UAPB Students Experience Entrepreneurial Mindset Summit in Atlanta

Courtesy of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff

The HBCU/MI Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program Summit in Atlanta is a significant initiative aimed at fostering Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in entrepreneurship and advanced technology.  The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB) was one of over 23 HBCUs at the 2024 summit, which aims to assist Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority Institutions (HBCUs/MIs) in developing comprehensive entrepreneurship curricula relevant to preparing African American and minority students to develop an entrepreneurial mindset and become leaders and entrepreneurs.

The 2024 summit took place at the Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel in Atlanta institutions. It was a three-day program filled with events that included seminars for University Chancellors/Presidents and Deans and an entrepreneurship business plan pitching competition for student teams, with monetary awards for the winning teams.

The UAPB team was led by Chancellor Dr. Laurence B. Alexander, who provided strategic guidance and leadership. Dr. Lawrence Awopetu, Interim Dean of the School of Business and Management, and Dr. Vinay Raj, Faculty Advisor, played a crucial role as advisors for the UAPB student team, providing mentorship, direction, and support. The five-member UAPB student team, including Carlas Smith and Breanna Scott from the School of Business and Management and three students, Edward Gitonga, Franklyn Stanislaus, and Melissa Walker, from the School of Arts & Sciences’ Department of Computer Science, were the driving force behind our participation.

The UAPB team‚Äôs business plan, named ‚ÄúEduCare 360,‚ÄĚ is a healthcare educational software platform designed to manage disease complications such as diabetes among diverse groups of people. Our team pitched for an investment of $900,000. Although our team did not win the coveted competition prize, the team received excellent feedback from the judges on how our business plan could be positioned and marketed to make a viable product for investment. By participating in this event, our students not only made vital career connections but also gained valuable insights and experiences that will shape their future in entrepreneurship and technology. Most importantly, they contributed by developing a business model for managing disease complications in underrepresented communities, a cause they are deeply passionate about.

Various organizations’ sponsorship contributed to the HBCU/MI Entrepreneurship and Innovation program. Coherent Corp., a leader in materials, networking, and lasers, announced a $500,000 sponsorship for the educational initiatives targeted to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in entrepreneurship, innovation, and advanced technology: the HBCU/MI Entrepreneurship & Innovation initiative by Leadership Needed Foundation and the Optica Foundation Amplify Scholarship for Black scientists.

The keynote speaker at the summit, Dr. Vincent D. (Chuck) Mattera, Jr., CEO of Coherent, was recognized for his outstanding support of the HBCU/MI initiative. His commitment to funding, equipment, and offering expertise to the initiative was highlighted in his speech. Coherent’s aims to expand America’s role in laser design, manufacturing, and applications by developing training programs and advanced degree certifications in laser technology were also emphasized. This event underscored the importance of supporting HBCUs/MIs and promoting DEI in the field of technology and entrepreneurship.