undergraduate woman in therapy office for internship

EQUIP-ing Undergraduates with an Innovation Mindset—and the Tools for Success

Quick Summary

  • Program helps UC Davis undergraduates develop an innovation mindset and to experience entrepreneurship through an internship at a local startup.
  • EQUIP nurtures students’ leadership development.
  • Cultivating a network of fellow students, mentors and business leaders is key.

“It does not take a genius to create something of high value, but instead dedication to the process and grit to push oneself beyond the mundane. We are all capable of being an entrepreneur, in some form or another, if we apply the right tools and empower the creator inside us.”

​—Sana Karimi | Sociology Major

Computer science major Andy (Che-An) Wu has dreamed of combining his love of computers with starting a business ever since his family moved from Taiwan to Silicon Valley seven years ago. As a high school student, Wu and a friend founded a tutoring company and donated the $3,000 profit to the Sankara Eye Foundation to sponsor 87 eye surgeries in rural India.

Today Wu’s goal to become “a tech-entrepreneur who strives to redefine possibilities and better society with technological innovations” is taking shape, thanks to his experiences in Entrepreneurship Quest: Undergraduate Internship Program (EQUIP). The 2018/19 pilot program was designed to help UC Davis undergraduates develop an innovation mindset and to experience entrepreneurship through an internship at a local startup.

Andy (CHe-an) Wu standing
Andy (CHe-An) Wu's internship at nMVP Fastlane working with a team of 20 top-notch software engineers "is allowing me to deepen my technical skills and work on large and impactful projects. I also have the chance to work alongside the founders and learn what it takes to successfully start and run a company."

A new approach to innovation and entrepreneurship education

EQUIP drew students from across campus and fields of study, from the humanities to the social sciences to STEM.

“Innovation and startups occur in a broad array of arenas, and there are roles for students from diverse academic backgrounds,” says Janice Morand, associate director of the UC Davis Internship and Career Center. “We know that building a great team in a startup is key to success. And, in the startup environment one must consider many perspectives and wear many hats. When diverse voices work on a problem and contribute to the discussion, better decisions are made. This results in stronger solutions.”

“Today’s graduating students are measured on their ability to recognize emerging opportunities, develop innovative solutions, demonstrate individual initiative, and work in and lead teams to bring those solutions to life.”

—Professor Andrew Hargadon

EQUIP nurtured the students’ leadership development as they cultivated a network of fellow students, mentors and business leaders.

Throughout fall 2018 and winter 2019, 18 EQUIP Scholars attended workshops that addressed design thinking, resume writing, networking, strengths and leadership, how to be successful in an internship, and professionalism. The students also heard from entrepreneurial guest speakers and panels; engaged in hands-on activities, including practice pitching a business idea at the Davis Farmers Market; participated in the university’s Fall Internship and Career Fair; and attended Think. Do. Discover., the annual UC Davis innovation and entrepreneurship conference.

With these experiences under their belts, in the spring the students experienced a first-hand immersion in entrepreneurship and applied their new understanding of themselves and their career goals through internships at local startups and other innovative companies.

Resources within, on campus and beyond

For biomedical engineering junior Karenna Rehorn EQUIP was about learning to tap into resources—at UC Davis and in herself.

A junior studying biomedical engineering with an emphasis in cellular and tissue engineering, Rehorn hopes to focus her career on helping individuals with autoimmune disorders.

An internship at Evolve BioSystems offered Rehorn a valuable opportunity to learn tissue culturing and refine her general lab skills. Applying her new confidence and skills when interviewing helped her land upper-leadership positions at the campus BioInnovation Group, which maintains an open lab space for students to gain laboratory skills, design thinking and professional development.

“I discovered that I have many of the tools and skills to be successful present within me already. EQUIP showed me how to channel and implement them to further my career. It not only gave me confidence in my natural skills but showed me what I could improve on so that I can reach higher.”

Karenna Rehorn | Biomedical Engineering Major

Results that speak for themselves

Success can be measured in many ways. The Internship and Career Center staff administered pre- and post-program surveys to assess changes in the students’ knowledge and perceptions of innovation and entrepreneurship; changes in their career confidence; and how they perceived their strengths in career and life skills such as networking, interviewing, taking initiative and leading. 

But for the EQUIP Scholars, the program’s success was self-evident.

Meet Our EQUIP Scholars

undergraduate woman in academic building with pen and notebook

“I will continue to put myself in uncomfortable situations in regards to my education and career to allow myself to grow. I have the ability to do whatever I desire to do, and EQUIP reminded me of that. If you never try, the answer is always no.”

—Munirah Talib-Din | Economics Major

undergraduate man in coffee lab

“I hope to be a leader in a dynamic, progressive company. EQUIP has given me the confidence to take those first steps in initiating a business or managing a group or department. The speakers talked and demonstrated how we can change the world with time and effort, regardless of the challenges that need to be overcome.”

—Reece Guyon | Chemical Engineering Major

undergraduate woman standing in an academic building

“Learning how to apply innovation in my life will definitely shape my professional future. By using innovative approaches that can be used to develop a product and applying that to my own dynamic career, I will continue to learn how to adapt my future to my interests and passions.”

— Allisa Tran B.S. 19 | Biotechnology

undergraduate man in race car engineering lab

“A lot of the panelists and speakers talked about how they stumbled upon a startup idea, came across an internship role that they were not initially considering, or solved a problem that they were not intending to at first, but went ahead with the situation anyway. By staying flexible and adapting to a new situation, they found unexpected success.”

—Shail Trivedi | ​Mechanical Engineering Major

undergraduate woman in a lab, wearing white lab coat
Karenna Rehorn's EQUIP experiences have prepared her “to lead a team to impact the way we treat autoimmune disorders.”

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