“I wish I had more real world experience while at Davidson.”
Over the past few years, I’ve met with dozens of Davidson College alumni to ask them about their Davidson experience, and despite their different academic and career interests, one common theme holds true: Everyone I’ve spoken to wishes they had been better able to complement their liberal arts education with more hands-on experiences focused on the “real world” while in school.
While chatting with a Class of 2007 grad the other day, I asked him about his biggest takeaway from his Davidson education. He gave me the classic liberal arts response: at Davidson, he learned how to communicate, gaining invaluable writing and speaking skills that have helped him every step of the way from graduation through today.
However, as quickly as he pointed out his appreciation for the English department, this grad told me how much he would have appreciated more opportunities to get outside of the classroom while at Davidson. Just ten years ago, he said, if you weren’t an Economics major interested in finance, you were pretty much on your own. Few mentorship and job exploration programs were available to students following other academic paths.
When I told him about Davidson’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative, his face lit up—that’s the type of program, he said, that had been missing from his education.
Davidson I&E, now enjoying its fourth year at Davidson, has quickly grown to become one of the most active and engaging extracurricular programs on campus, and with its many academic partnerships, I&E is becoming a central part of the Davidson experience.
Through summer internship programs with entrepreneurs and startups across the globe, and opportunities like 3 Day Startup and the Venture Lab, I&E offers a wide range of options for students, no matter their academic focus. Throughout the entire calendar year, I&E works hard to provide students with opportunities—to start a business, to intern at a startup, to pitch ideas to investors, and to gain mentorship from entrepreneurs and other professionals.
In my two years as part of the I&E Initiative, I have been able to do work that I had never imagined possible for a liberal arts-focused college student. Through I&E’s summer internship program, I was connected with VersaMe, an educational technology startup created by Jon and Chris Boggiano, Davidson’s own Entrepreneurs in Residence. At VersaMe, I became the tenth member of a quickly growing team, essentially created the young company’s marketing department, and worked directly with a great group of seasoned entrepreneurs, allowing me to get an idea for what it really takes to develop a successful business.
When asked how we value our education, the classic liberal arts response—“I learned how to think/write/communicate”—does mean something; in fact, I’d argue that it means a whole lot. The critical thinking skills we hone at Davidson are what allow us to be articulate, quick on our feet, and adaptable across situations, all traits which will serve us well regardless of where we end up postgrad. Sometimes, though, it can be difficult to see how these somewhat intangible skills measure up to the requirements for the type of work we want to do. And that’s where I&E comes in.
Davidson I&E extends the value of a liberal arts education by encouraging students to experiment with our liberal skillset before we are released into the “real world.” If you’re interested in edtech, grab a coffee with the Boggiano brothers. If you want to work on your idea for the next great app, apply for the Venture Lab. If you’d like to join a startup for the summer, try out I&E’s internship program. The Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative will make this happen—all you have to do is come with energy and an open mind. (And Hannah, John-Michael, and the rest of the I&E team will be there to help you jumpstart the process!)