For students at the College, the acronym ICAT equals opportunity. Based in the School of Business, the Interdisciplinary Center for Applied Technology (ICAT) is a progressive initiative that offers students an opportunity to engage in technology entrepreneurship in meaningful ways. One of those ways is ICAT Academy, an eight-to-ten-day session in which students travel to different parts of the world to interview entrepreneurs, learn about their respective businesses and make influential connections. This spring, ICAT Academy visited San Francisco and California’s renowned Silicon Valley.
Professor Chris Starr, who teaches in the Department of Supply Chain and Information Management, is the co-director of the ICAT program. In May, Starr and professor Lancie Alfonso accompanied 12 students to San Francisco to visit founders and employees at 10 different tech companies, including including Facebook, Google, Teradata Labs and NextDoor. This is the fifth trip that Starr has made with students to Silicon Valley.
“ICAT Academy is actually a Maymester course,” explains Starr. “The students earn three credits for this, but the biggest impact involves the insights they gain and the contacts that they make. Most of the individuals we work with to set up these visits are College alumni who are successfully working at these firms in the Bay Area.”
Networking is just one of the byproducts of this experience. Perspective is another. “The exposure this class gave me to the real world of business and tech was very helpful in dissolving my notion that I am strictly limited to a career in biology,” says Harrison Covington, a biology major who enrolled in ICAT Academy.
Starr is keen to point out that any student can participate in ICAT Academy. “It’s not just for computer science majors,” he explains. “Students from across campus can apply. We use a set of criteria to rank the applicants and based on that, we invite the participants. The overarching goal is to make the program available to more students across campus so that they come to understand the power of technology in business.”
On the trip, explains Starr, the students spent from one to three hours with each firm they visited. Customarily, Starr would introduce each student and then the interview would ensue. Afterward, the students would present a gift to the host, and follow up a day or two later with handwritten thank-you notes. He says some students spent one-on-one time with the hosts after the interview. “The intention was for students to make individual, professional relationships that would spawn internships and job offers.”
The beauty of the ICAT Academy, says Starr, is that it takes experiential learning to a new level. “This is really impact learning,” he explains, “because the relationships these students forge, along with the enlightenment they receive, impacts the directions and decisions that they make upon their return, and perhaps for the rest of their lives.”
The next iteration of ICAT Academy will take place in the summer of 2017 when two trips are planned, one to New York City and another back to San Francisco.
Read more about ICAT Academy on the ICAT program website.