Lassonde Studios, Diversity and How Entrepreneurship Thrives off of Difference

Living at Lassonde Studios is competitive — accepting only 400 residents out of the roughly 1,500 students who apply every year. While the spots are limited, resident activity is not. Residents busy themselves with projects of all sorts. This isn’t a surprise; as the hub of the entrepreneurial program on campus, residents are typically those who prove themselves creative, innovative, problem-solving individuals. But while these are all important traits for applicants, they aren’t the only important ones. In fact, Lassonde Studios also seeks diversity in its residents.

Why is diversity considered a priority? It’s because it’s not only a value worth encouraging within entrepreneurship, but something necessary for its survival. Entrepreneurs who come from the same background and community are unlikely to seek out solutions to problems that they themselves have never faced. But successful ventures are those that appeal to a broad and diverse audience and find new ways to connect with consumers. To know what appeals to people of different backgrounds, a crew of entrepreneurs from equally-diverse circumstances must play a part in devising the business solution. The more diverse innovative teams are, the better the ideas are. Diversity is key to creating appealing services, accessible products, and answers to problems that might have otherwise gone unsolved. That is why Lassonde Studios selects residents for diversity as well as motivation; the two are both integral for the program’s success.

This dedication to diversity is evident in Lassonde Studio’s residents. While it wavers from year to year, the residential program has consistently managed to create a 50-50 gender ratio in the students who live at Lassonde Studios. An applicant’s origin is also given equal weight. Lassonde Studios residents not only come from across the U.S. but across the world. Hailing from 35 states and 17 different countries, students from around the world now call Lassonde Studios their home.  The program also seeks to welcome in people from all economic backgrounds. A wide array of student leader scholarships are available. Student leaders run the Lassonde programs and can use the scholarship to pay for housing or tuition.

Other, less obvious traits are also crucial to the selection process. Lassonde Studios residential group is made up of a blend of undergraduate and graduate students, all at varying points in their studies and lives. Its students also come from almost every department on campus. While fields like dance and sociology may not traditionally be associated with business development, the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute welcomes these students and seeks to give them a platform for capitalizing on their studies. As Lassonde Institute director Kathy Hajeb puts it, “Entrepreneurship is a word that initially felt to me like ‘business startup’ — but we’re really trying to expand that definition. Entrepreneurship is a way of thinking and a mindset.” She said any student with that entrepreneurial spirit and mindset is encouraged to apply.

To learn more about the Lassonde Studios application process, its diversity initiatives, or to apply yourself, visit lassonde.utah.edu/studios.

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