Wakeling Gendron Scholars make a life-changing trip to Texas

Entrepreneurship students experience South by Southwest Conference

| Author: Breanna Prince | Media Contact: Kaye Reimers

While some students use their college spring break to refresh or work, a group of Central Michigan University entrepreneur scholars attended the South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas with alumni Stephen Wakeling and Erin Gendron. The special group of entrepreneurial students attended sessions, made valuable connections for future jobs and internships and met well-known entrepreneurs and venture capitalists like Mark Cuban and Guy Kawasaki.  

“We have spent all year going on trips, attending workshops, receiving mentorship from Stephen and Erin, and getting closer as a cohort, so this trip was an opportunity to bond and put the skills we learned to the test,” sophomore Jackson Raymond majoring in finance and entrepreneurship said. “Seeing all the successful people at this conference was cool, it was aspiring to be able to hear from highly successful people about the processes and journeys that led to where are they today." 

Mela Hammond, a sophomore majoring in entrepreneurship, said one of her favorite moments was meeting one of her hero's, Guy Kawasaki.  

She said in Professor Julie Messing’s class, she read one his books, “Reality Check”.  

“After reading his book and talking about him all year, getting a chance to shake his hand and talk to him about his new podcast was really cool.” Hammond said.  

For Raymond he enjoyed meeting Mark Cuban. 

"Mark Cuban taught me a valuable lesson. People get caught up in wanting more of something, that they might miss out on what's already in front of them,” he said.  

The SXSW trip was the opportunity of a lifetime. Scholars had exclusive access to entrepreneurs, industry leaders, speakers and more. Stephen Wakeling, who joined the scholars on the trip said, “it was inspiring to be a part of. I'm thankful that I could be there to witness their worlds broadening.” The Stephen Wakeling and Erin Gendron Entrepreneurship Scholars Program is for undergraduate students who either major or minor in Entrepreneurship or have competed in the New Venture Challenge. Both Raymond and Hammond believe joining the inaugural Wakeling Gendron scholars' program benefited them as a person.  

“I used to struggle with talking to the older generation,” Raymond said. “One of the main things I wanted to do was enhance my skills when talking to other people and networking.”  

Hammond said she is a lot more open to things.  

“When I first joined, I considered myself a social person, but I didn’t know how to network” Hammond said. “After my year as a WG scholar, and talking to Kelly Grace, one of Stephen’s coworkers, I learned how to network and how to make myself presentable in situations where it's kind of uncomfortable at first in an interaction, and how to exchange credentials and make those connections.”  

When it comes to joining WG scholars, you don’t need to have a lot of experience. 

“If you’re a student with entrepreneurial dreams, just send your application in because you could be selected to the greatest opportunity at CMU. Especially if you’re a younger person because the earlier you start in one of the programs like this, the longer you can stay embedded in that network throughout your career,” Hammond said.  

To apply to the Stephen Wakeling and Erin Gendron Entrepreneurial Scholars program, please contact IBIE Director, Julie Messing. The application window closes April 8. 

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