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CSULA launches ‘life-altering’ Global Innovation Fellows program

Professor, student pilot new transformative initiative for students around the world

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photo of Global Innovation Fellows.
Cal State L.A.’s 2013 Global Innovation Fellows on the campus of Stanford University.

What if you were given eight weeks to be transformed into a global entrepreneur—armed with the skills and knowledge to tackle global problems, to engage with powerful entrepreneurs and companies, to build a network of mentors and investors, and to even start-up your own business?

This summer, a group of 18 student fellows did just that by taking advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity by participating in the pilot Global Innovations Fellows Program, launched by the Global Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Cal State L.A.

The idea for the program emerged from a brainstorming session with CSULA Professor Robert Carpenter, who heads the Global Center, and marketing major Barney Santos.

They pondered “How can we take students and recent graduates and accelerate them to become global change agents? What can we do to prepare the current generation for the global economy? What kinds of skills can we give them to tackle any kind of problem facing the world or humanity?”

With support from the Dean James Goodrich of CSULA’s College of Business and Economics, both Carpenter and Santos put their entrepreneurship minds together and started designing the initial program with technical and tangible applications in mind.

“We taught students how to code, how to give stunning TED-style presentations, how to negotiate, how to make movies and viral videos, and many other great things—all for free,” said Carpenter.

They also added opportunities for fellows to hear from more than 25 global experts in developed and developing countries in order to gain an understanding of best practices and innovations that are occurring around the world.

“We are so appreciative to all of the amazing entrepreneurs, innovators, and executives—like the Chairman of Disney, Andy Bird—who spoke to our inaugural class of fellows,” said Santos. “Guest speakers would Skype in or come to campus to teach the fellows about their in-the-trenches experiences and global perspective on disruptive innovation.”

The impressive list of speakers represented such businesses as Acumen, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Disney Studios, DreamCenter, IDEO, IdeaLab, InnerCity Arts, Kauffman Foundation, and Kiva.org.

In addition, the fellows participated in a cutting-edge, national startup project with the founder of Invisible People, Mark Horvath, to mobilize college students and young professionals to help end homelessness in America.


The fellows also got a behind-the-scenes tour of Facebook, Google, Stanford’s D School, Rally and many other hot start-up companies in Silicon Valley through the sponsorship of the Entrepreneurial Collegiate Consulting Organization (ECCO) at CSULA.

Many of the fellows described the summer program as “completely amazing” and “life altering.”

Twelve of them were CSULA students and alumni, ranging in majors from computer science to sociology. Some are originally from Brazil, China, Columbia, Mexico and Taiwan. They include Alexis Armitage, David Dykstra, Christine Hovhannessian, Jesse Lucas, Daniel Mares, Nicole Nelson, Sheila Pham, Shanell Rojas, Fakhrul Shawaludin, Gronholm Steven, Juan Camilo Torres, and Nick Ventura.

As a result of this intensive summer experience, the fellows see themselves as “change agents” who can help move the world forward, and that it is possible for them to realize their dreams or make their visions a reality.

For example, Ventura has begun his web venture to bring awareness to global issues and to create conscious consumers through inForaCause.tumblr.com. Ventura, a business administration major, is also currently president of ECCO student club on campus.

Hovhannessian, a fashion design student, is broadening her vintage clothing line, www.KikiVanNess.com, which is becoming one of the internet’s fastest growing online retail websites. On campus, she serves as the environmental affairs commissioner for Associated Students, Inc. student government.

A CSULA alumnus, Torres has launched a company named Gentefy to help Hispanic start-up businesses, and has been traveling around the U.S. to promote business issues important to the Latino community.

“These are just a few of the many successes stemming from the program,” Carpenter and Santos chimed in, as they pointed to the conference room across the hall where much of the program took place. “That is the place many of our fellows began developing some next-generation projects and start-up companies. Only time will tell how big and disruptive they will become.”

Next year’s Global Innovation Fellows Program plans to also travel to Latin America, Europe, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. Stay tuned for more information on the college’s webpage.

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Last Update: 2/22/2013