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Blackstone LaunchPad program to support student entrepreneurship skills

ASU, Blackstone Charitable Foundation, Maricopa Community Colleges partner to provide training, internship opportunities to strengthen local talent pipelines

Room full of students, leaders and supporters listen at an event

Maricopa County Community College District Chancellor Steven Gonzales, ASU Provost Nancy Gonzales, Tempe Mayor Corey Woods, Blackstone Charitable Foundation Senior Vice President Erica Lock, students and community supporters listen to Blackstone Charitable Foundation Executive Director Maura Pally announce a grant to establish the Blackstone LaunchPad program at ASU. Photo courtesy: Eban Straker-Meads/ASU Enterprise Partners

May 01, 2024

The Blackstone Charitable Foundation has awarded a $1 million grant to establish its signature Blackstone LaunchPad program at Arizona State University, and an additional grant to fund paid summer internships at local startups for 30 students enrolled at ASU and the 10 Maricopa Community Colleges.

Interested students should apply by May 5 for the summer internship. Opportunities are also available at Blackstone and select companies in its portfolio.

Blackstone LaunchPad seeks to close the opportunity gap by equipping college students with entrepreneurial skills and career exposure to advance economic mobility. The program, launched in 2021, was originally formed with a focus on entrepreneurship and helping students become the job creators of tomorrow. It provides tools for experiential learning through which students can gain key skills that employers want to see.

“ASU is committed to advancing a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship among our students, and we are grateful to the Blackstone Charitable Foundation for its generous support and partnership. The Blackstone LaunchPad program will enhance our existing ecosystem of entrepreneurial support and education and provide the resources and networks that our students need to succeed in the rapidly changing world of work,” said Sally C. Morton, executive vice president of ASU’s Knowledge Enterprise.

Blackstone LaunchPad’s collaboration with ASU’s J. Orin Edson Entrepreneurship + Innovation Institute and Maricopa Community Colleges offers regular workshops, networking and pitch events, internship opportunities and other skill-building resources. The program is free and available to all enrolled college students, regardless of major or experience.

“We believe entrepreneurial skills help set students up for future career success. Blackstone LaunchPad could not ask for better partners than ASU and MCCCD, institutions deeply committed to reaching students where they are and preparing them for bright futures. We look forward to our partnership rooted in a shared vision to provide students with the resources and critical thinking they need to be successful in any career,” said Blackstone Charitable Foundation Executive Director Maura Pally.

“The Blackstone LaunchPad platform provides a network for students to hone their creativity, curiosity, critical thinking and leadership skills so they can be more competitive and confident in today’s job market,” said Lauren Dunning, LaunchPad program director at ASU. “There’s been an evolution away from what's that one career path you want toward what are the skills you want to develop. That skillset and perspective of being entrepreneurial and having an innovative approach to your life is valuable for whatever your future career path is.”

The Edson institute's mission is to help students be entrepreneurial and pursue their ideas. The LaunchPad enables them to gain entrepreneurial skills earlier in the process and broaden their network earlier with the inclusion of Blackstone and students from Maricopa Community Colleges.

“With 10 colleges and 31 satellite locations, situated across the Valley, Maricopa Community Colleges are meeting students where they are at — providing pathways to endless opportunities through our innovative program offerings,” said Maricopa County Community College District Chancellor Steven R. Gonzales. “This partnership with Blackstone LaunchPad will open new doors, promote entrepreneurial spirit and help students make valuable contributions within their own communities.”

Any enrolled ASU or community college student from any discipline can join the ASU LaunchPad anytime by signing up through the website. Time commitments will vary by activity, enabling students to engage through the network. Some virtual events will be held during the summer. Fall programs will include five to six monthly programs and events, allowing students to choose which ones they want to explore.

“What’s exciting about the LaunchPad is there’s not one version of what success will look like, but the hope is that students will feel more prepared for whatever that future is, more connected to community and more aware of how innovation and entrepreneurship are relevant to them as skills,” Dunning said.

Acacia Barnett, program manager for Blackstone LaunchPad at ASU and founder of two businesses and a nonprofit organization, said the Blackstone LaunchPad provides students an opportunity to seek advice and learn valuable insights while exploring career paths and entrepreneurship — something she wishes she had access to when she was a student entrepreneur.

“Even more so now, I understand the importance of networking, continued education and seeking mentorship in the business world,” said Barnett who earned a bachelor’s degree in tourism development and management from ASU in 2013 and will earn her master’s degree in architecture from ASU this spring.

“There’s always something new to learn and gain from the insights and experiences of others, and programs like LaunchPad support students in navigating the complexities of entrepreneurship.”

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