At the end of September, Tufts concluded its second annual Innovation Month. The program, which was launched by the Derby Entrepreneurship Center at Tufts, aims to educate students about resources in the greater Boston area, help them to develop applicable real-world skills and provide them with networking opportunities.
Elaine Chen, director of the Derby Entrepreneurship Center at Tufts, is excited to be able to celebrate Innovation Month in the coming years.
“Innovation Month is an annual celebration of the innovative spirit at Tufts,” Chen wrote in an email to the Daily. “Our goal is to introduce students to the rich resources across Tufts for students interested in learning to apply their innovation and entrepreneurship spirit and skills to solving real life problems.”
She also points to the importance of holding the event in September.
“September is the time when 1000+ new students come to campus for the first time. It is the perfect time for us to introduce the resources of Tufts to them, and to other students who may not be aware of what an amazing place Tufts is for innovative students to learn and thrive,” Chen wrote.
This year’s Innovation Month consisted of events hosted or co-hosted by the DEC. Events ranged from the Entrepreneurship Taco Social, a popular event for networking alongside delicious food, to the launch of the Fletcher School D-Prize, which offered an opportunity for students to explore ways to deliver poverty solutions through entrepreneurship, as well as a $20,000 cash prize to implement the winning solution.
Throughout September, the DEC collaborated with a number of entrepreneurship-related student clubs and their leaders, including Jumbo Ventures, Women Entrepreneurs at Tufts, Imaginet, 180 Degrees Consulting and Product Studio.
Chen believes that the DEC exemplifies the interdisciplinary spirit of Innovation Month and the DEC is exemplified through its many partnerships.
“We partner with several other schools including Tisch College, Fletcher School, the Food and Nutrition Innovation Institution at the Friedman School, Identity Groups at Tufts, the NOLOP FAST Makerspace, and of course, our parent organization Tufts Gordon Institute, as well as the School of Engineering,” Chen wrote.
Likewise, DEC programs have also proved to be very useful to students with special interests. Queena Yuan, a senior, is a student coordinator and marketing intern at the DEC. She recalls seeing many students utilize DEC programs to develop and combine interdisciplinary interests with entrepreneurship.
“I've seen a lot of students who have developed a lot through a lot of programs that Tufts has been providing,” Yuan said.
Currently, Tufts only offers a minor in entrepreneurship. However, Innovation Month has provided students like Yuan with a platform to explore entrepreneurship and their own business interests. Yuan emphasizes that anyone with business-oriented interests may benefit from the DEC through clubs and internships opportunities.
“If there’s one thing that I want [students] to know it’s don’t think … you have to know a lot of things about entrepreneurship in order to go to these events,” Yuan said. “Honestly, it’s all about making connections and meeting new faces.”
Yuan suggests that students may utilize DEC events as a platform to network with other students and professors in attendance.
For example, the Cross University Student Innovator Mixer, hosted in partnership with MIT, had over 200 attendees present from more than 20 universities in the greater Boston area.
“We have a lot of … DEC professors attend these events. So if students literally just go and talk to any of them, it’s really, really possible … to spark a lot of good conversations,” Yuan said. “It’s going to be beneficial for them.”
Chen echoes this sentiment, sharing why she believes Innovation Month has such an impact on the community.
“Tufts students are far more innovative and entrepreneurial than they give themselves credit for! We want to use Innovation Month to highlight what an amazing ecosystem they are in, hear about the tremendous achievements of alumni who were students on campus not too long ago, and help them meet other student innovators, and encourage them to further develop their innovative and entrepreneurial mindset and skill set to solve real problems,” Chen wrote.
With the conclusion of Innovation Month, the DEC is preparing to open up applications for the Tufts Ideas Competition on Oct. 15.
“The Tufts Ideas Competition is an inclusive, entry-level pitch competition designed for current and gap year students at Tufts (undergraduates and graduates) to learn how to narrow down a broadly stated area of interest into a problem worth solving, develop an idea for the solution, validate both with potential customers, and learn to pitch it in front of an audience,” Chen wrote.
Chen encourages students who are eager to apply ideas to solve real world problems to apply. Past winners of the Tufts Ideas Competition have come up with a variety of ideas including international financial support and healthcare solutions. Applicants may also access a variety of support materials, such as videos and winning pitches, and may attend office hours.