Posted April 10, 2013

New living community will foster entrepreneurial culture

Legendary IBM Chairman and CEO Thomas J. Watson once said: “Don’t make friends who are comfortable to be with. Make friends who will force you to lever yourself up.”

Perhaps that could describe the thinking behind Temple University’s new Innovate and Create Living Learning Community (LLC), a residential community for incoming freshmen — of any major — who are interested in innovation and entrepreneurship.

Based at White Hall, students in the Innovate and Create LLC will take a freshman seminar that will outline entrepreneurship and innovation as well as provide a roadmap for entrepreneurship at Temple. Innovate and Create students are also expected to actively participate in Temple’s Entrepreneurial Student Association and attend at least five Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute (IEI) events — such as entrepreneurial fireside chats and business plan workshops — throughout the year.

“This is not a class,” said Andrew Maxwell, a Fox School of Business entrepreneurship professor with a joint appointment in the College of Engineering. “It’s a culture.”

Maxwell joined Temple this academic year from the University of Waterloo, which housed a successful dorm-based incubator, Velocity. There, students have launched approximately 20 companies so far, including automated shipping service BufferBox, which Google acquired in November 2012.

Temple’s undergraduate entrepreneurship programs rank No. 8 nationwide and No. 13 among graduate programs, and the university-wide Be Your Own Boss Bowl is one of the nation’s most comprehensive business plan competitions. Temple is also sharing in a $3 million Blackstone LaunchPad grant from the Blackstone Charitable Foundation to further promote entrepreneurship as a viable career option.

"Students and others in the university are realizing that entrepreneurial perspectives and innovative thinking are critical complements to the skills students develop in their colleges and schools,” said Robert McNamee, academic director of the IEI, who spearheaded the initiative with support from the Fox School Dean's Office and Office of the Provost. “This LLC is an important component of our overall strategy to encourage and serve the growing cross-campus interest in these topics."  

In 2012-13, Temple organized 13 living learning communities: six academic, six thematic (such as healthy lifestyles) and one for honors students. The average community is about 45 to 50 students.

Laura L. Randolph, assistant director for residential life in Temple’s Office of University Housing and Residential Life, said LLC students report a stronger sense of community and closer connections to staff. The students also take core classes together and can bring their knowledge and experiences back to their floor.

“I love the fact that it will truly be interdisciplinary and that it will bring together like-minded people but with very diverse backgrounds,” Randolph said of the Innovate and Create LLC. “I can’t wait to see what the students come in thinking — and what they leave with.”

Sophomore biology major Lydia Lawson will serve as a peer mentor in the Innovate and Create LLC. While Lawson wants to be a doctor, she’s also involved in fashion design, hairstyling and theater.

“Being able to be a part of a community, it makes you feel like there’s a home away from home and that it’s easier to make friends,” said Lawson, of Manchester Township, N.J. “Which is one of the first things freshmen think about: How am I going to make friends? I’ll just love the community.”