Shoemaker Scholars making their presence felt on campus

Shoemaker Schoalrs 2017

It’s exciting when a plan comes together.

When the Shoemaker Scholars, part of the School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering, first met in early 2016, a vision was put in place to create a central clearinghouse for all of the entrepreneurial opportunities on the IU Bloomington campus. The resources were out there, but the legwork required for students to discover what was available was daunting. Getting everyone on the same page was paramount, but it also was no easy task.

Fast forward to the present. The program, which is funded by John and Donna Shoemaker and has a goal of enhancing students’ knowledge of and experience with innovation and entrepreneurship, has built and maintained, an initiative to connect innovative and entrepreneurial students across every school on campus.

It has taken time, but the buzz surrounding the program is reaching the potential that was initially envisioned.

“It’s developing exactly the way I hoped it would,” said Travis Brown, the assistant dean for innovation, entrepreneurship, and commercialization for SICE. “Programs at other schools are promoting what the Shoemaker Scholars are doing through the StartupIU website and the StartupIU newsletter. For the most part, it has been word of mouth, which is when you know it’s working.”

Students who are selected for the program earn a $2,500 scholarship for the year and are expected to serve a specific role, whether it be through web design, marketing, or another area of need. Ten students—two from the Jacobs School of Music, four from the Kelley School of Business, three from SICE, and one in an individualized major program—have come together in a blend of new and old. Some of the students have been with the program since its inception, while others are bringing a fresh outlook to the project.

Wes Wagner, a senior majoring in entrepreneurship and business at Kelley, is one of the students who has been involved since the beginning.

“It has taken us some time to get everything up and running,” Wagner said. “Now that we have a great website and an awesome newsletter, we’re starting to get more inbound interest, which we didn’t have at the beginning. People want to get involved and want to post opportunities with us.”

Steven Lin, a sophomore majoring in management and sales at Kelley, has always been interested in entrepreneurship, and he came across the Shoemaker Scholars after first going through the tedious task of searching the internet for opportunities.

“It was a lot of work to find the right competitions and the right resources,” Lin said. “A lot of the resources online were outdated and had links that didn’t work. I’m excited to be a part of the Shoemaker Scholars because I can help make sure other students don’t run into the problems that I once did. We’re trying to bridge the gap between a student and the information about what is available now, what resources might be out there, and who is here to help you.”

Grace Liu, another sophomore from Kelley who is studying marketing and business analytics, said the Shoemaker Scholars have given her a wider view of the IU campus.
“It made me think bigger,” Liu said. “It has made me make connections between our project and the other schools on campus, and it has shown me the wider network of possibilities for entrepreneurship.”

The students are loaded with enthusiasm and ideas about spreading innovation and entrepreneurship across campus, but providing both perspective and reality can be a challenge.

“It’s a tightrope act where you’re trying to balance enthusiasm with the pragmatism required to build viable projects,” Brown said. “Most students don’t have sufficient experience with implementation nor do they appreciate the changes they’ll go through as students. What they propose as a sophomore might be less important to them when they’re a senior and they have one foot out the door. That’s really the interesting balancing act that I’ve experienced as I have developed this group.”

Most importantly, the Shoemaker Scholars have created a resource that is viable, sustainable, and helpful to the IU student community.

“There are startups on campus,” Wagner said. “Some people have sold companies. We have those connections, and we’re building a knowledge asset. Because of that, we’re seeing the quality of the student entrepreneurs increase. We’re getting more people who are drawn to what we do. We’re strengthening the magnet of entrepreneurship to one central resource.”

For more information on the Shoemaker Scholars or any of SICE’s entrepreneurship programs, visit our Innovation & Entrepreneurship website.

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