Southwest Students to attend ImagineU entrepreneurship training

Four Southwest students applied to attend a competitive summer entrepreneurship program and three have been accepted.

Natasha Fountain, Johari Hamilton, Christian Ordinola and Corey Stewart submitted applications and made it to the screening process for ImagineU.

ImagineU finalists Christian Ordinola, Natasha Fountain, Johari Hamilton, and Corey Stewart.

ImagineU finalists Christian Ordinola, Natasha Fountain, Johari Hamilton, and Corey Stewart.

Fountain, Hamilton, and Stewart were among the finalists selected and will participate in ImagineU, a summer program for college students for developing an entrepreneurial mindset. ImagineU is an academic and community partnership that joins seven local colleges and universities with three entrepreneurship support organizations to teach learning skills and how to use them in a professional environment. Students participate in inspirational programs and receive intense training, along with business and technical assistance to develop new ventures.

The students each receive a $3,000 stipend for living and other expenses, desk space, mentorship and resources to develop their skills and business ideas. They are required to spend a minimum of 25 hours a week working with their team.

This year, Southwest had a record number of applicants with 16 students completing the application process. Finalists went through a screening process and four Southwest students were among the 18 fellows selected to participate from Christian Brothers University, LeMoyne-Owen College, Memphis College of Art, Rhodes College, the University of Memphis, and the Visible Music College.

ImagineU operates through the Crews Center for Entrepreneurship. Director Michael Hoffmeyer described ImagineU as a demanding program where students will be humbled and fail, lead and follow, but ultimately will leave feeling confident and empowered, and with a very different understanding of what it means to be entrepreneurial.

“They have an opportunity that only a few select students receive,” Hoffmeyer said. “We don’t expect them to be exceptionally skilled or exceptionally knowledgeable. We expect them to have an exceptional attitude and be exceptionally motivated. When it is over they will know what it is to view the world through an entrepreneurial lens.”

Southwest Associate Professor of Business and Legal Studies Dr. Joan McGrory said ImagineU is a transformational opportunity for the students and the best summer job opportunity ever.

“The transformation I have observed in students accepted in this program is truly phenomenal,” McGrory said. “Through their experiences, they will gain skills and confidence that will lead them higher and higher. I am so proud of all of our applicants for opening up to engage in the process. When these students return in the Spring to share their experiences with a new set of Southwest students, they will encourage others to say ‘yes’ and overcome fear to embrace opportunity.”

Student Corey Stewart said the application process has already been rewarding and that any student in any major will benefit from participating.

“Southwest has set up some amazing opportunities for its students and we should all step out of our comfort zones and take the chances provided for us,” Stewart said.

Christian Ordinola, who made it through the screening process, but did not make it to the final selection, said participating in ImagineU was a great opportunity. He met a lot of talented people with the mindset to grow as leaders and risk takers.

“I met people with different backgrounds and listened to their speeches as they are all in a race to move on as entrepreneurs,” Ordinola said. “It has added fuel to the entrepreneurial fire in me. But it has also opened my eyes to how difficult it is to start and maintain a great company.”

Future entrepreneurial student Johari Hamilton said she is grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the program.

“The entire process has been great,” Hamilton said. “When I think of ImagineU, I think Newton’s Law – for every action there is a reaction,” Jordan said. “Me plus ImagineU equals the bold, confident, relevant launch into my future as an entrepreneur.”

Hoffmeyer added that the students will come out of the program with a host of employable skills, such as working on a diverse team, conflict resolution, critical thinking and problem solving, and ultimately a belief in themselves.

“Students walk away from the ImagineU program as some of the most employable students in the region, while also having the skills and knowledge to recognize entrepreneurial opportunities and both what to look for and where to go to leverage and execute on those opportunities,” Hoffmeyer said.