The LSA Student Government hosted an alumni connections event on entrepreneurship and the liberal arts Thursday night in the Michigan Union Pond Room.
The event, called “Innovate Your Future,” featured six alumni guests.
Members of the Student Assembly’s academic affairs committee, LSA sophomore Julia Gips and LSA senior Rachel Rickles created the event in light of the new LSA entrepreneurship minor as well as to facilitate relationships between students and alumni.
“It’s a great way for students with specific interests to meet with the right people rather than just having a general group of alumni so that students can really feel that they’re having a meaningful experience,” Gips said.
Josh Buoy, co-creator of brand consultancy firm Snowday, and Lisa Bee, owner of Sweetwaters Coffee & Tea, attended the event. Jason Harper, director of online strategy for FordDirect, and Fiona Ruddy, director of Eastern Market’s food access programs, were also in attendance. Jeff Sorenson, co-founder of optiMize, and Rich Yoo, the vice president of innovation at Mattson & Co., spoke as well.
“Our speakers are from a diverse range of backgrounds,” Rickles said. “They have diverse entrepreneurial experiences and that’s something that we wanted to highlight given the relevance of the new minor.”
The event was organized in a round robin style, where the alumni rotated around small groups of students and spent approximately 10 minutes talking with each group. Students were encouraged to approach individual alumni after the round robin discussions finished.
The speakers told students about their reasons for becoming entrepreneurs and how they got to where they are today.
“I was frustrated with the fact that so many students would come up with awesome ideas in classes I was in and then classes would end and no one would do anything,” Sorenson said while discussing why he created optiMize.
Many of the alumni explained the importance of finding a niche and meeting a need not currently being met when considering creating a startup. They also spoke about entrepreneurship as a tool for social improvement.
“No matter what you do or who you work with, it’s about trying to solve problems and make lives better,” Buoy said.
The passion needed to become an entrepreneur was discussed as well.
“If there’s not enough drive, you can take a 100 business classes and it’s not going to help,” Bee said.
One attendee, LSA freshman Josh Carn-Saferstein, noted his passion for entrepreneurship and the opportunities the event offered.
“I just love everything about entrepreneurship,” Carn-Saferstein said. “I know possibilities are endless but you don’t realize what you can do until you actually go out and do something.”