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Mixing business, philanthropy: ASU freshman finds winning recipe

October 22, 2013

Editor's Note: This story is part of an ongoing series about student excellence at the university. To read more about some of ASU's outstanding students, click here.

Two years ago, Gilbert resident and Campo Verde High School student Austin Walker read the book “Start Something That Matters.” Authored by TOMS Shoes founder Blake Mycoskie, the book discussed the power of incorporating philanthropy in business. The idea struck Walker as genius.

“Showing kindness and being selfless is rewarding but not many people find the time to help others,” Walker says. “I’ve always wanted to make a difference, so being able to give to people while making a living sounded like a no-brainer.”

Hoping to pursue a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering and start a venture of his own, Walker applied to Arizona State University and the University of Arizona. He ultimately chose the College of Technology and Innovation (CTI) at ASU’s Polytechnic campus due to its strong emphasis on learning and discovery, centered on entrepreneurship and innovation.

“I met one of my engineering professors, CTI’s Micah Lande, even before I joined ASU and expressed to him an interest in becoming an entrepreneur,” the first-time freshman says. “The ability to converse with someone who has the expertise and experience to guide me on this path drew me to CTI. I am already forming lifelong business and personal connections.”

To hit the ground running, Walker has joined the MAKE Your Ideas Happen class during his first semester at ASU. It is an introductory course open to any undergraduate student who wishes to be an entrepreneur, inventor or innovative problem-solver.

“In August, the class was divided into groups of four or five students who shared similar interests and ideas for a project or business,” he says. “So far, our team has finished small-scale prototyping and is waiting on an investment from the college to develop a full-size working prototype of our product. We hope that it will be implemented in the developing world by next year.”

To maintain a balance between realizing his dream of becoming an entrepreneur and doing well in college, Walker is concentrating on his classes while building his product prototype.

“I’m trying not to get overwhelmed with school work and taking one day at a time,” he says. “It’s important for me to stay balanced to remain focused on my goal of establishing my own business in the near future.”

Experiencing college in all its challenging, yet uplifting glory is perhaps more valuable to Walker than many of his classmates, since he and his twin sister Alexandria Walker, who is majoring in suppy chain management and computer information systems at ASU’s W. P. Carey School of Business, are the first in their immediate family to attend college.

“It is exciting as well as nerve-racking to be the first college students in the family,” he says. “Our parents make themselves available to help both of us, whether it be studying for the next big exam or just bouncing off ideas for my engineering projects. They insist that we excel and succeed in college. No excuses are allowed.”

Five years from now, Walker sees himself traveling overseas as part of his business strategy and performing service work in countries that are affected by poverty and disaster.

“I feel like it’s my time to impact the world and being at ASU is the starting point that I have been waiting for.”