Thinc. UGA, the university’s community of aspiring innovators and entrepreneurs, is back this fall with re-energized student and faculty support. Thinc.’s new director, Jared Bybee, talks about what’s next.
Columns: What’s prepared you to lead Thinc.?
Bybee: I am an attorney and have worn a variety of hats in my time here at UGA: teaching at the School of Law, the Terry College of Business and the College of Family and Consumer Sciences. I also have worked at the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development. These experiences put me in a good position to not only appreciate the depth of resources and talents that exist all across campus, but also to be effective at organizing the variety of people who have a stake in innovation and entrepreneurship at UGA.
I have a particular interest in developing the student and faculty interest in social enterprise, those businesses that can turn a profit while addressing pressing social problems. Students and universities across the country are at the cutting-edge of building organizations in this space, and I think UGA can be a part of that. I ran a company distributing solar lights in Ghana and found the experience incredibly challenging and rewarding.
Columns: What’s new with Thinc. UGA?
Bybee: Thinc. focused in previous years on a weeklong celebration of the innovation and entrepreneurship that happens all across campus. Now we are building that energy and enthusiasm into a year-round effort to support student entrepreneurs.
Innovation happens when students and faculty from colleges all across campus get together to solve problems, share ideas and sometimes just eat pizza. We want to build a community here at UGA that makes those opportunities happen more often.
Columns: Who’s involved?
Bybee: Thinc.’s value is in organizing the incredible entrepreneurship efforts that already exist at UGA so that those voices get stronger together. That means bringing together the variety of student organizations and faculty across campus who are interested in innovation and entrepreneurship, and helping our alumni—in any field and any geography—connect with and help mentor students in a meaningful way.
Thinc. is a broad coalition of people across campus—the Office of the Vice President for Research, the Terry College of Business, the School of Law, the College of Environment and Design, the Lamar Dodd School of Art, the College of Engineering, the College of Family and Consumer Sciences, Ideas for Creative Exploration, the Division of Student Affairs and the Center for Teaching and Learning, to name a few—that have been particularly involved so far.
But students are at the center of what we’re doing. So far a core group of students has been instrumental in our rebranding, early organizing and development of program offerings.
Columns: What’s happened so far?
Bybee: We had a great club fair in September with close to 10 clubs and 70 students interested in innovation and entrepreneurship—and those were just the ones that we knew about.
I believe student organizations are a direct line to interesting and engaged students. Several of the clubs will start holding their meetings at the CED Studio 1 on West Broad and Hull (streets), turning the studio into a place for collaboration.
Columns: What’s next?
Bybee: Thinc. is about to launch a new cohort of students in a business idea accelerator program. We also will host a series of marathon weekend design-thinking challenges this semester and in the spring that address real problems here at UGA and in Athens. The success of these events depends on our ability to recruit a real diversity of students with skills, education and backgrounds that represent the entire UGA community. We also hope to bolster the offerings for faculty and alumni interested in being part of this growing community at UGA.
Columns: How can faculty get involved?
Bybee: Thinc. has faculty, staff and administrators from across campus on its advisory board, but we’re always looking for allies and like-minded faculty to help steer the organization and make sure it is responsive to the entire campus. Thinc. needs faculty help to organize Thinc. Week this spring, mentor students and come up with new ways to develop the innovation and entrepreneurship community. If faculty are strapped for time but still want to let us know they are out there, they can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will include them in our list of affiliate faculty.