Skandalaris Center

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Humanists’ Start Up Event

Sydney Everett (Staff)
May 9, 2019

Following is a guest post from Thi Nguyen, Associate Dean for Graduate and Professional Development in The Graduate School. 

Last fall we hosted the first installment of Humanists’ Start Up pitch competition at the Skandalaris Center. Graduate students from humanities and social science backgrounds conducted research for a small retail business, and communicated their findings. At the event on September 19, 2018, two graduate students in the Brown School, Maria Gandarilla Ocampo and Monica Villarruel, won the pitch and an internship opportunity to support EyeSeeMe, an African American children’s bookstore in University City, MO.

EyeSeeMe founders Pamela and Jeffrey Blair created the bookstore so that African American children can benefit from exposure to literature that respectfully mirrors themselves and their culture. During the 90-minute session, participants researched which US city would be an option for the bookstore’s expansion by identifying parameters to help the Blairs understand their customers’ perceptions of the bookstore and its success.

“Being part of the Humanist Pitch event was such a great experience! I thoroughly enjoyed being able to apply what I am learning at WashU to offer tangible solutions to a local business. I also appreciated listening to the different approaches that each team brought to EyeSeeMe’s challenge. It served as a great reminder of the value of interdisciplinary perspectives to problem-solving. Overall, the event was fantastic and gave us an opportunity to apply our knowledge and skills to real-world problems while collaborating with the STL community. I highly recommend it!”

– Maria Gandarilla Ocampo, one of the Humanists’ Start Up pitch competition winners.

Opportunities to connect what they are learning in the classroom with real world problem solving are extremely important. Graduate students at WashU are landing research careers inside and outside of academia, and events like this help to connect students with employers, explore tangible options, and provide an opportunity to apply their advanced degree skills to real world applications.

GradCareers and the Skandalaris Center look forward to more events in the future. Continuing the real world opportunities for graduate students, three start ups (WePOWER, Dream Builder 4 Equity, and GenMindful) are working with the Graduate School to offer part-time internships to PhD students. Contact Thi Nguyen, if you are interested in one of the opportunities.