October 01, 2016

By Amanda O’Rourke

High school students from the Northeast and beyond were at Susquehanna this summer for the 25th annual Leadership Institute for Entrepreneurship (LIFE) program.

Alumna Lauren Elsasser ’13 Smith co-directed the program with Marsha Kelliher, dean of the Sigmund Weis School of Business.

“The program is meant to introduce students to entrepreneurship by having a lot of local entrepreneurs, some alumni, some not, come in and explain their story,” Smith says. “And we really encourage the speakers to tell the students about their mistakes and what they learned from them.”

At the program’s outset, students (entering grades 10 through 12) participate in a video game called GoVenture, which requires them to make decisions ranging from business related moves to such minutiae as deciding when to go to bed—all to give them an idea of the life of a business owner.

From there, they hear from various entrepreneurs, including Susquehanna alumni.

Amanda Nichols ’09, who owns a wedding photography business, discussed branding and took head shots of the students.

Philip DiMuro ’12, a business administration major while at Susquehanna, and David Phellan ’12, who majored in finance and global management, discussed the creation of Loople, a crowd-sourced mobile application that helps users find food and drink specials, happy hours and live music in their respective cities.

Senior economics major Courtney Conrad also participated as a program leader. She was assisted by sophomore Briana Johnson, a luxury brand marketing and management major from Brookline, N.H., and first-year student Nicole Grant, a marketing and political science major from Cherry Hill, N.J.

This year’s site visits took students to Knoebels Amusement Resort, founded 90 years ago, and the Rusty Rail Brewing Co., which opened just two years ago.

“Knoebels is a story of really raw entrepreneurship and it’s a family business,” Smith says. “With Rusty Rail, there is an investor behind the managers, so the students got to see two very different business models.”

The weeklong program culminated with a Shark Tanklike project that had students make a business pitch to a panel of judges. The winning group received $100 per group member.

Not only is the program preparing participants for college, but it is also drawing them to Susquehanna’s Sigmund Weis School of Business. While on campus recently, Smith even spotted two former LIFE participants in the first-year Global Business Perspectives class.

“It’s just really great to see that these programs are impacting students,” Smith says. “And it’s resulting in students who are excited about business and who are very prepared for their freshman business class; they have a leg up.”