Skandalaris Center hosts student debate team March 25

The Skandalaris Center for Interdisciplinary Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Washington University in St. Louis will host the student debate team for a special event Wednesday, March 25.

The students will debate the topic “Resolved: Research Universities Should Support and Encourage Entrepreneurial Activity by Students and Faculty” at 5:30 p.m. in Umrath Lounge on the Danforth Campus. All students and faculty are encouraged to attend to explore the topic and its relation to student skill-building, relationships between universities and industry, and the role of a research university.

“We are pleased to host this important debate and welcome participation from our students and faculty,” said Emre Toker, managing director of the Skandalaris Center. “After the students debate the topic, we invite all to stay for a reception and continue the conversation. I am eager to hear the comments from my colleagues and our students.”

“We are excited to partner with the Skandalaris Center for this debate,” said Lawrance Fung, a senior in Arts & Sciences and debate team president. “As students, we know entrepreneurship courses are available, but this debate will explore the value of practical entrepreneurial activity for students and faculty, who may typically be focused on research. The university has identified the importance of innovation and entrepreneurship, and debating the topic will inform all of us in the university community.”

Other students participating in the debate are Surya Bahubalendruni, a freshman in Olin Business School; Caroline Moore, a freshman in Arts & Sciences; and Kevin Nwoke, a senior in Arts & Sciences.

The Skandalaris Center was founded at Washington University in 2001, originally as a program at Olin Business School, then expanded to serve students and faculty in all degree programs and disciplines at the university. Toker joined the Skandalaris Center in August 2014 and has renewed the effort to engage and solicit input from students and faculty across disciplines and campuses.

“The historical mission of research universities has been the creation and dissemination of knowledge,” Toker said. “This debate will investigate the extent of research universities’ obligation to society to support not only innovation but also entrepreneurial activity by students and faculty.”

Two of Washington University’s stellar undergraduate entrepreneurs pitched their ventures earlier this month at South by Southwest, the film, interactive and music festivals and conferences that take place annually in Austin, Texas. Jolijt Tamanaha and Blake Marggraff, seniors in Arts & Sciences, competed in “Student Startup Madness” and were among the “Entrepreneurial Eight” finalists competing for best student startup. Read more about the students and their ventures on the Skandalaris blog.

“Jolijt and Blake are great examples of students who had an idea and worked with students outside their discipline to grow their venture,” Toker said. “I’ve also had the opportunity over the last couple of months to get to know many of the School of Medicine researchers who have applied for funding towards the commercialization of their research through the Bear Cub grant program.

“These are the type of activities the Skandalaris Center supports among our students and faculty, and this debate is a great opportunity to hear arguments for and against, and to get input from the university community,” Toker said.

The Skandalaris Center is planning its programming for the upcoming academic year. Among the plans are a pre-orientation program that will allow students to experience a “learning-by-doing” environment that takes an idea from concept to prototype; Friday afternoon workshops that will provide practical training for students and faculty; and business plan competitions for social and commercial ventures.

“If you have an idea you’d like to talk about, want to collaborate with others, or want to mentor students, we’d like to meet you,” Toker said. “Attending the debate is a great start.”

For more information and to register, visit the Skandalaris Facebook event, or contact the Skandalaris Center at 314-935-9134 or