Business students sample a smorgasbord of ideas
By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau
The stunning growth of the Colangelo College of Business at Grand Canyon University could be calculated Wednesday morning just by counting some tables.
There was the table for the IDEA Club, beginning its fifth year on campus. IDEA stands for Innovation, Development and Entrepreneurship Association, and part of its innovation is all the other tables it has spawned.
Next to it was the table for the Canyon Angels, which has taken the college’s annual entrepreneurial competition, the Canyon Challenge, and made it a year-round business incubator by giving fledgling entrepreneurs a chance to pitch their ideas to real investors.
The rest of the tables also were for fresh CCOB opportunities: The Lopes Lab, newly ensconced in the engineering building at the front of campus. The Small Business Consulting Center, which helps neighborhood startups thrive. And, finally, there was TEDx, an international business community that CCOB plans to tap into by hosting an event March 2.
Students attending the CCOB Kickoff in GCU Arena had plenty of other tables to choose from, too — for the Colangelo School of Sports Business and its club, the hospitality program, internships, Career Services, the Learning Lounge and a long list of clubs supervised by faculty and fueled by student participation.
“All this is coming under the umbrella of entrepreneurism at GCU,” said Dr. Randy Gibb, the CCOB dean. “It is phenomenal. These guys run with the ideas and get the students involved. It’s a total differentiator for our college, all the different things we’re doing to help our students.”
But it’s a two-way street. Gibb was inundated by students who wanted to talk with him after his 30-minute presentation, which centered on the college’s commitment to “Lopes First,” a student-centric culture with an emphasis on a higher purpose and academic success. It’s grounded in “Conscious Capitalism,” which preaches the value of doing business for a higher purpose.
“It resonates with millennials because it’s about awareness of the world and what we can do to improve the world that we live in,” he said. “We have so many ideas that are bubbling up from students, it’s almost overwhelming.”
One of those students witnessing the scene for the first time was Denice Ledezma, a Colangelo Scholarship winner from Westwood High School in Mesa who’s just starting her freshman year.
“I love it,” she said. “There’s so much out there for me. There are a lot of opportunities and a lot of volunteer services. The tutoring services that are out there to help each student are wonderful.”
The flip side of Ledezma’s perspective was that of Lemmy Gitahi, the former IDEA Club president who got his bachelor’s degree last spring and is working in commercial real estate while waits to begin working on his master’s at the Thunderbird School of Global Management in Glendale. He came back just to assist at the IDEA Club table and certainly noticed the continued growth of the college’s offerings.
“There are so many opportunities, and even more exciting is that the faculty is so engaged,” he said. “This makes the students be much more engaged and makes them acquire much more skills and makes them better candidates when they graduate.”
The IDEA Club is in the middle of an important new change: The five finalists in the Canyon Challenge no longer will come from entries submitted all at once in January. Instead, they will be chosen by judges out of the best presentations from “GCU Shark Tank,” which meets every third Tuesday in the CCOB lecture hall starting Sept. 13.
Tim Kelley, the assistant professor for entrepreneurship and economics who manages the Canyon Challenge, predicted that the change will result in more entries and better finalists, which is saying something considering that Gibb, Kelley and others in charge considered this year’s competition the best yet.
“It will be the top five companies that have been incubated over the course of the year to pitch on the back end,” Kelley said. “It’s a big shift, and it’s going to be a much better platform. They’ll be on top of their game.”
In addition to the first Shark Tank, CCOB has several other big events coming up on its schedule in the next two months:
- Trade shows are on the Promenade on the first Tuesday of every month.
- The Sports Business Club is sponsoring a trip to the Arizona Diamondbacks game on Monday night.
- Entrepreneurship training by the Small Business Consulting Center begins Sept. 20.
- Representatives from nearly a dozen top companies will be on campus for a “Meet the Firms” event on Sept. 28.
- Laura Roberts, CEO of Pantheon Enterprises, will be featured in a CCOB Dean’s Speaker Series event on Oct. 5.
- The first Canyon Angels meeting of the academic year is Oct. 6 at the Canyon 49 Grill.
- The Thrive Conference, for family-operated businesses, is scheduled for Oct. 26.
- Money Week, which teaches students the ins and outs of financial planning, is Nov. 7-9.
Those are the highlights, but there was much more. The Arena floor was jammed with students for nearly an hour after Gibb was done speaking as they chose from the smorgasbord of options.
“It was just a great turnout,” Gibb said. “It’s just a matter of giving the students what they want.”
And putting it all on the tables.
Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected].