At any given day in the LaunchPad over the past four years it has been open, you might have walked in and seen a dozen or more different activities. People are sitting at tables furiously tapping away at their computers, partners are writing down wild schemes on blackboards, mentors are hosting coaching sessions or information seminars, and groups are bouncing their ambitious ideas of one another.
Another thing you might have seen is a student filming all of this hard work, imagination and ingenuity blossoming in the glass cube at Bird Library. A creative entrepreneur with a camera and recording equipment might have been interviewing students on their thoughts, filming startup videos for student ventures, or figuring out how to best capture the spirit of collaboration, warmth and laugher that defines the LaunchPad community.
As the LaunchPad’s Global Media Fellow and digital storyteller, Will DeVito ’20 (Newhouse) is moving on to creating the next chapter in his own story. Now it is our turn to tell a story about Will that captures his experiences and reflections on what it means to be an integral part of the LaunchPad family.
DeVito was introduced to the LaunchPad through a EEE70 class he took with Linda Hartsock at Whitman several years ago and went on to pitch the clever idea he developed in class for “Bonfire in a Bin” in campus competitions. His own personal charisma and art of story telling was captivating. He became the LaunchPad’s digital storyteller and videographer over a year ago, and in that time, it has become so much more than a job or workplace. “It wasn’t just work. It was a place where I hung out and I also just happened to work there. It’s more than just a few hours a week for a job. It is an identity for me. It’s a place where I can branch out and share ideas.”
Through the LaunchPad DeVito feels like he has found a community ‑ a niche where he is free to explore ideas, share his thoughts with others, and become inspired from the constant creativity generated. It’s also helped him with his own professional and personal development, creating his own side hustle, WD40 Productions. Through his work as videographer for the LaunchPad, he’s made connections that have enabled him to film videos for other companies. This past spring semester was the first time he had so many work opportunities that he had to say no to some of them, which is a welcome sign of success and many open doors.
Though DeVito doesn’t think of himself as an entrepreneur who will eventually start his own company, the innovation skills he’s learned through the LaunchPad have been invaluable to him in his own pursuits. During his time at Syracuse, he’s produced several student-run comedy shows and the social and initiative skills essential to entrepreneurship have been essential to him as well. DeVito is an example that entrepreneurship isn’t just for those who study business or dream of starting their own company, but as a way to learn innovation and ingenuity as skills sets to build a better career pathway.
DeVito hopes to take the creative skills he’s gained during his time at the LaunchPad and utilize them for his career now that he’s graduated. His current goal is to work in the entertainment industry in New York City, with dreams of helping produce comedy shows. “Humor has always been my favorite thing. I always loved trying to be the class clown.”
While live entertainment is an industry that is unfortunately on pause during the current COVID-19 pandemic, the ability to pivot and self-start work is an example of DeVito’s own inventiveness and enterprise. So, he is being ingenious about how to continue to produce digital content.
Through the uncertainty and missed graduation experiences due to COVID-19, DeVito is grateful for the LaunchPad as a connected community. He attributes it to being one of the first campus resources to adapt quickly to remote work and remain a source of support and inspiration for other students as well as himself. “Being a senior, all of this has taken time to digest, but the LaunchPad has helped lighten that fall. It’s been a nice little parachute.”
Looking forward, DeVito is disappointed at the way graduating students have had to say goodbye to their campus communities, but he knows that the LaunchPad will always be a welcoming home for him even when his time at Syracuse is long past. “Even though I’m leaving feeling I have unfinished business, I know there is always a place to come back to when I’m at Syracuse.”
DeVito’s video tribute to the warm home that the LaunchPad has become for so many students is a testament to the welcoming, supporting, and loving close-knit network of the Blackstone LaunchPad.
You can find his other videos on the Blackstone LaunchPad video channel.
Though the LaunchPad is sad to say goodbye to our seniors, we know they are moving forward and writing incredible new chapters, and the “nest in Bird” is always a home for them to return, with roots and wings, to stay connected and share their triumphs.
And we hope Will comes home often.
Story by Blackstone LaunchPad Global Media Fellow Claire Howard Photo of Will behind the camera by LaunchPad staff behind the camera. Here’s looking at you, Will!