Inaugural entrepreneurship summer experience aims to activate a growth mindset

Nine first-year students participated in the five-day Developing a Growth Mindset Through Innovation and Entrepreneurship summer experience, which exposed them to the possibilities of innovation and entrepreneurship while acclimating them to the Elon campus.

When Division of Student Life staff approached Alyssa Martina, director of the Doherty Center and lecturer, to create a summer entrepreneurial program for incoming first-year students, the growth mindset immediately came to mind.

“A growth mindset is really where you look at what’s possible,” said Martina. “We at the entrepreneurship department embrace the growth mindset.”

This mindset was the inspiration behind the Developing a Growth Mindset Through Innovation and Entrepreneurship program. With the help of current Elon students, the five-day experience exposed first-year students to the possibilities of innovation and entrepreneurship while simultaneously acclimating them to the Elon campus.

“This is a way to get used to the Elon campus while meeting like-minded people,” said David Stacy ‘26 about why he chose this program.

The program was structured to embrace the high-spirited energy of ideation. Martina describes it as “a really fast innovation sprint” where students worked from pain points to pitch, identifying potential clients along the way.

The Growth Mindset program is one of many First-Year Sumer Experiences for incoming students organized by New Student Programs and other departments on campus.

When they were not innovating, the students were getting oriented with the campus. The students ate in Lakeside Dining Hall, met Elon’s Business Research Librarian Betty Garrison and visited the Maker Hub.

Each day was slightly different, mixing field trips, recreation and independent work. All of this exploration led to the final, independent project: a pitch for an innovation that addressed a problem the student was passionate about.

For example, Stacy, inspired by his struggle with normalcy as a highly-functioning dyslexic person, innovated a pair of highly stylized yet functional glasses to help people with dyslexia read.

From a magnetic toolbox to a game that teaches financial literacy, all nine students in the program produced a breadth of innovations. The experience culminated in a pitch night, where students presented their idea to their peers and mentors.

“The level of camaraderie in this program was amazing,” said Stacy. While the final pitch presentation was technically a competition, all nine students supported each other throughout the development process.

“You could see how much they learned,” said Student Facilitator and Doherty Scholar Dejour Banks ‘22. “Being around the students and them being eager to learn was really inspirational for me.”

Throughout the program, the students had strong mentor support. Banks lived with them in Global Neighborhood to provide around-the-clock assistance while other students offered additional support.

Martina recruited Launch Greensboro, an organization dedicated to supporting local entrepreneurs, to teach the students about identifying clients, thinking critically and more. The Developing a Growth Mindset group also met with Joe Rotondi of Greensboro’s Forge Maker Space, Jonathan Burns of Elon Dining and Robert Stec of White Oak Legacy Foundations.

“It’s so interesting to see their stories and to hear their lightbulb moment,” said Stacy. “It was amazing to sit by real professional innovators. So much wisdom, so much passion.”

As rewarding of an opportunity as the Growth Mindset program was for the students, Martina said it was an incredible experience for her to see the growth each student made over the five days.

“I’m really grateful for the students,” Martina said. “They were staying engaged, staying curious, and came up with really clever innovations. … I’m really proud of them.”