As Innovate at Iowa State is gaining broader awareness at Iowa’s land-grant university, its associated programs are also making a larger footprint in the landscape of academic and extracurricular opportunities for students and faculty alike.
In the last year, more than 6,000 individuals have participated in more than 80 new, innovation programs. The programs were delivered by nearly 60 faculty and an equal number of experienced industry executives. One example is the Student Innovation Fund Challenge. Through the challenge, motivated teams are offered the chance to earn seed money and transform their innovative ideas into prototypes or pilot projects.
Entrepreneur in Residence and Director of Innovation Programming Karen Piconi-Kerns has been instrumental in initiating and leading Innovate at Iowa State programs that are designed to build behavioral capacity. Through the program offerings, participants learn to leverage relationships, value diverse contributions, think strategically, find insights in information, and offer creative solutions.
“Our audacious goal is to see a shift of mindset about what innovation is,” said Piconi-Kerns. “We serve as guides to help students expand an idea, insight, or concept, helping them bring it to maturity. It could lead to a marketable product, a new service, or a solution to a community issue.”
The portfolio of innovation education and experiences is especially important for preparing innovators who envision a future working for themselves. Complementing the programs that Piconi-Kerns leads is a campuswide network of resources specifically geared toward entrepreneurs – including the long-standing Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship and programs throughout the university’s academic colleges.
Judi Eyles, Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship director, added, “We’re committed to offering academic entrepreneurship programs for undergraduates through PhD students. With our colleges engaged, we have created a truly integrated cross-campus entrepreneurial environment that educates students in and outside the classroom. It’s an ecosystem where startups can launch and thrive.”
It’s this wide range of initiatives that focus on broadening innovative experiences and supporting entrepreneurs that has helped Iowa State soar to 11th on The Princeton Review’s 2021 ranking for top undergraduate entrepreneurship programs, up from 26th last year.