UT Dallas Institute Wins Education Award for Program for Middle-School Girls

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The Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at The University of Texas at Dallas has been recognized by the Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers for its efforts to instill entrepreneurial mindsets in middle-school girls.

At its 25th annual conference held Oct. 13-16, the consortium — which includes more than 200 universities among its membership — honored the institute in the “Excellence in Specialty Entrepreneurship Education” category for Innovate(her), a full-day conference that immerses middle-school girls in concepts such as technology, finance, innovation and entrepreneurship.

Based at the Naveen Jindal School of Management, the institute offers a variety of programs and events in which students, staff, faculty, alumni and community members can participate to learn how to launch a business.

“We are honored to be recognized among the best entrepreneurship centers in the world,” said Dresden Goldberg, director of programs and operations at the institute. “The Innovate(her) program engages middle-school girls early on to inspire them to consider careers in STEM and entrepreneurship.”

From left: Sarah Jane Murdock, IIE project coordinator; Dresden Goldberg, IIE director of programs and operations, and Sarah Crowe, IIE marketing communications manager, with the consortium award

Since its inception in 2018, the Innovate(her) program has served more than 700 students with the support of volunteers and its sponsor, Capital One. According to Goldberg, the program evolves every year.

Computer coding at Innovate(her) 2019

Workshops at the 2021 event included computer coding, college readiness, creative problem-solving, financial concepts such as budgeting saving and investing, personal branding and storytelling. Participants were mentored by UT Dallas students, business owners and corporate professionals who spent the entire day with their middle-school protégés.

Inspiring Girls to Think About Their Futures

Mentors for the Innovate(her) annual event are recruited through the UT Dallas network of mentors as well as through Capital One Business Resource Groups for Women and Women in Technology and professional organizations, Goldberg said. A wide variety of careers and interests are represented to give the middle schoolers more opportunities to meet someone who inspires them.

Innovate(her) 2019

“This kind of interaction is essential for inspiring the girls to think about their futures and introducing them to careers they may not have previously considered.” Goldberg said. “We continually look for ways to improve our program offerings to ensure that they are relevant, interesting and effective for that age group.”

Goldberg said that the institute has had similar programs in the past, but program administrators found that having a full-day conference-style event is the most effective way to reach middle-school students who typically range from 11 to 14 years old.

“Attendee interest in STEM and entrepreneurship increases by 15% to 30% just from engaging in this one-day conference,” she said. “It is truly rewarding to know we are making such an impact.”

Jimmie R. Markham

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