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Syracuse University officials discuss specifics of Blackstone LaunchPad space in Bird Library

Syracuse University will build the physical space for the Blackstone LaunchPad program over Thanksgiving break.

The university announced on Oct. 23 that it received a $900,000 grant from the Blackstone Charitable Fund for a new entrepreneurial program, which will be a hub for students with an entrepreneurial idea to receive help and resources in launching their businesses.

SU will build a glass, 625 sq. ft. cube on the first floor of Bird Library that will be placed on the window wall between Bird and the Schine Student Center, said David Seaman, dean of SU Libraries.

The furniture that is currently located where the LaunchPad will be placed will be reallocated around the first floor of Bird so that no seating or study space on the first floor will be lost, Seaman added.

The physical space will have a few desks and tables that will facilitate one-to-one mentoring, small group work and an opportunity to talk, said James Fathers, principle investigator for the LaunchPad program and director of the School of Design in the College of Visual and Performing Arts.

Placing the center inside of Bird was a suggestion by Blackstone, Fathers said. Blackstone recommended it be placed somewhere public with lots of foot traffic so that students can see the space, see students using it and hopefully be inspired to go inside and use the facility, he said.

It is also glass so that activities occurring within are visible to the other students in the library, and if they do not know what it is, they will go in and ask questions, Fathers said.

Any student regardless of year or major is able to use the center to get advice, he said.

“(If a student) has some sort of idea and say ‘hey, maybe this is good idea,’ they can come in the door … get some advice … have a mentoring conversation … sign on to get some more information to help them develop that (idea) and more importantly they can be sent to other resources within the university,” Fathers said.

Since Bird is a 24-hour library on weekdays, Fathers said students can likely expect the center to be open for extended hours in order to accommodate the students’ schedules.

An executive director for the program has not yet been named, but Fathers has headed a search committee to select a full-time director, according to an SU Libraries release.

Once a director is chosen, the university will staff the center based on need, Fathers said.

SU is one of five schools in New York state to receive the grant, including Cornell University, New York University, the University at Albany and the University at Buffalo. The schools were selected on the basis of the university that has an entrepreneurial ecosystem but needed the investment to improve it, Fathers said.

“They wouldn’t place a LaunchPad where there is no entrepreneurial ecosystem, but neither would they place it in an ecosystem that didn’t need it,” Fathers said. “SU has a vibrant ecosystem in place with the entrepreneurial program … the iSchool … and the student sandbox, but what we’re missing is a central center for all of this.”

Blackstone LaunchPad will be available to more than 500,000 students worldwide by the end of 2015, according to the Blackstone LaunchPad website.

In addition, those involved in LaunchPad are able use an online platform, powered by VentureBoard, to communicate with other students using LaunchPad to bounce their ideas off of them, even if they are in a different state, Fathers said.

“We want to inject and inculcate and infect all students in SU with an entrepreneurial and innovative drive,” Fathers said.

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