Colgate’s Thought Into Action Advisory Board, which oversees the University’s entrepreneurship and innovation program that connects students with alumni mentors in the development of businesses and nonprofit ventures, has concluded a two-year long review of the program, issuing several major recommendations to expand and strengthen the popular experience.
Founded in 2009 by Andy Greenfield ’74 as a way for students with ideas to bring them to market, Thought Into Action has become a dynamic co-curricular program for students from across campus. Students in Thought Into Action have gone on to shepherd their nascent ideas into bustling companies that have been featured in the national media, including Forbes magazine and ABC’s Shark Tank, as well as impactful nonprofit organizations.
Now in its 14th year, Thought Into Action is looking to the future after completing a review of the program at the request of President Brian W. Casey. The Thought Into Action Advisory Board, which includes alumni mentors, staff, and members of the Board of Trustees, took a deep dive into the operations of TIA with an eye toward improving an already successful program.
“TIA’s goals must be ambitious, with execution to match,” the report reads, “with a vision of being the premier liberal arts college-based entrepreneurship program in the world.”
“We are immensely grateful to Andy Greenfield ’74 and the advisory board for their invaluable contributions in shaping Thought Into Action, fostering its greatness, and propelling it to evolve in alignment with the University’s visionary Third-Century Plan,” said Vice President for Advancement Karl Clauss ’90.
The report outlines a number of concrete steps that Thought Into Action should take to advance its mission of supporting entrepreneurship on campus. And some of those recommendations are already in place, like the recent hire of Travis Millman as the first entrepreneur in residence.
Additional recommendations include aligning Thought Into Action’s structure with that of other institutes and centers on campus, with bylaws and ongoing advisory board oversight. The group also solidified support of Thought Into Action as a key element in the University’s Middle Campus Initiative for Arts, Creativity, and Innovation, bringing it into closer alignment with the academic mission of the University.
“The Middle Campus Initiative provides a natural home that aligns Thought Into Action with other areas of campus where students, faculty, and staff are engaged in creative, innovative pursuits,” said Carolyn Strobel-Larsen, director of entrepreneurship and innovation. “The positioning of this program — and the Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation more broadly — within both the Middle Campus and the Office of the Provost and Dean of the Faculty aligns entrepreneurship and innovation directly with the academic mission of the University.”
The advisory board has also recommended that Thought Into Action broaden its outreach on campus to encourage greater participation from students who haven’t considered entrepreneurship before, students with specialized skills who are interested in being involved with a startup endeavor as a team member rather than a founder, and social impact–focused students interested in building nonprofits and social enterprises. The advisory board recommended that goals should be set for greater inclusivity, including fostering involvement from greater numbers of students and alumni with diverse backgrounds, consistent with the Third-Century Plan’s DEI initiatives.
TIA will develop programs designed to meet the needs of a wider range of students, including sessions focusing solely on a single stage of the innovation process or themed sessions that focus on specific areas of endeavor.
“In particular, we imagine that student athletes, faculty members, and community members who have full-time employment could benefit from an abbreviated, immersive entrepreneurship program that might take place over a single weekend or through an intensive weeklong experience, or from being able to participate selectively in action-focused, immersive workshops developed by the entrepreneur-in-residence,” the report reads.
“I am thrilled to have been welcomed so warmly into the Colgate community,” expressed Travis Millman, entrepreneur-in-residence. “It seems appropriate for Thought Into Action to have as audacious a goal as the ventures that participate in the program. The opportunity to build on Thought Into Action’s past successes by innovating new solutions, refining ways of working, and increasing the scope and diversity of all stakeholders involved in our programs is tremendously exciting. We’re working hard on taking Thought Into Action to new heights.”