UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — As Penn State has grown entrepreneurship education across the University, more than 19,000 students from have enrolled in at least one course offered in the Intercollege Minor in Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Penn State President Eric Barron told the Board of Trustees during a report today (Nov. 12).
Barron highlighted two entrepreneurship students — Sydney Gibbard, a third-year student in biomedical engineering and pre-medicine, and founder of Girls Code the World, a nonprofit that provides resources, role models and opportunities for girls ages 8 to 12 by offering STEM educational programming sessions and mentorship; and Leo Girlando, an international student and senior majoring in finance and Chinese who is president of Happy Valley VC and the Global China Connection Penn State chapter and a founding member of the inaugural blueStart Festival.
Gibbard and Girlando, who are both Schreyer Scholars, discussed their entrepreneurship experience in a Q&A with Penn State Today:
How did you become interested in being an entrepreneur, and how did Invent Penn State help you realize your entrepreneurship goals?
Gibbard: I started running Girls Code the World in 2018, but it was more of just running summer programs with one of my peers from high school. It quickly developed into something I was passionate about, and something we were gaining momentum for in the community. Once we got to college though, it was much harder to find the time and resources to continue carrying our work as Girls Code the World.
My involvement with Invent Penn State began when I participated in the 2020 Summer Founders Program. Invent Penn State helped me reimagine what our organization could become, and they gave me the confidence and the resources to believe I could be an entrepreneur.
Girlando: I became interested in entrepreneurship shortly after joining the Fitted Laundry team — previously Chute Laundry — and meeting the leaders of Happy Valley VC (back then Smeal Venture Partners). After hearing the great initiatives student leaders had on filling a gap in our ecosystem through providing experience in startups and venture capital, as well as helping Fitted Laundry's founders overcome the challenges that come with building a startup, I realized the immense value that these experiences offered. Through entrepreneurship, I found a passion for learning. I wore multiple hats to grow a business, learned about venture investing, explored promising technology trends shaping our world, and supported student founders.
Additionally, Invent Penn State and the Farrell Center for Corporate Innovation and Entrepreneurship allowed me to boost my engagement at Penn State's entrepreneurial ecosystem and keep learning from alumni investors and seasoned entrepreneurs. More specifically, I was fortunate enough to participate and support initiatives such as Startup Week and Venture & IP Conference, as well as enjoyed the vast number of resources and programs available such as the new innovation hub and Global Entrepreneurship Week! Both stakeholders even trusted student leaders from Happy Valley VC and Innoblue with funding to make blueStart, a week-long festival that introduces Penn State's entrepreneurship pipeline and facilitates students' access to resources on campus, a reality.