From left: Joel Robinson, '17, Patrick Kroll, '17, Amanda Lane, '18, Francis Hogan, '17, Jason Harlam, '17, and Brianna Riggs, '18, stand in front of the Golden Gate Bridge for a group photo on January 9, 2016. These six Lehigh students, and other Lehigh students, traveled to California for a week as part of the LehighSiliconValley program. (Courtesy of Patrick Kroll)

LehighSiliconValley offers hands-on entrepreneurship experience

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The sixth annual LehighSiliconValley program will take place this winter from Jan. 3 to Jan. 11, 2017, and will continue its mission to serve as an immersion program designed to help participants gain a better understanding of venture capital and their careers.

For the first time, the program is extending for an extra day and is also offering two additional days called “LSV plus.” During the two additional days, participants will have the option to focus specifically on software-oriented careers with start-up companies and high-tech companies.

Fifty-six participants are chosen to venture to the hub of entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley, California. The program, which is run by Lehigh’s Baker Institute, provides an opportunity to earn three credits, and is open to sophomores, juniors, seniors, graduate students and alumni in all fields of study. To apply, participants write an essay. If they are accepted, they are also expected to pay a fee for the trip.

Dale Falcinelli, the program’s director, described the Baker Institute as, “a giant sandbox for doing, for experiencing and for realizing.” The institute encourages students to participate in the Silicon Valley program because it provides real-life experiences tied to academics taught within Lehigh’s colleges.

LSV aims to allow students to apply their knowledge and skills to entrepreneurship-related work.

In Silicon Valley, participants have the opportunity to observe and interact with real people, companies, situations and problems. Participants are either assigned to welcome a presenter or thank them. This experience urges individuals to step outside of their comfort zones, think on their feet and ask questions.

Unlike a classroom education, the Silicon Valley program takes students out of their element and into the real world of entrepreneurship.

“The program is based on live (cases) and we use question and answer to drive the program,” said Catherine Loikits, the program manager.

Chris Kauzmann, ’13, participated in this program and now works for the Baker Institute. He said the trip was one of the turning points for him as a Lehigh student.

As a mechanical engineering major, Kauzmann never thought he would be interested in entrepreneurship.

“The LSV program gave me insight into the way I wanted to use my engineering degree,” he said.

Kauzmann said the goal of LSV is not to start a business but rather to change culture and become immersed in an experience.

Falcinelli said too often entrepreneurship is viewed as merely a collection of courses. He said at the Baker Institute, entrepreneurship is a mindset.

“Students have to want the experience and be willing to get their hands dirty,” Falcinelli said.

The program’s emphasis on real-life application provides external experiences that align with academics inside the classroom. Falcinelli placed great emphasis on LSV’s focus on real experiences.

“If its not real then it’s fake,” he said, “and if it’s fake, everybody knows fake.”

LSV helps participants to learn about the way they think to aid them in the future.

Falcinelli said even the quietest of participants could thrive in this forum-based program. He said success is based on how creative, resourceful, curious, risk-taking and hard-working participants are.

Kate Hickey, ’17, who participated in the program during her junior year, said the program made her realize a person doesn’t have to want to be an entrepreneur to be a part of that world. She said there are many dimensions to entrepreneurship she learned from the program.

“My greatest gain was that I kind of realized one area that I might want to go into which is corporate venture,” Hickey said. She said important practical applications she learned from the program included learning how to talk to important people and ask questions.

Kauzmann said LSV is different from other winter programs.

“Other winter programs are still courses,” he said, “this puts you out of your element.”

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