Two Syracuse University students have been named LaunchPad Todd B. Rubin Innovation and Diversity Scholars, funded through a generous gift from Todd B. Rubin ’04 School of Architecture, Minister of Evolution and President of the Republic of Tea. The students will work to broaden diversity and inclusion outreach and programming, expand participation in entrepreneurship by underrepresented groups, and support the LaunchPad’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.
Andrew Kim is a third-year Whitman student studying Marketing and Entrepreneurship at Syracuse. His parents immigrated from South Korea to San Francisco, CA in the 90s and eventually moved to Los Angeles where he was born. He grew up in a diverse environment surrounded by many cultures.
Coming to Syracuse University, however, he was a little nervous about the major change in scenery and the new types of people he would encounter. “I struggled to interact with individuals who had completely different backgrounds than me but I continued pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I then met amazing people through various opportunities and eventually found myself at Blackstone LaunchPad. Here, I have been able to work with incredible people and am excited I can extend my efforts as one of the new Todd B. Rubin DEI scholars.”
Andrew notes that the landscape of entrepreneurship has grown over the years as people have realized their own potential. “I feel there is a misconception that entrepreneurship is chased by a specific group of individuals, but I believe that anyone and everyone can become their own boss.
“As a DEI scholar, my plan is to change the narrative of start-up culture and expand on the inclusive and diverse world of innovation. My goal is to create a welcoming environment within the Blackstone LaunchPad where all personalities and ethnicities can feel accepted and confident to face challenges that can be overwhelming. I understand that society has proven to glorify the majority and isolate the minority, but I hope students can come join me and the rest of Blackstone LaunchPad on a journey to experience community, passion, and diversity.”
One of Kim’s first projects will be to lead the LaunchPad’s Idea Competition — “Startup in a Day” — on Friday, October 7. His goal is to engage students from across campus, and particularly those from underrepresented groups, to feel welcome taking the first step and explore the realm of innovation, ideation, and team-building. He is leading a steering committee to create a wide-ranging outreach effort to achieve that goal. Learn more about that here.
Ethan Tyo, grew up on the Mohawk reservation of Akwesasne, and as a Syracuse student, came to re-appreciate the rich and long-established cultural traditions of the Mohawk people to plan, harvest, and prepare their food from the earth. As an undergraduate he published his first cookbook, building on his interests in food and lifestyle have been with him for a long time. This past week, he was featured in the New York Times and Seattle Times, earning the distinction of being published as the “recipe of the day.”
During his undergraduate time at SU’s School of Information Studies, Tyo realized that he had a strong interest in food since 2015 when he was studying abroad in London. He gravitated to a plant-based diet as a matter of interest and personal health, exploring “a whole new world of color” and understanding the importance of nutrition and lifestyle, he said.
With a strong interest in food and a willingness to promote a healthy lifestyle, Tyo decided to pursue his graduate degree, focusing on food systems on a larger scale and the history of food because the food systems have developed and released in such a “fascinating way.”
That led to Ethan re-engaging with his heritage, creating Pete’s Giving Garden the culmination of the graduate practicum for his food studies degree. In addition to providing fresh food for the University’s food pantries in Hendricks Chapel and on South Campus, Pete’s Giving Garden supports new ways of teaching and learning.
Tyo recognized an opportunity to grow food not only in a sustainable manner, but in a way that honors the traditions and culture of the Onondaga Nation, firekeepers of the Haudenosaunee, the Indigenous people on whose ancestral lands Syracuse University now stands. “The ‘three sisters’–corn, beans, and squash—are foundational foods that gave rise to the strength and resilience of the Haudenosaunee people. Thousands of years of traditional ecological knowledge and expertise have cultivated our relationship to the land and our survival,” says Tyo. “Returning these seeds to our ancestral lands is a step towards acknowledging that relationship and the contributions that Indigenous peoples have made throughout history.”
Tyo will be working with the LaunchPad to create more outreach and engagement around indigenous students at Syracuse, framing an “Indigepreneur” program, helping students from the Onondaga Nation, as well as other First Nations, think about innovation in ways that align with the Haudenosaunee ways of being. He is strongly focused on cultural revitalization and how innovation can be brought to that mission. This is especially important for rural indigenous communities as a tool for the creation of new ventures by Indigenous people for the benefit of Indigenous people, for the benefit of the community.
Recent research demonstrates that Indigenous entrepreneurship is a driver of social innovation.
“Entrepreneurship is an enabler of social, economic, and technological progress, and can be an avenue to support cultural foundations of Indigenous communities,” according to a 2022 article in The Conversation, an on-line journal recognized in academic and literary circles. “Indigenous entrepreneurs and their businesses are drivers of social innovation because they are often embedded in family, social values, and networks. This can assist with employment opportunities and business promotion. In our research we have found much potential for Indigenous businesses to embed their respective cultures and creativity into their work and further grow the Indigenous start-up sector, which could be of great benefit to Indigenous communities.”
Tyo says he is excited about the possibilities of working through the LaunchPad with diverse populations across campus and using his skills as a storyteller and educator to highlight students from non-traditional backgrounds, as well as bring new students from many cultures into Syracuse University’s innovation community.