Grand Opening of Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship

On Friday, September 28, Claremont McKenna College celebrated the launch of its Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE), adding one more to ten preexisting research institutes and centers. The physical space of the Center features a conference room with whiteboard-covered walls and workrooms with couches and worktables.

The Center, located at 530 N. Mills Ave, is a hotspot of creativity.

The Center's Executive Student Directors, Tyler Sonnemaker ’15 and Julian Mackie ’15, conceived the idea late last spring. When Sonnemaker and Mackie entered into the Innovative Start-Up Award, they found an inadequate amount of campus-wide support for entrepreneurship.

Jay Conger, Henry R. Kravis Research Chair in Leadership Studies and member of CIE’s steering committee, has seen many attempts to form an entrepreneurial hub on campus, including the development of an independent study course and entrepreneurial clubs. The difference this time is the focus on the Center’s collaboration with CMC’s Office of the Dean of the Faculty, the Kravis Leadership Institute (KLI), and the Robert Day School of Economics (RDS).

Sonnemaker and Mackie concentrated their efforts on developing a sustainable program by gaining faculty support. “As far as creating a long-term program, we wanted to get all parties—administration, alumni, and students—on board,” Sonnemaker said.

Sarah Smith Orr, Executive Director of KLI and a member of CIE’s steering committee, said, “What’s bubbled up is this convergence of our board [at KLI], who has been very passionate about moving in this direction, and a really impressive student body, who comes with a different view of what they want their lives and their work to be.”

The programming of CIE will include workshops, feedback sessions, idea nights, start-up competitions, and alumni speakers in conjunction with the Athenaeum. The Center will also co-sponsor the Innovative Start-Up Award with KLI.

Miles Bird ’13, Vice President of the Associated Students of CMC, is most excited for the Center’s collaboration with the rest of the 5Cs. “From my perspective, if any one of the Claremont Colleges tried to push entrepreneurship independently, we would fail because we’re too small. But with the resources that come with working together, we’re a lot stronger,” he said.

CIE will soon open up applications for facilitators to collaborate with faculty and the Center’s leadership team in an effort to plan events, bring in speakers, and coordinate start-up weekends, among other responsibilities. The Center is unique for its student-driven core and will push for student input and involvement in every step of its development.