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U-Imagine’s 20 ‘Big Ideas’

Encouraging entrepreneurship at a liberal arts college means teaching students to think creatively and independently. The U-Imagine Center is doing just that.

The U-Imagine Center is hosting a business plan competition this Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. with 20 student teams pitching an innovative idea to six alumni and community judges. At stake is $16,000 in prize money as well as the chance to bring the idea to fruition. The event is open to the public and takes place in Musser Auditorium in Pfahler Hall on the campus. Awards will be announced at a ceremony starting at 6:30 p.m. when Ursinus alumna Katie Iorio Martin, President of the Dale Carnegie Franchise in Pennsylvania and Delaware and portions of New Jersey, will speak and offer a prize as well.

The Be Entrepreneurial and Roar (conjuring the Ursinus mascot) Bear Innovation competition is Ursinus’s more academic answer to Shark Tank. Some of the ideas that students will float at Saturday’s competition include web sites and apps, tutorials, non-profits, and products that address convenience, safety and civic engagement.

In its first year (2014) 15 student teams vied for recognition of their business plans. The winning team of two biology majors and a philosophy major developed a database reporting global infectious diseases, accounting for disease occurrences around the world and provides treatment options with different cultures in mind. It is a limited LLC company now.

The number of students and faculty benefitting from the U-Imagine Center’s resources is not limited to business plan competitions. The Center has hosted  an intellectual property workshop, alumni environmental entrepreneur panel, an ethics writing prize and more. Its impact across disciplines with seminars, mentors and workshops is why it was recognized as an exemplary program among emerging entrepreneurship program at a leading national conference, The United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship last January.

The Center is not only looking for the next big ideas, but it is shifting the campus culture toward knowing how to think and challenging conventional thinking, say its faculty directors, April Kontostathis, Math; Carol Cirka, Business and Economics; and Rebecca Jaroff, English. Like its directors, it reaches across disciplines.