Smart Learning at University of Rochester

By Lisa Campbell Warren Dream it, do it! KEY Program Jumpstarts Enterprising Students “If you can dream it, you can do it,” Walt Disney said famously. What he said next is worth noting too: “Always remember this whole thing was started by a mouse.” Substitute “an undergraduate student with a great idea” for “a mouse” to describe the principle behind the University of Rochester’s Kauffman Entrepreneurial Year program. Within a supportive framework that provides expert advising, skill-and-knowledge-building course work, and up to a year of tuition-free enrollment, KEY (or “Kauffman”) scholars pursue the transformation of their dreams.  For example: ArtAwake  ArtAwake was born of the combined passion of a group of students for urban exploring, community, and the arts.  Working with the university’s student activity office to get approval and support, the group started an above-board* UE club, with an architectural photography bent. [*Above-board means members request permission to explore private property.] The club quickly became popular, and its founders “wanted to do something bigger that would involve and touch more people,” explained Zach Kozick, physics major and co-founder of ArtAwake. Thus, the idea was born to create a student-run arts-and-music festival, housed in an abandoned urban space in downtown Rochester. Acceptance to the KEY program allowed the founding partners to work together to achieve their dream of annually transforming a different space into a gallery and music/performance venue. The project successfully united the university community with the general public, while creating the foundation, structure, and organizational model to continue and improve the festival year after year. Our Trash is UR Treasure  With her “Our Trash is UR Treasure” project, Katie Maloney is developing a safe, clean, efficient method of making liquid soap from the by-products of environmentally friendly biodiesel fuel formulation. Said Katie, “I had been thinking about working on soap production during my undergrad, but I never had enough time to devote to the project, so KEY was the perfect chance to do it.”  Working independently, Katie keeps in contact with a biodiesel team on campus and a chemical engineering senior design team that is pursuing a similar project.  “It’s encouraging to see how active entrepreneurship is on this campus,” she said.  The biomedical engineering student plans to enroll in grad school next fall.  “I’m not sure if entrepreneurship will directly be incorporated into my plans,” she said, “but I will definitely use the skills I have learned to my advantage.” Creating value  The process of developing entrepreneurial ideas into “for-profit” or “not-for-profit” ventures that will create economic, social or intellectual value is what it’s all about, according to Professor Robert Tobin, associate director of the UR Center for...

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