Division of Diversity and Community Engagement launches Office of Inclusive Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Laura Morales

In response to the growing number of start-ups on campus, the Office of Inclusive Innovation and Entrepreneurship launched late last month as part of an attempt to reach out to minority students.

The Division of Diversity and Community Engagement created the office to inspire these students to grow their own enterprises through educational programs, networking and corporate collaboration. The office is located both on-campus and off-campus at the work space Impact Hub Austin. Executive director Rubén Cantú said the city-based office is meant to also serve the Austin community. 

“The bottom line of what we are creating are avenues for generational wealth for under-served communities,” Cantú said. “We have to allow them a pathway for accessing networks and resources, give them the training they need and instill the entrepreneurial thinking and mindset so that they can go and create their companies for the economy of tomorrow.”

The University currently offers resources for students to create a company or develop a product, but Leonard Moore, vice president of the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, said the office aims to break down the psychological barriers some students face in the business sector. 

“They don’t realize that they have the qualities to start a business,” Moore said. “They (have) mental toughness, they know how to persevere, they know how to operate in ambiguity, they know how to go into new environments. It’s just a matter of telling students, ‘You have the skills to come do something different.’”

Students of any major can use the office’s resources and can reach out to Cantú through email or sign up for the Division’s emailing list to get notified of upcoming events or workshops. Cantú said students are already reaching out to the office. Business freshman Hamza Abdallah went to the Office’s three-day start-up workshop this semester to develop his product in biometrics that he says would help make an aspect of everyone’s daily lives more convenient.

“The Inclusive Innovation office will present me with more guidance, mentorship and connections,” Abdallah said. “It can get me to the places I need to be and educate me with the resources I need to be successful in my endeavors. I will keep my connection with the office for sure.”

The office will be accepting applications to the Product Prodigy Institute until Nov. 12. This program is a semester-long class that takes students through the process of launching a venture.