Going For The Win With Wheaton College and MassChallenge

Life is too short, not to try the things that scare you the most.

So, when I was asked what I thought about the idea of taking a handful of Wheaton College students and turning them into a strategic consulting team that would work with the 2018 Boston cohort of MassChallenge startups over the course of this summer I jumped at the opportunity.

Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts consists of 1700 liberal arts and science students creating innovative solutions to big challenges and acting on them.

I joined Wheaton this past semester as a visiting instructor for the business and management program. The program was added in 2013 and has since grown to be one of the most popular majors. Students can choose from more than 100 majors, and minors at Wheaton and the rigorous academic learning is accompanied by experiential opportunities outside the classroom. One such example is this partnership with MassChallenge that is entering its third year.

Opportunities like this did not exist for me as a college student, and more schools need to take the learning beyond their classrooms to stay relevant and needed for future generations of students. Higher education administrators please take note.

Wheaton College has committed to innovation and social entrepreneurship. This was one of their biggest strength that got my attention when I was first approached about teaching a class there.

With a recent $10M gift to build out the program even further, I’m excited to be a small part of the excitement that is going on with the school and their Wheaton Innovates Now (WIN) program.

This week we kicked off the training portion of the program with a focus on the team getting to know one another. Their first assignment after I taught them how to conduct interviews for requirements gathering was to team up with someone they did not know and interview them.

Then they each built a quick presentation and gave it to the group so that we could all learn new things about one another. I felt it was a perfect way to teach a skill and then put it into practice immediately.

When picking the team, I took special care to ensure that it was diverse in every way possible. That way the ideas would be sure to flow from all directions. We have students from as far away as Guatemala, China and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. There are creative writing, economics, film and business majors. I am very happy with the team of seven that has been assembled.

I plan to write up a weekly post sharing the process. Both as a tool to help others, but also to support me so that I can look back at the end and think about ways it could be improved. You can also follow along on Twitter or Instagram if you crave more.

Yesterday, the goal was to teach them the definitions of common business and marketing terminology. Explaining what a “call to action” is and why it is important to content that companies create. The difference between a “pay per click” advertisement and a “cost per impression.”

What I thought would take a couple of hours, sprouted a variety of conversations and rabbit holes that we went down and we didn’t get to my planned second topic for the day.

Some of the topics that came up and we dove into discussing included:

  • How someone registers a domain name and why I have so many of them?
  • An excellent explanation video on dark patterns that a member of the team thought we’d benefit from.
  • If Solo or Deadpool 2 lived up to our expectations?
  • The importance of disclosure when it comes to sharing anything a company gives you.
  • Who is Casey Neistat?
  • How translation rights work for books.

Stay tuned as the team comes together and begins to take what I teach in the classroom and put it into practice with a variety of different clients. We’ve only got a few weeks together in a classroom, so there is plenty of work to do.