‘We want the students to be able to develop networks in the St. Louis area’: Skandalaris Center launches Entrepreneurial Fellowship Program

Ellie Ito | Staff Reporter

The Skandalaris Center launched its year-long St. Louis Entrepreneurial Fellowship Program, which aims to help Washington University students engage in innovative ventures in St. Louis.

Photo by Curran Neenan

During the inaugural application cycle, the program was open to all freshmen, sophomores and juniors regardless of their intended route of study or professional aspirations.

The cohort of 13 students will engage in weekly seminars and field trips to start-ups in the St. Louis area during the spring semester. So far, the group has toured the T-rex and Cortex co-working space and hosted guest speakers.

“While I knew coming into Wash. U. that St. Louis is home to several entrepreneurs, I had no idea of the extent; in T-Rex alone there are over 200 startups and Cortex offers a variety of programs to help accelerate startups and help people make their ideas become reality,” sophomore Ayana Klein wrote in a statement to Student Life.

Students considering a professional career or pursuing a higher degree may seek opportunities to build their resumes in a purely academic setting—through research and leadership positions in clubs on campus. Off-campus opportunities facilitated by the Entrepreneurial Fellowship Program can also supplement these experiences by encouraging students to develop their networks and consider career paths.

“We’re really trying to get the students out and in contact with as many entrepreneurs and start-ups as possible, because what a lot of people don’t realize is that St. Louis is one of the fastest growing cities for start-ups,” Assistant Director of Programs Jessica Weldon said.

Students in the program represent all four of the University’s undergraduate schools and have a diverse set of interests.

“I am currently in Arts and Sciences and am really hoping to be able to study entrepreneurship through Olin Business School,” Klein wrote. “I’m also taking classes in education and would like to combine the two skills to change early childhood education with my business, 3DuxDesign.”

Olin Business School offers a diverse array of areas of study—the Fellowship program provides a platform upon which students can apply skills gained in these areas and for some, a creative outlet.

Sophomore Arnav Kannan wrote in a statement to Student Life that while he is enrolled in Olin Business School, his academic interests are independent of his entrepreneurial interests.

“Fundamentally, I have entrepreneurial tendencies because I’m very creative, ambitious and don’t abide by the status quo,” Kannan wrote. “I think these are factors that all members of the cohort have in common, regardless of their major or school. I believe that entrepreneurship is more about ‘creating something’ than it is about ‘starting a business’ and from my perspective this program is fundamentally focused on us ‘creating something.’”

During the summer, students will complete a 10-week paid entrepreneurship internship. Students will close their fellowship experience during the fall semester with a capstone project.

“This is a highly customizable portion of the fellowship, where we focus on fleshing out an idea we’re passionate about,” Kannan wrote.

Skandalaris Center leaders have expressed excitement with regard to where the program is headed and how students can immerse themselves in and experience the growing entrepreneurial scene in St. Louis.

For Weldon, the importance of allowing students to develop their entrepreneurial skills both inside and outside of the classroom is paramount.

“We want the students to be able to develop networks in the St. Louis area,” Weldon said.

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