For more than 40 years, the University of Florida has hosted morning events to bring together leaders from across the university and the Gainesville community to discuss timely issues. UF continued this tradition through their Eye Opener Discovery Breakfast held at the Hilton Hotel and Conference Center Florida Room on December 14, delving into the topic of the current state of entrepreneurship at the University of Florida.
Speaker Jamie Kraft, Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CEI) at UF, spoke to the gathered crowd as to how the University is working to stay on the cutting edge of entrepreneurship education and how its students are working to change the world.
“These students have passions about a specific topic area and want to move solutions in to the marketplace,” Kraft said. “They are the ones who do not take no for an answer.”
Kraft expressed that even though some people are born with a natural entrepreneurial talent, he believes that entrepreneurship is something that can be taught through practice. The university has placed a major emphasis on experiential entrepreneurial learning both in and outside of the classroom in order to give all students the chance to learn this practice. These programs include opportunities to travel abroad to work with local entrepreneurs, the Big Idea competition, and the Gator Hatchery incubator program.
“About 5 percent of the UF population is taking classes within the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation,” Kraft said. “We want UF to be recognized as a leader in entrepreneurship education.”
Kraft said that UF is differentiating themselves from other college entrepreneurship programs by giving the students unique skillsets and resources, access to the Gator network, and by being constantly willing to change the curriculum to reflect what is needed in industry today.
The university has also been working on engaging those people outside of the typical University of Florida students, in their programs. The CEI also holds summer programs for high schoolers from all over the state of Florida and a one-week veterans’ entrepreneurship boot camp, giving these groups the opportunity to visit the campus and the chance to learn from mentors and community experts. The veterans from the program then maintain a relationship with these mentors for eight months following the program, ensuring their success.
“It is important for us to be rooted in the community,” Kraft said.
Kraft closed his talk by emphasizing some of the past student entrepreneurial success stories, including Fracture, Student Maid, and recent Shark Tank pitcher, SiliDog. Companies boasting founders, all of whom, went through UF’s CEI program and have gone out into the community and made an impact.
“Students need to take advantage of the resources they have today,” Kraft said. “If you wait, that is all you are going to do.”
Want to hear speakers like this at a breakfast event in the future? The next UF Eye Opener Discovery Breakfast will be held on Wednesday, March 8th at 7:30 a.m. The topic presented will be UF’s Florida Museum of Natural History turns 100.
ERIN WINICK is recent mechanical engineering graduate from the University of Florida. She is the founder of Sci Chic, a company that produces customizable science and engineering inspired jewelry, accessories and educational resources using 3D printing. Erin is also a science communicator and freelance writer on the topics of engineering, science and entrepreneurship. Erin has interned at Keysight Technologies, John Deere, Solar Turbines and Bracken Engineering. Twitter: @bcofengineering Instagram: @erinwinick