ISU’s new I+E Academy will bring together entrepreneurship and liberal arts

A new academy is launching at Iowa State University this fall for the university’s Liberal Arts & Sciences (LAS) students. The new Innovation + Entrepreneurship (I+E) Academy is a two-year program for LAS majors and minors who seek to experience and develop an innovative and entrepreneurial mindset.

Rebecca Runyon will serve as the academy’s director. Runyon says her initial focus will be on getting the word out about the program and recruitment.

“This first year will consist of a lot of relationship building and finding those people willing to invest in the students that participate in the academy in a mentorship capacity,” said Runyon. “Some of the other colleges at the university already have existing entrepreneurship programs. You hear the name ‘AG EI’ [Agricultural Entrepreneurship Initiative] and people know what the College of Ag is doing for entrepreneurship. But with LAS it’s a brand new program so even faculty members within LAS haven’t heard yet what this academy is and what it’s all about.”

Year one of the program will largely consist of entrepreneurial and innovative lessons for students, preparing them with a broadly applicable skillset, Runyon told Clay & Milk. In the second year, students will be paired up with a mentor and will be working with the other students in the program to really launch their ideas.

The program is designed for first and second-year LAS majors ready to explore innovation and entrepreneurship Students must be enrolled in an LAS major and maintain a minimum 2.25 GPA to apply for the program. Runyon says she expects to have 20-30 students in the inaugural cohort.

“I+E Academy is a perfect stepping stone to CYstarters,” said Runyon. “My personal goal is that any of the students that come out of the academy who are still interested in doing entrepreneurship will be able and ready to participate in CYStarters that following summer.”

Prior to becoming the academy’s director, Runyon was an ISU student where she received a BS in’18 agricultural studies and an MS in agricultural education. She has also founded two businesses—Lunchsox and Bessie’s Parlor—and participated in the 2018 cohort of ISU’s CYstarters accelerator.

The I+E Academy was originally set to launch in March 2020, but the coronavirus pandemic delayed its rollout for a year. The new rollout date is planned for early March and the first cohort of students will enroll in fall 2021.

“Students don’t necessarily have to have a business idea or know what it means to be an innovator within an existing organization, but if that sounds interesting to them, I encourage them to apply,” said Runyon.

Previous coverage

ISU Student Innovation Center will bring together students across campus -July 22, 2019

Entrepreneurship among top priorities for ISU President Wendy Wintersteen -Nov. 21, 2018