A disturbance to the status quo is a time to find new solutions, change how things work, and figure how to make them work better. Nobody knows that better than the team at George Mason’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE). An interdisciplinary hub within the School of Business, CIE supports Patriots from all of Mason’s programs and schools with a variety of courses and experiential learning opportunities outside of the classroom. Executive Director of CIE, Dr. David J. Miller, and his team have made numerous alterations that were necessary with campus being shut down by the pandemic. The CIE team is focusing on two major programming efforts: The Business of Well-Being Collaborative and their Student Venture Program.
The Business of Well-Being Collaborative
CIE’s The Business of Well-Being Collaborative is critical now more than ever. Themes that exemplify well-being, according to Mason’s Center for the Advancement of Well-Being – resiliency, vitality, purpose, and engagement – have become more crucial during the pandemic. With the emphasis now placed on connecting with the Mason community and the larger Northern Virginia business community, this year-round program feels far more productive to everyone involved. “Instead of a one-day competition, the Collaborative will allow CIE, mentors, and industry experts to work with participants over time, helping them evolve and grow,” says Miller.
The Student Venture Program
Internships at CIE have long been highly coveted positions for students looking to hone their skills, build enviable professional networks, and of course, add eye-catching entries to their resumes. The interns collaborate with Mason alumni and regional entrepreneurs in developing and selling food and beverage products. Current students in the Student Venture Program are facing the unique situation of figuring out how to promote their business partners as brick and mortar locations have been shut down. CIE Program Manager Rebecca Howick has been surprised and excited by the resiliency of the interns. “This has been an opportunity for them not only to learn new skills in a digital work environment, but also shows them that they can persist through difficult circumstances,” she says.
Working in cross-functional teams, the interns’ social impact focus remains on providing food insecurity resources to the community. Their on-campus partner for social impact, The Patriot Pantry, a valuable student resource within the Student Support and Advocacy Center, has been mandated to alter their operations. Under normal circumstances, the Student Venture Program internship team drives 20% of their revenue toward combating food insecurity through their sales and entrepreneurship. They are still very much committed to capturing revenue for their value-based partners.
Many will be intently watching the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, not only for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic, but also in its aftermath. “The global pandemic has highlighted the need for creativity and innovative thinking and CIE will continue to provide opportunities for students, alumni, and community members to experiment and grow their skills and help them discover what future they want to build,” says Miller. “CIE is excited about this responsibility.” Though its physical doors are closed, the Center remains open to its students for their needs, and as a testing lab for solutions in the business world. Follow along with CIE’s activities and updates as it continues to be an extra-curricular learning hub for students interested in learning about the food and beverage industry and a driver in the importance of well-being ventures.