the semester ended to reflect upon the accomplishments and lessons from the semester. It has been almost a full year of Kai’s existence and the organization has played an important role in exposing hundreds of students, with a particular focus on those typically left out of entrepreneurship such as women and minorities, to entrepreneurship and tech opportunities. The team expressed the urge to do more in coming semesters and work to help further consolidate with the numerous student groups involved in enabling Wesleyan students to create that better world they want to live in. Whether that be through tech, entrepreneurship, art, or any other endeavor, our team recognizes the diversity of methods students at Wesleyan use to make projects and change happen. Integrating these separate communities together in addition to maintaining our successful programs will be the next frontier for the entrepreneurship community at Wesleyan and we’re excited to be a part of it.