Lassonde collaborates with community to empower black entrepreneurs.

Lassonde, Village Inspiring Future Black Entrepreneurs

The University of Utah’s Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute and The V(i)llage are partnering to inspire future black innovators and entrepreneurs by hosting a “Invent You at the U” college tour for middle and high school students on Friday, Feb. 13.

Student participants are members in The V(i)llage, a comprehensive leadership program for African, African American and black students who attend West and East high school, and Glendale and Northwest middle schools.

“The V(i)llage students who participate in this event are going to learn about the benefits of college from an entrepreneurial perspective,” says Nedra Hotchkins, M.Ed., The V(i)llage program co-founder and a student success advocate at the U.

“Invent You at the U” is designed to provide participants with educational experiences that challenge their ability to critically think about problem-solving situations that can be applied in the real world. In partnership with The V(i)llage, the Lassonde Institute, an interdisciplinary division of the David Eccles School of Business, organized the event to promote an interest in innovation and entrepreneurship among black students who might attend the University of Utah in the immediate future.

“Through this experience, students will learn how to approach problems from a variety of angles and perspectives in order to arrive at unorthodox solutions through team building. Additionally, they will gain valuable rapport-building time with University of Utah administrators, faculty and current college students, which is an added benefit,” said Bryan K. Hotchkins, The V(i)llage program co-founder and post-doctoral research associate in the U’s Master of Public Administration Department.

During the visit, students also participate in student-affairs, fact-finding treasure hunts, an interactive tour of the newly opened Student Life Center, and experience an educational address by Amir Law, the director of student services for the Office of Equity and Diversity at the University of Utah. The event theme “Invent You at the U” dares students to see themselves as valuable pieces to life equations that need to be solved in unique ways. The event concludes when participants share innovative solutions at a culminating assembly designed to highlight the lived experiences of students within the context of problem solving.

“Innovation and entrepreneurship require diversity, and this is a great example of our efforts to bring a more diverse representation of students to campus and get them involved in our many programs and opportunities,” says Troy D’Ambrosio, executive director of the Lassonde Institute.

About The V(i)llage

Created in September of 2014, The V(i)llage program focuses on leadership development, academic preparedness, cultural validation and communal engagement of student participants. Additionally, the program serves as a pathway to college by educating students about degree attainment and career opportunities after completing college.  The program currently serves approximately 157 students within the Salt Lake and Davis School Districts. For more information contact

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