The Big Idea Center Celebrates Inaugural ChangeMaker Series Cohort; Students Share Key Takeaways from the Masterclass Program

Story by Rankin Tran (SCI '24) Rankin is a 2023-2024 Big Idea Center Intern who covered this new program and provides his perspective and key take-aways from the participating students. The Big Idea Center recently concluded its inaugural ChangeMaker Series cohort! Launched in Spring 2024, the ChangeMaker Series is a new body-of-knowledge masterclass program designed for Pitt students interested in exploring innovation and entrepreneurial concepts and what changemaking in action and its impact looks like across various disciplines, professions, and areas of interest. This semester, 26 students participated in the first-ever cohort with 17 completing the series and receiving a Certificate of Completion. This level of participation demonstrates strong demand for innovation and entrepreneurship knowledge-building among students at all levels and across disciplines, and a desire to explore how the skillsets and mindsets of innovators and entrepreneurs can be applied to and impact their own lives and careers. Reflecting on the Series, Rhonda Schuldt, Director of the Big Idea Center noted, “We know that engaging in and exploring innovation and entrepreneurship (I&E) – in any way – as a student has a significant positive impact.” Rhonda goes on to state, “A lot of the student-facing programs focused on I&E are geared toward starting companies. As such, we found that many students don’t feel like these programs (or a place like the Big Idea Center) were for them. However, innovators and entrepreneurs are our world’s changemakers, and we believe that everyone has this potential whether they start a startup or take innovative and entrepreneurial action in other ways to make a positive impact and deliver value in the world. We created this new ChangeMaker program to invite all students into the Big Idea Center and to know that it’s a place where they absolutely belong and are welcome to step in and explore what innovation and entrepreneurship can uniquely mean for them.” She concludes, “we are absolutely thrilled to see the number and diversity of students – from undergrad to PhD, across a number of disciplines and schools – who stepped in and started their changemaking journey in this first cohort and look forward to seeing more students stepping into their own journey in the coming semesters.” Here is a glimpse into each session and a summary of the students’ key takeaways!

5 Key Principles of Financial Literacy for Mindful Entrepreneurs

April is National Financial Literacy Month in the United States. It marks a month where local community organizations, financial institutions, governmental organizations, and others focus on increasing the financial literacy of their constituents. In this blog article, Joel Philistin, Director of Pitt's Financial Wellness Program, shares five key principles that entrepreneurs can apply to build their financial literacy skills and knowledge.

Big Ideas for a Better Society: How Pitt Students & Alumni Apply the UN's 17 Sustainable Development Goals to Their Startup

The University of Pittsburgh is currently ranked as one of the premier research institutions in the country. As a result, this research often sparks countless innovative ideas, many of which are progressing towards a more sustainable future. This blog article looks at how those ideas have contributed/are contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations.

Getting Started with Entrepreneurship as a ChangeMaker - ChangeMaker Session #1 Reflections

The Big Idea Center's ChangeMaker Series kicked off on February 22. This new program is a 5-session body-of-knowledge masterclass program designed for students at any level and in any discipline who are interested in exploring what innovation and entrepreneurship (I&E) can mean for them. Key concepts, disciplines, frameworks and tools of I&E are brought to life through guest speakers who have all been on their own changemaking journeys. In the first session of our ChangeMaker Series, students learned about the foundational theories of Lean Startup as they were joined by inspirational guest panelists. These guest panelists – who all started their changemaking journey here at Pitt – shared stories of what it means to be a changemaker as well as their own unique innovation and entrepreneurial paths.

The Flora & Fauna of Innovation: Creating a Gamified Learning Experience that Connects Individuals to Their Local Ecosystem - 1st Place SheInnovates 2024 Hackathon Team

For the 2024 SheInnovates hackathon, our group, the Goober Games, comprised of Raquel Buege, Dorothy Crow, and Anna Plazek, decided to make an educational 2-D foraging simulator game called Backyard Foragers. In the game, players are able to pick one of three paths (herbalist, chef, brewer) to specialize their education for their own personal interests. We hope to teach people proper foraging techniques, new recipes, and about related flora! Meant to help connect individuals to their local ecosystem, the game environment dynamically changes to match the unique biome of each player for a tailored gaming and learning experience.

3 Basic Design Thinking Approaches to Better Understand Your Customers

Design thinking is a problem-solving roadmap that begins with empathy and thrives on reiteration to create innovative solutions. It is a flexible process of understanding needs, ideating, prototyping, and testing. Design thinking places users at the center of the design process and pushes you to challenge your assumptions by requiring research and testing to validate them. With user needs at the center of focus, practicing design thinking allows you to get closer to your customers and meet them where they are. Below are examples of design thinking methods to get you closer to your customer and help you align big ideas with customer needs.

Top 10 Big Idea Blog Posts of 2023

As 2023 comes to a close, a year filled with excitement, fresh starts, and unforgettable moments at the Big Idea Center, let's take a moment to reflect on the captivating stories that were shared on our blog. Delve into these insightful articles, gain inspiration from their unique perspectives, and expand your own perspective on how you can make a positive change in the world. Get ready for an engaging read that will leave you motivated and equipped for success! These are the top 10 most popular blog posts of 2023, written by talented individuals including Pitt alumni, current students, Big Idea Center staff, and more! Happy reading!

Helping a Community of Entrepreneurs Elevate Underrepresented Communities - Hellen Hernandez (A&S '26)

Entrepreneurship empowers underrepresented communities! When communities come together to support each other, it creates a rippling effect that unifies the strengths of diverse backgrounds. Hellen Hernandez, a Pitt sophomore and intern at Ascender, shares how she found an intersection between her political science major and her work at Ascender to engage and elevate the Latinx community.