A ‘choose your own’ entrepreneurial adventure

Skandalaris Center offers new St. Louis-centered fellowship program

Skandalaris Fellowship
The 2020 Skandalaris Fellowship cohort gathered for their first seminar Jan. 15. The cohort will have a yearlong immersive experience, allowing them to meet and connect with St. Louis startup founders. (Photo: Sydney Everett)

Washington University in St. Louis offers a rich ecosystem of support for budding innovators on campus and is consistently recognized nationally for its excellence in educating and preparing the next generation of entrepreneurs. A new program for undergraduates further deepens that commitment while directly connecting them to, and immersing them in, the St. Louis startup scene.

Thirteen students make up the St. Louis Entrepreneurial Fellowship’s initial cohort, designed and administrated by the Skandalaris Center for Interdisciplinary Innovation and Entrepreneurship. They represent four of the university’s seven schools — Arts & Sciences, the McKelvey School of Engineering, Olin Business School and the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts — and are majoring in a wide range of subjects, including psychology, economics, architecture, marketing and computer science. Despite varied backgrounds, the students’ keen interest in the St. Louis innovation scene will unite them during the yearlong fellowship, during which they will interact, connect and intern with St. Louis-based startups.

“This new fellowship not only signifies our commitment to entrepreneurship and bolsters the region; it will keep more than a dozen of WashU’s brightest undergrads here in St. Louis for an entire year,” Chancellor Andrew D. Martin said. “During that time, participants will be immersed in the city’s entrepreneurial ecosystem as well as have the opportunity to share their time and talents with some of our city’s most promising startups. These personal, hands-on experiences will benefit everyone involved.”

The fellowship formally kicked off this semester with a course exploring innovation and entrepreneurship. Throughout the spring, the students will have several touchpoints with local startup founders, who will attend networking events and programs. The cohort also will receive professional development for the duration of the seminar. When it concludes, the students will select a St. Louis-based startup, where they will spend a 10-week paid summer internship. The experience wraps up with a fall capstone project.

“By identifying our cohort in the fall, we are able to build a customized experience tailored to their specific interest around innovation here in St. Louis,” said II Luscri, managing director of Skandalaris and assistant vice provost for innovation and entrepreneurship. “We strive for great diversity among our participants, and this customization helps us better serve our students and startups. St. Louis is growing as a startup hub, and the Skandalaris Center is excited to be part of it. We have a long history of supporting startups in our existing internship program, and this new fellowship will create deeper and more meaningful connections between WashU and St. Louis.

“Our hope is that these students and startups help us evolve the program, and that the capstone experience this fall provides a ripe opportunity to extend the program well beyond our first 13 students. They have a charge to enhance the ecosystem there, and this is an intentional direction of the fellowship program.”

Cohort members — many of whom are already familiar with what Skandalaris has to offer — said they’re looking forward to learning much more about St. Louis’ startup ecosystem and what they, in turn, can give back to the community.

“From my past experience, the Skandalaris Center has been there to provide a mentorship,” said fellow Ayana Klein, a sophomore majoring in education in Arts & Sciences and in entrepreneurship. “I am excited to see how the fellowship will further its mission.”

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