University of California Merced Student Priorities
From University Innovation
The University of California, Merced has an unprecedented opportunity to be at the forefront of innovation in California's Central Valley. As most of the campus has yet to be built, UC Merced has the physical space necessary to facilitate a variety of programs in the interest of progressing entrepreneurial spirit on campus, whether that be new research centers, maker spaces, or incubators. Whatever the future holds, the newest University of California campus already hosts forward-thinking programs to encourage its own environmental sustainability and the surrounding region's economic development. UC Merced's faculty and administration actively participate in various strategies in pursuit of these goals, including the Pathways to Innovation program, and the university's dedication to environmental sustainability in ensuring its buildings are LEED-certified. UC Merced’s Leadership Circle has determined the following strategies to be top priorities for the growth of UC Merced's innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem in the future.
ESL Curriculum/Innovate to Grow
The Foster Family Center for Engineering Service Learning program (ESL) currently hosts skills sessions that mostly support engineering students, e.g. CAD, Content Managment Systems, etc. What can be attained in the near future is the integration of entrepreneurial skills sessions that would allow the (mostly) engineering participants within ESL to gain skills that they wouldn't otherwise attain in their other coursework, for example:
- Project Management
- Rapid Prototyping and Brainstorming techniques
- Pitch Development
- Intellectual Property
- Business Plan
- Organizational Strategy
This additional coursework can be constructed through coordination with professors from UC Merced's Management Program. The professors with the most background in the entrepreneurship field are Dr. S.A. Davis and Dr. Theofanis Tsoulouhas. With their support, entrepreneurial skills sessions can be successfully created and implemented within two semesters, pending administrative approval. The Director of ESL, Christopher Butler, has already expressed his support for incorporating new sessions, after a concrete plan has been developed. Eventually, these skills sessions can be used to supplement the Innovate to Grow design competition, which overall encompasses not only ESL, but also the Innovation Design Clinic (Capstone), and the Mobile App Challenge. Students will have the option to attend these skills sessions which would aid their pitches during the competition, but more importantly, will supplement their overall skills within their tenure at UC Merced.
Betaversity Beta Box
Betaversity has already worked with a UC Merced sister school, UC Davis. It has set precedent for working with the University of California system, and more beneficially, can provide a Beta Box. Beta Boxes are storage containers that have been modified to be self-contained maker labs in themselves. A Beta Box creates several solutions for bringing a maker space to UC Merced:
- Easily implementable
- Addresses limited space concerns
Beta Boxes are customizable to the space that they are in, and can be adjusted to fit the specific needs of UC Merced's campus. Because they have been pre-built and exist in standalone containers, they are also easily implementable and can be introduced immediately. Finally, Beta Boxes address limited space concerns in that no new buildings or existing space needs to be built in order to implement a maker space. Regardless of whether UC Merced chooses to utilize the Beta Box, Betaversity's consultation will be an invaluable resource in developing UC Merced's maker space.
Modify Existing Space
Currently, a space with similar goals of encouraging innovation exists on UC Merced's campus, and that is the Engineering Service Learning lab. However, it is only open to students currently enrolled in ESL. This lab could be modified to incorporate more of the features typical for maker spaces, including simple arts and crafts supplies, as well as welcoming the rest of the campus to use the lab through holding various events, which will be mentioned below. If open to the student body at large, the lab would allow students to have a common meeting place to work on creating, designing, etc.
Other space remains seasonally unused, for example, the art spaces in the Social Sciences and Management building. Although sometimes occupied, this space is mostly unused and sits empty until the current faculty-in-charge decide to display art. This gallery space is easily accessible on the first floor of the building, and would be an ideal location to modify to establish a maker space.
Integrate Maker Space into New Buildings
The last option for the implementation of a maker space is to find a way to incorporate its design into future buildings that the administration is planning to build on campus. This is likely the most long-term option of the three, but it can also be the most feasible as it would allow for the consultation of Betaversity to help design and budget the integration of a maker space. It would also allow for more planning to occur, as well as the opportunity for gaining funding specific to this end. However, funding is limited for the already-planned expansion of the UC Merced campus, and even then, it is not secured for the buildings the administration is planning to build.
UC Merced Leadership Circle
Although the Leadership Circle is, at this point, limited to the current fellowship candidates, some leadership members of engineering/business clubs and organizations, and several faculty members, there is no reason for the eventual Leadership Circle at UC Merced not to be as inclusive as possible in the future. Students with a passion for innovation and entrepreneurship should be identified and encouraged to join the Leadership Circle. Eventually, the Leadership Circle should work to become a registered club or organization, where it can solicit funding for the student government of UC Merced and cooperate across clubs to facilitate large-scale events for the student body at large. It will combine all the efforts of the individual organizations within to accomplish large events. The Leadership Circle should continue to meet at least monthly or bi-weekly, as well as incorporate the student leaders from other clubs and faculty from various departments. It will also eventually incorporate the Pathways to Innovation faculty members.
TEDx at UC Merced
Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) TEDx at UC Merced is a humble and long-distant goal for the univeristy. A TEDx conference will create opportunities for spreading awareness about innovation and entrepreneurship.
A TEDx will bring to light all the innovative and entrepreneurship offerings, and be a soluition to the lack of awareness amongst faculty, andminstrators, and sudents. Showcasing examples of innovative student research; successful entrepreneurial alumni and current students who strive to find soultions for real world probems.
Being in the Central Valley, it would benefit the surrounding comunities and have everlasting academic impacts for the student body, and verify the university's capabilites of producing and holding world-renowned events. TEDx at UC Merced will start it's initial planning stages in two years' time.
There are many variations of pitch competitions that the university may hold. UC Merced will push forward by offering as many oppurtunies to students to advance their pitch and showcase thier idea to the student body. The Leadership Circle is working to increase the outreach and attendance of current pitch competitions. New pitch competitons and advancing current ones, could be implemented by next Fall.
3Day Start Up
3 Day Startup and other programs focus on learning by doing. Students are divided into interdisciplinary teams, and are given real-world experience on how to run a startup. This program allows students to collaborate and run their own companies and test their product. Giving them an entrepreneurial crash course, which could lead to tangible success. Initial planning will begin in the upcoming Fall semester, with intentions of holding the event in the Spring.
The university has yet to hold a Hack-a-thon on campus. The Leadership Circle's goal is to host one in the upcoming year. RCO's like ACM (Assocation for Computing Machinery) have hosted LAN Parties for its members, yet they are seeking opportunites to attend Hack-a-thons at other locations. The end restult of the Hack-a-thon will be to expose students to programming, software development, designing, and project managment in a short period of time.
Entrepreneurship Research Institute
The E&J Gallo Management Development Program is currently proposing the founding of an Entrepreneurship Research Institute. In the future, this would encompass a physical building on campus where faculty researchers can study the development of innovation within the Central Valley and analyze the economic impact of UC Merced on the surrounding community. However, this Institute is still in proposal form and will likely require a strong industry partner in order to secure funding from the UC system. Thus, this will probably be a long-term goal for the Leadership Circle and not something that can be accomplished within 1-2 years.
Essential to ensuring the longevity of UC Merced's innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem is an incubator program. Incubators have been proven in the past to be invaluable to new companies in providing funding, work space, and access to industry professionals. A venture fund derived from alumni and community donations could be created. Several alumni have already expressed an interest in giving back to UC Merced. Shared work space could also be provided, rent-free, to small startups as an alternative to paying rent for office space. An incubator at UC Merced would provide access to professionals with experience in the essential business fields, for example: intellectual property advice, financing concerns, and product development and management. This would be most useful to students who want to start their own businesses but would be hesitant because they don't have experience. In line with UC Merced's goals of encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship, an incubator would provide an outlet for students to make their lofty ideas into a tangible reality.