Education students hone entrepreneurial skills with help from UMSL Accelerate – UMSL Daily

Last semester’s “Social Entrepreneurship” course was led by Theresa Coble (first row, second from left) and saw increased collaboration with UMSL Accelerate. The course is designed to teach the skills necessary to solve societal problems and identify sustainable models of social innovation. During one semester, students work in groups to develop innovative social enterprises. (Photo courtesy of Dan Lauer)

In December, Adam Morgan and his colleagues eagerly took the stage at the new UMSL Accelerate space at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and presented his idea for “My Voice, My Choice”, an awareness campaign aimed at bridging the communication gap between non-speaking patients and healthcare professionals.

“Our project was how to humanize healthcare for people who communicate differently,” said Morgan, a non-speaking autistic person who communicates with an augmentative and alternative communication device. “I would like patients who use alternative communication devices and methods to be respected, accepted and understood when making healthcare decisions that affect them. “

Morgan and her classmates pitched the idea as the culmination of a semester of work in their “Social Entrepreneurship” class led by Theresa Coble, Professor E. Desmond Lee of Experiential and Family Education.

Coble said the class, which is part of the Social Entrepreneurship stream of the College of Education’s BES program, typically attracts around 20 students per semester and is designed to teach the skills needed to solve societal problems and identify patterns. sustainable social innovation.

But there was a new twist this past semester.

Thanks to an increased collaboration with UMSL Accelerate, the partnership has reached several new stages. Social entrepreneurship students were the first to visit the new UMSL Accelerate space, formerly Gallery 210, and provide feedback on its amenities. They also became the first students to use the space, especially for classroom sessions, focus groups, and community engagement.

In recent years, the class has been structured around student pitches, but in the fall of 2021 there was a new development. Students participated in community-based apprenticeships with a diverse set of local organizations.

Dan Lauer, founding executive director of UMSL Accelerate and UMSL Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Accelerator, said the joint effort between the College of Education and UMSL Accelerate demonstrates the university’s willingness to continue collaboration and l interdisciplinary innovation.

For him, it was a perfect way to kick things off in the new space.

“What was powerful was that our first class was a College of Education social entrepreneurship class,” Lauer said. “I think it’s important to signal our commitment that innovation and entrepreneurship come from everywhere.

Dean of the College of Business Administration Joan Phillips endorsed the effort.

“The College of Business Administration is proud of UMSL Accelerate and its commitment to interdisciplinary entrepreneurship education,” said Phillips. Dr. Coble’s ‘Social Entrepreneurship’ course is an exciting example. This class brings together students of all majors to develop business plans to address social, cultural, and environmental issues. Students learn that solutions to Complex problems require a wide range of knowledge and expertise. But by collaborating across disciplines, it is possible to develop more robust solutions and to strengthen the impact that the entrepreneurial enterprise will have on society. “

College of Education Dean Ann Taylor also praised the interdisciplinary effort.

“The College of Education is deeply committed to collaborative work, whether it’s partnerships with communities or with colleagues across campus,” Taylor said. “We know that people have interests, curiosities and commitments that transcend disciplinary boundaries. We are delighted to see our social entrepreneurship component flourish in the BES as it intersects with UMSL Accelerate programming.

Coble said she jumped at the chance to work with Lauer in the new UMSL Accelerate space. This was a logical next step that built on the work of their interdisciplinary entrepreneurship committee. It was a natural fit given her work with the BES program and her expertise in interpretation, which helps people make sense of heritage sites outside of the classroom.

It seemed like the right circumstances to bring these extra dimensions to BES students. Coble added that BES students, many of whom are non-traditional, bring their own unique experiences to the table.

“They are starting to take off,” Coble said. “They are finding out how to navigate and make things better for their families. They are highly motivated, and I would say these skills – I became convinced of this – could be something that helps them build their self-confidence and also opens up strategies for them to further their careers. It just seemed like a perfect fit.

Morgan was one of those students.

As a non-talking person with autism, Morgan has continuously worked to break down barriers in her life. He created a YouTube channel called “Tech Talk with Adam Morgan”, contributed to the book “Leaders Around Me: Autobiographies of Autistics who Type, Point, and Spell to Communicate” and has done consultancy work through the Adam Morgan Foundation, a non-profit organization. by his mother to support inclusive opportunities for neurodiverse individuals in all aspects of their lives.

The class interested Morgan because entrepreneurs developed the innovative technology that allowed him to find his voice and go to college. He also realized he had a penchant for marketing in high school.

“I took up marketing in high school and loved it,” Morgan said. “We were able to invent new products, and it was so much fun and I tapped into my creativity. In my world, people with disabilities have to fit into a world that is not accommodating. I would like to create educational products and tools to give everyone the same opportunities with appropriate accessibility.

Although not all students entered the classroom with Morgan’s entrepreneurial streak.

Coble said many students need to familiarize themselves with the idea of ​​testing and selling their ideas. During the semester, they learned to analyze community needs, conduct audience and customer discovery research, consult with experts, identify community partners, and use design tools.

Lauer and Coble explained that these lessons will be useful whether students decide to start their own social enterprise or work within an existing organization such as a nonprofit or school district.

“We’re excited about the program and we’re excited about the students,” Coble said. “We did well this fall. It’s a different flavor of entrepreneurship than what would happen in a business class. My hope for these students is that they take my course and learn some initial skills. Then they say, “I would like other business tools to add to my skills. “

The students’ projects covered a variety of issues and causes that affected them personally. One group aimed to make healthy food attractive in schools through smoothies made with fresh produce, while another sought ways to tackle food deserts in underserved communities.

Morgan and her group’s My Voice, My Choice campaign was inspired by her experiences in the healthcare system.

“I have suffered trauma during medical visits, and many doctors ignore me and ask my mother,” he said. “It’s very dehumanizing when you’re ignored and everyone in the room is talking about you like you’re not there. I do not have a cognitive handicap. I have a motor disability and I communicate differently, not less.

Their project was modeled on other successful awareness campaigns such as Got Milk? and the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Ultimately, the goal is to create healthcare environments where patients with communication differences can freely share their concerns and healthcare professionals interact with patients via the desired communication path.

Lauer was impressed with the way the group worked throughout the entrepreneurial process and refined their initial concept. Morgan said a virtual town hall with more than 20 attendees, including doctors and non-speaking patients, helped them bolster the campaign.

The group decided to raise awareness and spark involvement through advertising, social media and merchandise. Partnerships with StationMD and the Adam Morgan Foundation to create resources such as training videos and useful communication seminars for professionals have been another key element.

The group envisioned these efforts until April 2, National Autism Awareness Day, when people would be asked to drop their voices for a day and use alternative communication methods in solidarity with the non-speaking community. It would carry the slogan “A day is nothing compared to a lifetime” and ideally participants would post on social media using #MyVoiceMyChoice.

Morgan was happy with the end result and overall enjoyed the class.

“I loved the hands-on experience and the project work,” he said.

In the future, Lauer hopes to “put more wood on the fire” and increase the number of classes working with UMSL Accelerate. He and Coble also hope to build on last semester’s success by adding more social entrepreneurship courses.

“In social entrepreneurship, there is a lot more to learn and grow if you really want to be in this vein,” Lauer said. “Social entrepreneurship leads nowhere. It’s a growing space, and we could lead in that space.

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