Students and faculty utilize grants for innovative business, creative ventures

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Students, faculty and staff at William Jewell College (WJC) are bringing innovation into their respective fields of study. The Hilltop Monitor spoke with some of these innovators to learn about their projects and from where the opportunities to pursue them came.

Gavin Hodges, a senior communications major; Luke Longfield, a senior accounting and economics major; and Nick Cody, a senior business administration major, have combined their Journey Grants, which are available to each Jewell student, to start a t-shirt and graphic design business. They have been working on this project for a little over a year.

 “I’d been doing graphic design stuff, and [Cody] was interested in entrepreneurial stuff, and we came up with the idea of combining grants,” said Hodges.

The three students used knowledge gained from their respective areas of study in order to plan for the business.

“Between communication, design, entrepreneurism and finances, [the project] blended well into an overall approach to it,” Hodges said.

The group recognizes the uniqueness of this use of their Journey Grants, and they hope to continue with their business in the future.

“It was the first time [the College] had ever done something like we had done, since it was technically three of us combining our grants,” said Hodges.

Cole Bergmanis, a senior business major, has worked with Landon Young, director of innovation and creativity, to develop a similar idea: a clothing line, Destined Supply Company.

 “He narrowed the path down that I needed to be on so that I could get to the end result,” Bergmanis said.

Cole used his own funds to start his company and hopes that it will become self-sustaining, as he wants this to be his main career path.

“This is something that I’m really passionate about: bringing a unique style of clothing that I’ve seen, but putting a personal twist on it. I hope other people will like it as well. This is definitely something I see myself doing after I graduate,” Bergmanis said.

The senior also acknowledged the value of his education in business as Jewell.

 “I wouldn’t know what to do if I hadn’t taken any business classes,” Bermanis said.

He has been able to apply his learning from his current business class, Cost Accounting, to his actualized business. “When I started taking it this semester, I realized that this was the same thing that I’m having to do for my own company,” Bergmanis said.

Natasha Martin, visiting assistant professor of theater for the past three years, is working on a different kind of innovative project with the assistance of an Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation grant. She has written and will perform in a show entitled Confessions of a Synesthetic Sailor: An Attractive Journey Through High Seas. The script was influenced by Martin’s personal experiences as a synesthetic artist and her fascination with the neurological phenomenon. Her show was first performed in New York June 2013.

 “I realized in my young adulthood, into my creative years in developing my work, that I was experiencing and perceiving the world differently than others,” she said. Martin explained what synesthesia is and why it affected her creative process. “It’s an actual neurological condition where your brain is wired differently a little bit, and you have this cross-modal experience with your senses,” Martin said.

 Martin discovered the opportunity to apply for ab Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation grant through a colleague, and was interested in the possibility of involving students in her work.

 “I found out more details about the grant and how it could possibly apply to my show in terms of allowing students to have an experience working with a professional in the industry to develop an innovative and novel piece of work,” Martin said.

 Her proposal focused on the ability of students to learn from and be involved in the process of producing her show and its interdisciplinary aspect. Past student, Curshion Jones, ’14, and Aidan Swanson, ’14,  worked on the first version of the show. Jones, Annette Dauster, senior; Erin Christiansen, senior; Morgan Allen, sophomore; and Erin Melton, first-year; are working on this version.

 The project focuses on a combination of a range of different subjects.

 “I talked about its larger application in terms of current research involving neurology, biology and cognitive science,” Martin said. Martin further explained her show’s interdisciplinary aspect. “It also has components of other disciplines in the sense of music, the arts, and I think that the technical design and the approach to more immersive theater-making is what the Kauffman Center was interested in,” Martin said.

 She is excited to be able to share her work and her discoveries with the Jewell community.

 “I’m so thrilled at the outcome of this grant, and I do want to bring it back to share the scholarly research and creative process with the students and the faculty here so they can feel like they have a more in-depth understanding of what it is we’re working on,” Martin said.

 Bradley Dice, junior physics, chemistry, mathematics and ACT-In major, is helping to bring further innovations to Jewell as a University Innovation Fellow. He gave some insight into a few ways that innovation is being brought to the campus.

 “The purpose of the University Innovation Fellowship is to foster a campus culture of innovation and entrepreneurship,” Dice said.

 Dice explained that Jewell was chosen as one of 88 institutions to have fellows due to the recent development of the Creativity and Innovation program, in addition to technological advancements on campus such as the Pryor Learning Commons.

 “Jewell is a very unique school among the 88 institutions with the University Innovation Fellows. We’re one of the few liberal arts colleges, particularly because of our emphases on service and experiential learning,” Dice said. Jewell’s unique environment was one of the factors encouraging Dice to pursue the partnership. “I thought this would be a good opportunity at William Jewell to have innovation from the bottom up, starting with students, as well as from the top down,” he said.

The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation allows for awards of up to $10,000 to be granted for student start-ups and creative projects. William Jewell is one of two schools that have availability to the grant, but is the only liberal arts college with this access.

 “What [opportunities such as the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation grant] are doing for us is reducing the barriers students have to pursue their ideas. No longer do we have to worry about finding funding for it,” Dice said.

 Jewell’s Director of Creativity is Landon Young. He is involved with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation grants and helps students embark on creative, entrepreneurial ventures.

Erin Melton

Erin Melton is a senior Literature and Theory major and French and Religious Studies minor. She is the chief copy editor and loves camels.

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