Duke I&E

North Carolina Entrepreneur Corps Enlists Students to Solve State Challenges

Published: 6 months ago | 0 comments

The North Carolina Entrepreneur Corps (NCEC), a firstofitskind statewide initiative, will allow talented students to work on and solve some of the most pressing problems facing the state while also gaining skills, practical experience, and mentorship.

The Entrepreneur Corps is one of the lead initiatives of the Governors Entrepreneurial Council, formed in early 2019 to to support policies that encourage entrepreneurship, foster economic development, and support sustainable, high-quality jobs. 

Members of the Council include Dr. Ronnie Chatterji, a professor at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business and Sanford School of Public Policy, as well as Dr. Tommy Sowers, the Pentagon’s Southeast regional director for the Department of Defense’s National Security Innovation Network, who also teaches at Duke.

Dr. Tommy Sowers

Dr. Sowers, a member of the Governors Entrepreneurship Council, teaches a course at Duke that has students tackle challenges facing real-world clients

The NCEC will unite college students from across the state to go through the entrepreneurial process of idea generation, concept development, customer feedback, and creation of a final product. Teams will work with entrepreneurial mentors from the Governors Entrepreneurship Council, as well as technical mentors from the North Carolina Department of Information and Technology (NCDIT). The program will run February 2020 through April 2020; students will present their final projects to an audience to include Governor Cooper.

The NCDIT has identified three key challenge areas that students will choose from to address:

  • Challenge 1: Recruiting & Retaining a 21st Century IT Workforce | Develop a strategic marketing campaign to attract young tech talent to state government.
  • Challenge 2: New Digital Channel, Constituent Resources through Alexa | Create an Alexa-activated tool set for the State of North Carolina that can address key information and service delivery areas on
  • Challenge 3: Analytics Dashboard for Citizens | Leverage the code and API to create an analytics dashboard for the State of North Carolina.  

These challenges lay the foundation for future issues to be explored. “This initial pilot will allow us to learn and identify even more projects for future students,” Sowers said.

Applications are open to students from both four-year and community colleges through January 15, 2020. Students can apply individually or as a team of three; individuals will be grouped together to work remotely as entrepreneurship teams. 

A broad range of students could benefit from the program, Sowers said, including anyone who “wants to serve and learn how a startup thinks and develops a product.” The program is seeking students with tech backgrounds, as well as those who aren’t tech-savvy but bring other diverse backgrounds and skills to the projects.

Sowers said the aim of the Entrepreneur Corps is a symbiotic partnership in which North Carolina benefits from the insights of the talented students in school here, while those students also learn valuable lessons and skills.

We‘re creating a new model of public service where students can serve gigs, doing what they do best,” Sowers said. We hope students help make government better and gain exposure to the meaningful work of public service.

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