Focused on sustainability, Think Like an Entrepreneur sets all-time, in-person record

Focused on sustainability, Think Like an Entrepreneur sets all-time, in-person record

Above, TLAE students work out ideas in maker space.

Rowan University’s Think Like an Entrepreneur academy, which is offered annually through the School of Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the Rohrer College of Business, drew nearly 90 high school students from four states this summer, with those completing the free four-day program qualifying for three transferable college credits.

Sponsored by TD Bank and produced by the Rowan Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship (RCIE) within the RCB, the program encourages rising high school juniors and seniors to apply an entrepreneurial lens to challenges posed by the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“This generation is passionate about worldly issues, and they want to make a meaningful impact,” said RCIE Assistant Director Jessica Vattima, who runs the program with Senior Lecturer of Entrepreneurship Mike Dominik.

Now in its eighth year, TLAE attracted roughly 30 percent more in-person students than it has in any of the previous classes.

Broken into small groups, the students brainstormed solutions to a variety of UN SDGs, from delivering healthcare where it’s needed to ending hunger.

Jeffrey Schwantes, a rising senior at Kingsway Regional High School in Woolwich Township, worked with a team intent on developing a prototype for a mobile health clinic.

“Our idea is to provide no-cost medical services to low incomes area in the U.S.,” Schwantes said.

“We’d serve areas where people might have less access to quality medical care,” said his teammate Devon Kodish, a rising junior at Moorestown High School.

Sophia Counselor, a rising senior at Kingsway Regional, said her group sought to stamp out hunger in the South Asian nation Sri Lanka, and decided one way to help do so was to increase crop yields with high quality fertilizer.

In 2021, the Sri Lankan government temporarily banned chemical fertilizer to encourage the use of organics and the agrochemical ban reportedly worsened crop output.

“The idea is to combine food waste in a massive composter and sell fertilizer from it to farms to increase crop yields,” Counselor said.

In addition to small group collaborations in Business Hall, the students manifested their ideas through projects in Studio 231, RCIE’s “maker space,” where they built physical models of their concepts. They also worked with faculty and Rowan students in Creatives 230, an experiential learning lab designed to bridge the creative fields and entrepreneurship.

Dominik attributed the increase in student attendance to the RCB’s growing reputation as a top business school and the concept built into TLAE of bettering humanity through entrepreneurship. (The Princeton Review last year ranked Rowan’s entrepreneurship program #40 in the U.S., a ten-place boost in three years.)

“These goals are meaningful and noble, and students can relate,” Dominik said.

Also attractive to high school students, he said, was the program’s adoption of cutting-edge technologies like artificial intelligence to help them do more, faster.

“We’ve incorporated the us of AI tools to develop a range of solutions such as imagery and innovative design,” he said. “We’re also using AI for marketing and communications projects like website copy and app development.”

TLAE, which ran from June 24-27, concluded with a competition for the winning project. Taking first place on the final day was team Just Future (above right), which would make government activities more transparent and civic engagement straightforward. The team included students from Kingsway Regional, Pequannock Township High School, Lenape High School, Gloucester County Institute of Technology and Camden County Technical School.