In celebrating its 10 year anniversary, Lehigh’s Baker Institute plans to add more entrepreneurial opportunities and resources for students.
There will be a new Boost Lab for advanced student founders and a Startup Business Incubator for full-time founders to provide support from idea-to-enterprise.
Lisa Getzler, executive director of the Baker Institute, said the institute’s original mission was to create a culture at Lehigh where students have the opportunity to be creative for the purposes of innovative and entrepreneurial outcomes.
In the past, Getzler said the Baker Institute has only been able to provide support for students working on venture projects. However, the new Thalheimer Enterprise Alliance, which will house the Boost Lab and the Startup Business Incubator, will support students beyond the project phase.
“Ideally a student could be an entrepreneur learning and creating their venture project, and upon graduation could apply to the incubator and launch their company inside (the incubator),” Getzler said.
Alex Copits, ‘23, became involved with the Baker Institute this year. She said the institute is the main aspect that drew her to Lehigh.
Copits discovered her passion for entrepreneurship after attending a pre-college summer program through another university.
“Baker really helped me figure out who I want to be, what I am passionate about, and how I want to change the world,” Copits said.
Given that one of the Baker Institute’s hallmarks is the quality of immersion, Getzler said it was important to adapt experiences to a virtual setting during the pandemic that still met students’ expectations.
Getzler said everything, from EUREKA!, to the summer Hatchery program, to the Lehigh Silicon Valley program, had to be redesigned so students’ remote experiences would be equal to what they would have had in person.
Online platforms like Zoom, Mural and Slack have helped foster personal connections. Getzler said these remote platforms have, in some ways, allowed for even more intentional one-on-one interactions between students, guest speakers and faculty.
“Students involved told us what their experiences were like, and they felt equally immersed in the remote environment,” Getzler said.
Tobey Bill, ‘23, participated in the virtual Hatchery program in summer of 2020. As an avid “Shark Tank” watcher, Bill said he had always been interested in the entrepreneurship pitch process.
“Knowing that I probably wouldn’t have the best opportunity for an internship after my freshman year, I saw the Hatchery program as the perfect way for me to work on that entrepreneurial passion and also have something to do during that summer,” Bill said.
Despite the program being held remotely, he said it was still a great experience.
Bill is now head of logistics for New Ventures Club, a club encouraging innovative thinkers to share ideas and bring their ventures to life.
He described the club as being “Baker’s connection to the students.” Bill said several events they have organized, one being the recent startup job fair, wouldn’t have been possible without the Baker Institute’s support and connections.
While many people typically seek career opportunities at established companies, Bill said he hopes New Ventures Club will bring awareness to the employment opportunities at startup companies.
“As we’re starting to see in the professional world, an entrepreneurial mindset is becoming more and more important,” Bill said. “So, encouraging people to get involved with startup stage businesses will be really helpful.”
Bill said he would like to see New Ventures Club and Baker work toward increasing involvement on campus.
Like Bill, Getzler also emphasized that the Baker Institute and its resources are for everyone, not just students of one academic demographic.
“We don’t want a room of students who all have the same background and who all look alike and all the same couple of majors,” Getzler said. “The more variety, the greater the chance of innovation.”