What advantages do you feel this program offers to students setting it apart from other opportunities at the University?
I often joke with Dr. Cherwitz by asking him where he and IE were when I was at the University of Texas. I still remember my time at UT being happy to be in college because it was expected of me but not really knowing what I wanted to do, choosing a major based on hearing that it was a good major instead of discovering where my true aptitude lay, being lost on a campus of 48,000 students and not having any mentors or direction, and desperately seeking help to succeed in such a harsh racial environment. And so many of my African American classmates didn’t make it through to graduation for those same reasons. And back then, UT seemed to unofficially endorse the “sink or swim” mentality, and I saw a lot of good people sink.
However, the students who go through the Intellectual Entrepreneurship Consortium are provided graduate mentors, opportunities to attend academic conferences, exposure to graduate schools…in other words, all of the things I didn’t experience as an undergraduate! They’re working wonders with undergraduate students by helping them discover what they love to do and allowing them to be academically and intellectually creative as they work in their chosen area of study! They are giving the students a larger vision, in other words, they are literally creating “intellectual entrepreneurs”! I love it! I can think of no better solution to raising UT’s retention and graduation rate than through the expansion of programs like IE. And not just the retention and graduation rates for minority students…I believe participation in the IE Consortium would raise the retention and graduation rates for everybody!
What would you like students and our community to know about this program?
I would like them to know that while going to a large university like the University of Texas at Austin can be intimidating, there are people on campus like Dr. Richard Cherwitz and programs on campus like the Intellectual Entrepreneurship Consortium that do care about you and will help you have a more fulfilling academic experience at the University of Texas. I would like students and the community to know that there are so many opportunities at UT and many other campuses if you just take advantage of them. There are innovative programs on campus like IE and there are innovative people on campus such as Dr. Cherwitz, his staff, and program mentors who can help you take things to the next level academically. Sometimes you have to step out of your comfort zone, but the rewards can be great. And isn’t stepping out of your comfort zone one of the hallmarks of entrepreneurism? Isn’t working within your passion one of the marks of an entrepreneur? Yes, UT has historically had a bad reputation within the African American community, but there are initiatives like IE happening on campus that are helping to overcome UT’s tainted racial history because they dare to buck current trends within “the academy” and expand your horizons and help you get more bang for your academic buck!
And lastly, I would tell students to take chances socially and academically while in college and pursue a passion, and this is just what the IE program helps you to do. In other words, don’t be afraid to go out on a limb…that’s where the fruit is!!!