Who is really the student?

by Jamie Flinchbaugh on 07-30-16

One of my favorite ways to give back is teaching and coaching on campus. This is especially true for entrepreneurs. When I was an Entrepreneur in Residence for Lehigh University in 2006, I mentored 4 student-run companies. Although I won’t claim it was because of my mentoring, 3 of the 4 companies are still operating today 10 years later. Given the infant mortality of startups, especially student startups, that’s pretty cool.

The past 3 summers I’ve been a mentor in Lehigh’s program called LaunchBayC, housing both academic and entrepreneurial student teams that dig in deep on a project. This year I’m mentoring 2 projects. During my last visit, I had 2 other teams pull me into their projects while I was there.

My point about “who is really the student?” is that I’m really not sure who learns more, myself or them. Just by having the conversation, I’m exercising my strategy mental muscles with the kind of reps I can’t get in any other situation. They pivot between visits, sometimes during visits, do a ton of work in between, and are learners themselves which forces me to be a learner as well. Any good teacher, when they engage a good student, becomes a student in the process.

One of the teams I’m working with this summer was recently featured in the Lehigh sports newsletter (since all 3 play lacrosse). Their product, Brush Bit, will make cleaning paint brushes better.

Chris Kauzman, who runs the program, has this to say about the team:

“This team has gained an amazing ability genuinely listen to feedback with open minds, use that feedback to critically analyze their work and make informed decisions based on their analysis. That thought process not only has benefited them this summer, but also honing that skill set will aid them in their next steps in life.”

Read more about the team here.

I look forward to seeing what all the teams accomplish, as well as my own new opportunities to learn and improve.