Students from West Virginia University’s College of Business and Economics found themselves immersed for three weeks in the European Innovation Academy (EIA) in Turin, Italy, a learning environment designed for future entrepreneurs and business leaders from all over the world.
EIA, which ran from July 9-28, created a multicultural ecosystem of 600 students and faculty from 68 different nationalities. During the 15 days of instruction, two B&E students participated in approximately 70 learning sessions, encompassing studying in Turin and day trips to Milan and Rome. The B&E students took part in EIA thanks to support from the Robbins Center for Global and Business Strategy and the BrickStreet Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
“I never imagined being a part of such an opportunity,” said Elizabeth McIntyre, a Charleston, West Virginia, native who graduated with a finance degree from B&E on May 13. “I am hopeful that my experience with this program will enable me to build connections globally and allow me the experience of working with other cultures.”
Maria Carbone, a junior marketing student from Inwood, West Virginia, said EIA represented an incredible opportunity. “I’m hoping to be able to connect with other like-minded students who see themselves as future business professionals. I am also hoping to have conversations with companies that will be present. By the end of the three weeks, I hope to have established networking connections to potentially call on in the future for internship and job opportunities.”
But all was not strange to the two West Virginia natives in Italy. Frank DeGeorge, teaching assistant professor of finance at B&E, attended EIA with the students.
Their busy schedules included study in Turin with trips to Milan for the Customer Discovery Session and a Product Showcase Session in Rome. The location provided proximity to and drew resources from companies such as Fiat Chrysler Automotive, Gucci, Prada, Ferrari, Lamborghini and Maserati. The academy featured an estimated 27 different guest speakers from companies such as Google, Unity Technologies, Fiat Chrysler and Ferrari. Students had the opportunity to launch new innovations, gain insights into the startup life, and receive mentoring from 150 different educators and business professionals.
“I wanted to learn both the technical and philosophical approach to building a small business. I will apply it to a venture of my own one day or use it for general knowledge that might be helpful if I wish to invest in ventures in the future,” McIntyre said. “It was so exciting to go abroad and meet people from all over the world. I have always wanted to build my own business, so being involved in a program like this and being abroad was just an opportunity I could not pass up.”
McIntyre and Carbone applied for the EIA program through the WVU business school, and were selected by a committee following the application and interview processes. The two, who worked as members of project teams at EIA, will each submit a two-page report upon their return on how they believe they have grown as a result of the experience.
“I hope to learn business strategies that I can use now and in the future. I want to know how a project team works, collaborates and achieves goals within a company,” said Carbone. “Being able to go to a conference dedicated on how to start your own company while experiencing all of the usual experiences that come with studying abroad is an incredible bonus! When I was notified I had been chosen for this program, I came to the conclusion that I was going to be able to learn and gain something much greater over my summer break that a typical internship wouldn't be able to offer me.”
McIntyre said, “The global aspect of the program is what makes it incredibly unique and allows for a broader range of skills and ideas to be brought to the table. International business and finance was a favorite subject of mine, so getting to learn about the economies of these places first hand was incredible.”