Entrepreneurship Opportunities: The Keenan Center is expanding

Molly Murphy, News and Features Editor

The Keenan Center for Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Creativity is one of the many hidden gems housed in the Madden school of business. The Keenan Center exists to help students build the entrepreneurial skills to start or grow their own businesses and to create a pipeline for those students directly into the Syracuse community. The Center has participated in events like Upstate Unleashed and will once again host the Le Moyne Dolphin Tank, a showcase in which students can compete for $30,000 to help further expand their business endeavors.

According to Keenan Center Director Dr. Mike D’Eredita ‘92, “The center is driven towards stimulating entrepreneurial thinking on campus and to introduce students and the community to an entrepreneurial mindset, not only to help them think entrepreneurially but also to introduce them to resources that could help them accelerate their efforts.”

Recently, the Keenan Center has begun to expand. Matt Read of the Le Moyne Communications department has been hired as head of communications and PR. Doug Hill, who has been building the Maker Space at Le Moyne for years, is now its official head for the Keenan Center. James Shomar has also been brought aboard as Entrepreneur in Residence.

“It’s a very complete team,” explains D’Eredita. “As director I try to guide it and create a cohesive storyline so everyone knows what’s going on. At this point we’re really trying to make entrepreneurship and innovation more accessible to people because anybody can do this. The number one requirement that you need is that you really want to do this.  That has to be there. And then we can help you and coach you through the process of how to actually do this and introduce people to other resources that can help.”

The Keenan Center is very focused on emphasizing the entrepreneurship and innovation skills are for everyone, not just business students. “A lot of the students coming here, the ones that are gonna be the next billionaire entrepreneurs of the next century, these are biologists, people who are going to be YouTube stars, and such,” continues Read. “Mike’s approach to us and to the students is this idea of collaboration, open-mindedness, and empowerment.”

Increasingly, creative thinking, designing, communicating are becoming more important skills to have going forward in the classroom and the workforce. According to D’Eredita, these are critical skills that students should be exposed to because “they’re going to be engaged with them in some way shape or form throughout their life, somehow, regardless of their pathway. The reason is because the rate of innovation and change is only increasing and that means you’re gonna have to have a skillset that’s going to enable you to navigate uncharted waters. So how do you do that? How do you identify problems? How do you identify proper teams of people you want to collaborate with? How do you position yourself in this highly dynamic space? This creative mindset is something that you will carry with you across your life.”

As Le Moyne students prepare for their futures, the question of jobs is always on their minds. In the past, one could get a job and potentially keep it for their whole life, working within the same company for decades. That doesn’t happen as much anymore, so it’s going to be important for students to be flexible and creative when adapting to a rapidly changing world. “As we move into the future, it’s important that you’re at least introduced to and understand the creative mindset,” D’Eredita says.

It’s not just critical for business students to think creatively. Students from all other majors should be thinking about developing business entrepreneurial skills. Why? For D’Eredita, it has to do with empowerment. “I think it opens up other options and pathways to them. I’m a strong advocate of it because at the very least, it exposes them to other options that they may not even know existed. So that starts to potentially change how you’re thinking about your future and if you only see one pathway for you then that’s how you’re going to shape your future in your mind.

If you start to get opened up to other potential pathways where people are living differently, they’re earning money differently, they’re engaging with the world differently. They’re surrounding themselves with different types of people. If you expose yourself to that world, you have more choices. And I think that’s the ultimate aim here. And this is the empowerment part: once you have more choices, now you’re more empowered because you can pick the choice that fits you best as opposed to picking the choice that in your mind is the only one that you have, which is the opposite of empowerment.”

This is not limited to business students in any way. “Again, that comes across any domain. It doesn’t matter. The entrepreneur is a learner. By definition, they’re moving into uncharted waters. Now the question is once you’re sailing out into those waters, how do you navigate them? That’s where coaching and mentorship and some guidance can help.”

In terms of Le Moyne’s Jesuit liberal arts tradition, D’Eredita thinks this fits in directly. “The whole point of a liberal arts education is this notion of the well-rounded individual, exposure to new ideas. You’re creating citizens for the growing world and part of that world is this ecosystem that we live in and how you navigate that. The entrepreneurial method is another methodology and mindset that is complementary to, not exclusive of, the scientific method or any other discipline. Having these multiple mindsets that you can start to move towards from a deep understanding and knowledge from your field of study, whether that’s English, Philosophy, Chemistry, or Physics, complimented by this understanding of entrepreneurial methodology starts to enable you to apply what you’re learning. You start to see a much more practical place for it in the world and I think that’s critical.”

For the students, D’Eredita wants the Keenan Center to mean something to them. “I want this to be a transformational experience for them. It’s new, it’s a world that they don’t know about, that they may have heard about but are afraid of or uncertain of. But once they cross that threshold, they start to realize ‘Wow. There’s a lot more can-do in me than I thought.’ And at that point, that’s when the transformation starts to happen, when their minds open to a whole other world with options and opportunities.”

More than just helping students find new passions and business opportunities, the Keenan Center is focused on the Jesuit mission of creating powerful thinker who will change the world. “Once you start applying yourself to problems, it’s hard. And through that process of struggle, there’s deep learning that takes place there and a lot of self-reflection, so students are learning about themselves throughout this process as well. That’s very much within the Jesuit tradition as well. ‘Who am I?’ Once you start engaging in that way, it really forces a self-reflection on the student because they’re forced to decide how they’re going to spend their time here.”

Overall, the Keenan Center is rapidly becoming an important new tool for Le Moyne students as they continue on their journey towards the larger world. “The most important thing for the campus to know is that this is campus-wide. Anybody on campus can access the center, from students of any major, any faculty, or staff. We’re trying to build as many on-ramps as possible for our community that are as convenient and practical as possible,” D’Eredita concludes. “The resources are here and you can do this. This is a center for entrepreneurship, innovation, and creativity and we will do everything we can to help and facilitate whoever comes in our doors.”