Texas State students study entrepreneurship and participate in European Innovation Academy without leaving home
This year, Texas State University students didn’t need passports to participate in a study abroad program. Thanks to a partnership with the European Innovation Academy (EIA), students interested in entrepreneurship virtually joined a team of international undergraduate and graduate students to plan and create products.
Working with the office of Education Abroad and the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE), two Texas State students got to experience an intense three-week program where they would learn to turn an idea into a real business that they would pitch to real world investors, all while earning academic credit. Some 300+ students, from 70 nations took part from July 3 to July 23. Five teams made the Grand Pitch, which was live streamed to a global audience as they presented to a panel of venture capitalists.
“From our perspective, we were thrilled to be able to get Texas State students engaged with some of the finest universities in the world. The curriculum was developed by UC-Berkeley in partnership with Google and Facebook and other leading universities from around the world. The program is highly competitive,” said Daniel Roy, co-director of CIE. He acknowledged their partnership with the Institute for Global Business — in the McCoy College of Business Administration and to Dr. Rob Konopaske for providing one scholarship, while CIE providing a second scholarship. “We were able to help defray the costs for these students to attend,” said Roy.
Senior business major Raven Jones and senior Natalie Garza, a political science major with a minor in psychology, represented the university at the virtual academy. Each team of five students would propose, plan, and create a global startup.
“There were a number of people who applied — graduate students as well. It was a very significant commitment even though it was online. This was three weeks in a very rigorous curriculum,” Roy said. He explained that because of the various time zones, students would meet online and work late into the night or very early in the morning. They had at least 50 tasks to accomplish during the course.
Each team of five was multinational with no more than two students from the same university. Jones’ team included two Brazilians, a student from the Netherlands, and one in South Korea who was a student at the University of California at Berkeley. Every student had to come in with a project in mind, or interview to join a team that had an idea they wanted to pursue. As the most fluent English speaker on her team, Jones said she served as spokesperson during Zoom presentations. Their project was an investment platform that would offer sustainable green bonds — focused on millennials interested in long-term investments. They called it ALGRAEN.
While Jones’ team did not make the finals she agreed that the curriculum was “amazing” and renewed her desire to travel abroad, something she had not done since high school. She also learned the importance of Intellectual Property and how to build a good team.
Jones said she plans to brush up on her Spanish and hopes to study Portuguese. As a business major with a concentration in entrepreneurship, Jones said her post college interests lie with the wine industry or real estate. “Being a business owner is a big goal of mine,” she said.
Garza’s team worked on a time management app that would be used by big corporations, freelancers, and college students. The team of five consisted of Garza and four men — two French students and two Portuguese students. Garza estimated she worked about five hours a day including two hours online with her teammates in the middle of the day and an additional three hours on meetings and homework. This was Garza’s second virtual study abroad experience in college, in 2020 she completed online classes with a Japanese university. Her plan to study political science last summer in Dublin was scrapped because of Covid-19. Following graduation, Garza hopes to pursue her master’s degree at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, California.
Texas State will continue working with EIA, Roy said. “I was aware of the European innovation Academy early on, probably even pre COVID. But once I heard that they were moving it online we got pretty excited and moved aggressively to get it the necessary approvals and scholarships approved by the university,” Roy said. “We should be set going forward and hopefully we can grow the program.”
He credits Isis de la O, associate director of Education Abroad, with making the virtual study abroad happen for Texas State students. “Covid-19 pushed us to think outside the box and to use the technology that already existed,” she said. “If you cannot go to the world, the world goes to you.”