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The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

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Opinion | Stop asking women if they want children
Opinion | Stop asking women if they want children
By Grace Harris, Staff Columnist • 12:19 am
Opinion | Long-distance friendships are possible
By Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor • June 6, 2024

Big Idea Center’s new ChangeMaker Series encourages student entrepreneurship

The+Big+Idea+Center+on+Forbes+Avenue.
Amber Farabaugh | Staff Photographer
The Big Idea Center on Forbes Avenue.

Rhonda Schuldt said when she started her role as director of the Big Idea Center in August 2021, she and her team took a “strategic look” at how the BIC’s programming engaged with students across Pitt.

“We recognized we had gaps to address and a problem to solve,” Schuldt said. “How could we reimagine what we did so that any student across Pitt had the chance to explore what innovation and entrepreneurism could mean to them by providing opportunities beyond our traditional competition-based programming?”

To connect with a wider range of Pitt students, Schuldt said she and others at the BIC developed the ChangeMaker Series.

According to Schuldt, this new five-session series aims to provide a place for Pitt students at any level in any discipline to engage in entrepreneurship and innovation. Schuldt said the ChangeMaker Series, which will include guest speakers from a variety of fields, provides a curriculum that allows participants to learn about “key disciplines, concepts, frameworks and tools of innovation and entrepreneurship.”

Previously, the main way students could engage with the BIC was through competition-based programs. According to Schuldt, the ChangeMaker Series provides a way for students to engage with entrepreneurship and innovation, even if they do not want to participate in any kind of contest.

“We found that there were students who were curious about innovation and entrepreneurship, but didn’t think there were opportunities for them at the Big Idea Center because they didn’t have an idea to pursue or weren’t interested in starting a startup or being an entrepreneur,” Schuldt said.

Schuldt said she is excited to see students participate in the series who previously have not felt entrepreneurship was for them.

“Innovators and entrepreneurs are our world’s changemakers and problem solvers,” Schuldt said. “Being a changemaker is not a limited journey and is not limited to a few.”

According to Jessica Malandro, the manager for student programs and operations at the BIC, the skills participants will learn in the ChangeMaker Series will be beneficial to any interests students have.

“Entrepreneurial skills are so valuable, even if you don’t create a startup,” Malandro said. “You can work for a company, you can create your own startup, you can just utilize the skills in just everyday life.”

Malandro said the BIC will finalize details at the end of this semester regarding a ChangeMaker Scholars Program. The scholars program will be an “extension” of the ChangeMaker Series and will have its first cohort of students in the fall semester, according to Malandro.

The ChangeMaker Scholars Program will include a cohort of students who have already participated in the ChangeMaker Series, according to Malandro, since the series will create a foundation for students to then participate in the scholars program. More details on the scholars program will be available at the end of this semester.

According to Schuldt, student insights and involvement have played a key role in the development of the ChangeMaker Series and ChangeMaker Scholars Program.

“Each ChangeMaker cohort will help us continue improving the program for future cohorts,” Schuldt said. “It is a program for students, informed by students, designed with students and will continue to evolve through their involvement.”

Joanna Sutton, who has worked alongside Schuldt to create the ChangeMaker Series, said she is excited to engage with students who want to learn more about entrepreneurship, but who also may not be interested in or ready to create their own startup.

“This is a chance to help [students] develop the skills and perspectives necessary to successfully implement change and have a positive impact,” Sutton, who is an entrepreneur in residence at the BIC, said.

Sutton said she looks forward to the ChangeMaker Series because it will be a way to reach students who want to have a “positive impact on the world.”

“I hope students gain an understanding of what it takes to make change happen,” Sutton said. “Change is a process. To be successful, you need the right mindset and skills to understand how to engage stakeholders and ensure your solution has impact.”

Enrollment for the ChangeMaker Series is open until Feb. 1 and the first of the five sessions will be on Feb. 8. According to Schuldt, participants are expected to attend all five sessions, as the ChangeMaker Series is cumulative. 

Schuldt said she hopes the ChangeMaker Series opens the “minds and eyes” of students.

“The ChangeMaker Series and Scholars Program is designed to accentuate the student experience and excite them in new ways in their academic pursuits,” Schuldt said. “I look forward to seeing how this will enhance more students’ time at Pitt and beyond.”

About the Contributor
Elizabeth Primrose, Senior Staff Writer