The Close School's Favorite Moments of 2014
From Silicon Valley to Startup Day, here are the highlights that made 2014 a banner year for the Close School.
December 19, 2014
2014 was quite a year for the Close School. In typical Drexel fashion, it began with a wallop, not a whisper.
With the year in its infancy, Dean De Carolis declared in a Jan. 9 Forbes column that “we are all entrepreneurs. It’s a mindset, not a business model.”
What followed was a series of triumphs — for students, faculty, staff and Drexel at large — including the April 22 passing of the Close School’s degree and minors, making Drexel University home to the nation’s first and only freestanding school of entrepreneurship to offer degrees.
There were many more moments — from an energizing visit to Silicon Valley with the Entrepreneurship Living-Learning Community to the launch of too many student startups to count.
At the Baiada Institute, we saw the stunning rise of Ben Melman’s concert booking startup, Booksmart. We watched the growth of Maria Allison’s socially conscious consulting firm, Forsei. We cheered for Collin Cavote’s biowall company, Biome, when it secured $260,000 in funding — and felt the rumble down Market Street when David Virgil Hunt and Jason Browne from Spor Chargers secured over $100,000 on Kickstarter.
Then there was Drexel Startup Day, an event Scholly founder and Baiada Incubator Competition champion Christopher Gray called the “Close School’s debutante ball” in a Technically Philly interview.
However, the most vital moments — the ones that mean the most to so many — cannot be tracked or measured, because they happened in the classroom. It was in courses like Launch It!, Social Entrepreneurship and Life Strategies that the Close School found its true home at Drexel, among you, the students.
Here are our favorites moments from 2014.
Donna De Carolis
The Close School officially launched in Jan. 2013. Over the past two years, we introduced lots of new programs: the Entrepreneurship Co-op; the Launch It! class; the Entrepreneurship Living-Learning Community; and a suite of electives in the first 18 months. And I hired an amazing team who made all of these programs a reality.
But we all knew that the one thing that would really make the Close School of Entrepreneurship the pioneer that it is would be our degree programs. Offering entrepreneurship degrees as a freestanding school of entrepreneurship would be unprecedented. So my team and I worked tirelessly in the first few months to create approximately 35 brand new courses, and package them into a B.A. in Entrepreneurship and Innovation and an M.S. in Entrepreneurship and Innovation. We went through the lengthy process of Faculty Senate approval, knowing that without their blessing, we could not offer degrees — our major differentiator.
So, I had a lot riding on the Faculty Senate passage of our degrees. The official Senate vote was scheduled for April 22, 2014. I would be there of course. But my oldest son, Nicholas, was involved in an auto accident in Baltimore a few days before and I was with him in the ICU for several days as he recovered from surgery. I remember the afternoon of April 22, with my head on my son’s hospital bed as he slept, I picked up my phone and listened to a voicemail from Ian Sladen, in which he said – and I will never forget his words: “Congratulations, you are the first dean of the first freestanding school of entrepreneurship to offer degrees.”
Those words brought tears to my eyes; tears of happiness and gratitude. Because I knew that at that same moment — even though I was in Baltimore and my team was in Philly, that my team was just as joyful as I was; that our hard work and passion paid off; that we could continue to revolutionize entrepreneurship education for all students.
At that moment, I put my head back on Nicholas’ bed; still a concerned mom, but also a very happy dean.
My top Close School moment of 2014 was in September when we held our first gathering with our inaugural freshman class. To be able to recruit a class in four months (after the May 1 deposit deadline) was truly validating.
At one point during the new student gathering, we asked our freshmen why they elected to study entrepreneurship. I heard responses like, “I felt like the Close School developed a program that was tailored just for me,” and “I wasn’t sure if college was for me until I found out about the Close School.”
I was truly moved by the comments from each student. To have these young people validate my beliefs and efforts over the past two years was the most satisfying moment of the year.
Assistant Director, Web Communications
When I joined the Close School in April, my first big project was to get a new Baiada Institute website off the ground. It needed to simplify the process of connecting to all that Baiada has to offer, feature brand new content, and generally look really cool.
And oh yeah, it needed to be done by July 1.
Luckily, we’d already enlisted Baiada’s own 215 Marketing to help. Jon, Ed and Garrett not only helped create a unique Web resource designed to cater to the entire Drexel community, but their firsthand experience in the Baiada Institute itself was invaluable, as their wisdom helped us overhaul and reorganize the site’s content.
The project could not have happened without Drexel’s stellar IRT department — in particular, Dave Tristano and Jess Viskup. Chuck Sacco, director of the Baiada Institute, was instrumental, as was Joe Master and our entire team at the Close School. This collaboration is truly the hallmark of the Close School and Drexel’s entrepreneurship community. That’s why making the site live on July 1, knowing how much hard work so many put into it, is my favorite moment of 2014.
My favorite moment wasn’t a moment but a collection of moments while co- teaching UNIV 101. It was astonishing to see the passion and dedication in the first-year students. It was my first time co-teaching a course and I was thrilled that the students felt the same passion and excitement toward the class that I did.
It’s hard to believe the first official term for the Close School has officially ended. I am looking forward to the journey!
Director, Entrepreneurship Living-Learning Community
Assistant Teaching Professor
As we got off the plane in San Francisco for our first ever Entrepreneurship Living Community trip to Silicon Valley, I panicked. Surely, there was a detail I forgot. Or maybe a company visit was going to be a bust? We spent the better half of the last 6 months planning the trip and I was unsure.
Now it was go time.
Our first company was Tumml. The passion from the social entrepreneurs and the vibe from the open collaboration office space were inspiring. We left and immediately began to talk about Baiada’s redesign. I could hear students talk about starting something, anything, like what we just heard. The transformation had begun.
Next were the visits to Apple, eBay, Wagoneer Edstrom, and even a side trip to Alcatraz. We heard from Jim Bean, Richelle Parham, and Phillip Inghelbrecht, all while eating at great venues with outstanding views of San Francisco Bay. The more we did, the closer we got.
It all ended with a group debrief that by all accounts changed our collective DNA. We heard students tell us they are now compelled to start something. We heard Advisory Board members tell us they are now going to make a change in their personal and professional lives. We heard each other say that nothing compared to the experience we just had or the experiences yet to come.
We all agreed that we are Close. I got off the plane in Philly and smiled all the way home.
Curriculum Development Coordinator
Assistant Teaching Professor
Convocation 2014 was a special moment for me. It was only my seventh day at school and the ceremony affected me deeply. I felt like becoming a part of this tremendous, warm and welcoming environment and I was so excited. The atmosphere was great and touching. The music, the speeches, and the chorus were all very impressive.
Looking forward to the graduation ceremony.
Entrepreneur-in-Residence and Director of External Relations
Director, Laurence A. Baiada Institute for Entrepreneurship
I like thinking big. But as I walked into the room early in the morning of our inaugural Drexel Startup Day, I got a sense that I overshot my mark. I was sure that I had thought too big. Seven speakers, five judges, 50 pitch competition participants, six incubator competition finalists (all competing for nearly $70,000 in cash), well over 300 registered attendees, six volunteers, nearly a dozen services providers, over a dozen startup companies and Drexel schools showcasing their ventures. No way this was going to come together. Too many moving parts. Too many possible points of failure.
Yet it did come together, and in a big way. Everyone stepped up. The speakers, participants, services providers, judges, startups, schools, volunteers (and especially the Close School team) all made this day what it became. Even social media stepped up in a way we hadn’t foreseen by catapulting us to the top of the Philly-area Twitter consciousness.
Lesson learned – when you get a bunch of entrepreneurs in the room, only good things can happen. That’s why Drexel Startup Day is my top moment of 2014.
Director of Communications
Because my job is to document the Close School — to tell its stories — I got to know so many students from across the University this year. My favorite moments all happened after I clicked “record,” sat back in my chair and began an interview.
What I heard was profound. Stories of success, failure, doubt and hope — all told by people most adults would consider too young to understand failure, or too naïve to learn from it. Listening to these stories made me realize that the Close School isn’t brick and mortar. It’s a patchwork of imagination and drive that exists within our students. At best, all we can do is hope to live up to the high bar they set for us.
Professionally, telling their stories on video, in photographs, on paper and online was a real pleasure.
Here are a few of my favorites:
Director of Administration & Operations
Meeting the incoming freshman class of Close School undergraduates was easily my favorite moment. We had a welcome luncheon for them and it was so rewarding to see their faces. They were all amazing, driven, creative individuals. Listening to their stories about why they chose the Close School, their ideas, and what their visions are for the future was truly inspiring and validating.