How many guest speakers have you met? How many changed a part of your life? The decisions that we make to contact guest speakers can be consequential. I was lucky enough to have that chance when Debra, the director of operations at IC², walked into my Monday evening class to discuss an internship at the institute.
Interning with the IC² Institute gives students the chance to learn through experience and meet people from different walks of life. Over the last year and a half, that’s exactly what I’ve done. I traveled the world, conducted market research for companies abroad, and returned to my roots in rural America.
During the summer of 2018, I was part of the inaugural class of interns with the Aspiring Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) program. We learned technology commercialization and entrepreneurship concepts for the first two weeks, then we lived the process in Austin, Texas, New Delhi, India, and Lulea, Sweden. It felt like being part of a startup because you didn’t know what to expect on any given day even with a schedule. Every morning, my team and I would try to come up with a new aspect of the business model canvas, test it with interviews, question our ideas, research competitors, or prepare for a presentation. One interview or finding can change everything, and it did, frequently.
After the internship was over, I stayed on to work on research reports for technologies in India through ATI and GCG. Eventually, I talked to Jonathan, the new Research Associate, about the recent rural entrepreneurship focus of the institute. As we talked, I couldn’t help but remember my upbringing and the fond memories of my family’s old farm. There was no way I could pass up the chance to take part in the work.
In May, I joined Art, Bruce, Matt, and Jonathan, on a trip to Keene, New Hampshire. I knew the team was brilliant but in Keene I saw how passionate Matt is about research methodology, how quickly Bruce can engage people with interesting questions, how comfortable Art is in front of any crowd, and how well Jonathan knew Keene. To be fair, Jonathan already spent a month in Keene before this visit.
One of the first things I learned about IC²’s approach to rural and remote city research is the emphasis on understanding the community, its assets, needs, and values. To understand the area better, we met with people from development organizations, local manufacturing companies, and academic institutions. We went to the Y for workout sessions, spent an afternoon walking around Brattleboro, and had a few dinners with the Executive Director of the Hannah Grimes Center for Entrepreneurship. It was clear that everyone on the team was genuinely interested in learning about the Monadnock region and engaging with the community.
The AWE internship got me engaged with the IC² Institute, and working with the people here made me stay. I’m excited to see what happens next at the institute and grateful to be one of its student workers. Who knew when Debra came to speak to my class that I would be running around winding, crowded streets of old Delhi or listening to a startup pitch competition in Keene, New Hampshire?