An Invitation to Innovate for the Forrester Venture Fellows

Gordon’s First-Year Fellows program comprises three cohorts: Venture Fellows, Justice Fellows and Ministry Fellows. Each is a one-year experiential program for a small group of students who were invited to apply during the Admissions process. Participants’ first year at Gordon presents many opportunities to delve into their topic—such as regular group meetings, service in the local community, mentoring relationships, lunches with visiting speakers, and spring break trips that epitomize each program’s mission.

“It was fast-paced learning built in with slow intentional community and wonderful information that spanned all parts of faith, life and business,” says Aaron Lewis ’20, a business administration major, of his spring break trip to San Francisco as a Forrester Venture Fellow.

That might be said of the entire yearlong program, in which a select cohort of first-year students of any major (chosen during the Admissions process) learn about entrepreneurship, sharpen their creative thinking skills and build connections with other students, mentors and even potential employers.

The group participates in a range of fun and challenging activities, including an autumn mud run in nearby Ipswich, and formal events like the MassChallenge finals. On campus, they meet and learn from a range of entrepreneurs and executives, and have full access to all CEL-related activities—“from classrooms to competitions to speakers to Open Coffee, a weekly event featuring local entrepreneurs,” says Dr. Carter Crockett, director of the Forrester Venture Fellows and the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership (CEL).

“Every month we share a meal together, where we pick a topic and discuss things that don’t come up in class, like how to deal with failure, how to do networking, and building teamwork, innovation and entrepreneurial virtues.”

Since its inception in the 2015–16 school year, the program has been enhanced with added experiences and opportunities. This past year, students were each paired with a mentor from the previous year’s cohort and had opportunities to meet individually with Stephanie Antonucci ’15, who began working for CEL this year as program manager.

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These events build a foundation for learning and community, which culminates in the spring break trip. During a week in San Francisco and Silicon Valley, the group hears from 34 speakers in 23 organizations, including Facebook, Apple, Omnicell and Not For Sale.

“I loved getting to see and hear from people in a wide array of organizations,” says Sophia Barcelo ’20, a kinesiology major. She appreciated seeing “so many different organizations in different stages of growth and where and how they are working to grow.”

Gordon is the only Christian college that offers this type of program, which has a uniquely “vocational bent,” says Dr. Crockett—though it’s not limited to a specific vocation, or to launching any particular type of organization.

Entrepreneurship “could be just as appropriate for nonprofit leaders and church planters as it is for business leaders,” he says. “We don’t think of entrepreneurship as a job, or even a process, so much as a way of thinking,” so “it really does apply to any student trying to find ways to animate their convictions, to make a lasting impact.”

Daniel Quint’s ’19 venture experience reflects that perspective. He learned that “if you have the will to make your own business and are courageous enough to try it, it doesn’t matter what you’re into. If you’re interested in psychology or you’re interested in sales, any major can do this.”

The companionship of peers who share interests and passion is also a key component of the program’s success. Dr. Crockett notes that Forrester Venture Fellows “have the added confidence of knowing nine others like them, and that encourages them to keep their dreams alive.”

See a video of the Forrester Venture Fellows’ spring break trip to San Francisco >

Article by Morgan Clayton ’19, history
Video by Forrester Venture Fellow David Walczak ’20