Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship Opens at CMC

Claremont McKenna College (CMC) is unveiling its Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) today, part of an effort to encourage entrepreneurship throughout the Claremont Colleges. 

“Our objective is for the Center to become the hub of entrepreneurial activity at the Claremont Colleges,” wrote Janet Smith, the center’s faculty director, in an e-mail to TSL. 

The launch event will feature a presentation by Wayne Slavitt CM ’80, a panel discussion and an open house at the Center.

The CIE was established through a collaborative effort by students, CMC’s Office of the Dean of the Faculty, the Kravis Leadership Institute (KLI) and the Robert Day School of Economics (RDS).

Julian Mackie CM ’15, one of the Center’s two executive student directors, explained that the Center will be a place where students can “bounce ideas off each other” to develop their plans for business ventures.

“It’s kind of our vision to really spark people’s interest this year in entrepreneurship and the idea of creating your future,” he said. 

The CIE is working with the KLI and the RDS to organize guest lectures, roundtable discussions and workshops, as well as develop a network of successful entrepreneurs who can mentor students.

“It’s a true partnership-collaborative model that’s multi-disciplinary,” said Sarah Smith Orr, Executive Director of the KLI and a member of the Center’s steering committee. 

Orr said that CIE and the KLI have arranged a lecture by Chris Hughes, co-founder of Facebook, at CMC’s Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum Oct. 24. They also have planned a two-part workshop entitled "Idea Formation and Evaluation," Smith said.   

The Center, located at 530 Mills Avenue, includes a conference room, a “creative space” for discussing ideas and a workroom with a drawing table, Mackie said. Many of the walls are covered with whiteboards for illustrating ideas. 

Mackie, fellow Executive Student Director Tyler Sonnemaker CM ’15 and other students filled the Center with furniture from IKEA that they put together themselves.

“I love the idea that this is student-built,” Mackie said. “That’s kind of the essence.”

Mackie said that he sees a lot of entrepreneurial energy at CMC as well as the rest of the colleges. 

“This is kind of this big bang moment that’s about to explode,” he said. 

He pointed to the Pomona Ventures Club as well as entrepreneurship clubs at Harvey Mudd College (HMC) and Scripps College. 

“Because of our specialties, working together is going to be a huge benefit,” he said. 

This year, Forbes ranked HMC and CMC fifteenth and seventeenth, respectively, on its list of the Most Entrepreneurial Colleges in America, based on the number of alumni who have founded companies that employ ten or more staff members.

“Most kids and at some point even most faculty who come to CMC are kind of genetically predisposed, and hardwired, for entrepreneurship,” said Gregory Hess, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculty at CMC. “It’s integral to what we’re trying to do here at the college.”

He added, “Young people see this as driving a lot of their future employment prospects, that the world has changed a little bit. I think they recognize that they’re going to have to create more of their opportunities that kids who graduated ten or 20 years ago didn’t have to.”

Orr said that the opportunities provided by the Center are "extraordinary." 

"Whether or not they’re going to become entrepreneurs, it breaks them out of the narrow, limited box of thinking about what they can do,” she said.