The unwarranted killing of George Floyd and injustices perpetrated against so many members of the Black community is part of an evil that needs to be rooted out of our society. Institutional and individual racism, violence, discrimination and bias have played a terrible role throughout the history of our country. As a result, Black members of our society have been forced to endure disproportionate amounts of fear, pain, grief and conflict.
It is incumbent upon us as fellow citizens and especially as educators to respond to and act on the call for change occurring around the country and the world. It is heartening to see many famous corporations and other institutions, who have often stayed silent on these matters, come out directly with statements of support and promises for changing their own behaviors. You will by now also have received statements from Honors College, UGST, your home colleges of your major, and the university leadership, including President-Designate Pines. It is vitally important that these statements are followed by new attitudes, sustained actions, and systemic changes.
Through attitude and actions, entrepreneurship and innovative approaches have the power to create positive change and opportunities. Unfortunately, there are barriers that hinder many Black entrepreneurs from launching ventures, gaining resources and succeeding at the same levels as those with white, male and other types of privilege. Much of this is caused by systemic racial bias, in part due to the history of racial economic wealth disparity. Moreover, this economic disparity between white and Black households has accelerated over the past four decades.
We must also acknowledge the racial discrimination present in our own industry of higher education. At EIP, we have welcomed any eligible Honors College student who is interested in entrepreneurship, regardless of race or ethnicity. However, we know that there are systemic inequities in the resources that equip individuals to reach the level necessary to become an Honors College student in the first place. Though we are a small part of the University of Maryland, we will continue to support its efforts to increase diversity, remediate discrimination, create equal opportunities and eradicate racism on campus.
EIP as a program is also undertaking its own reflection and developing actions to uphold these intentions. We as a program and as individuals are not exempt from our own practices and attitudes that may have negatively impacted our students and their experiences. It is crucial that we hear all voices and that we leverage the diversity of our community and ideas to create positive change in our program and in our world. Though we are not welcoming any new cohorts, we are developing tangible ways to uphold the above intentions to fight against racism for our existing 10 cohorts of students and alumni, both in the classroom and in our community.
From its beginning and initial design, EIP has embedded the use of business ventures and approaches to help create positive impact in the world. Many students and teams have used our course opportunities to work on structural societal issues of inequity in education, food access, housing, employment and finance in underserved and under-supported communities that have been discriminated against or otherwise biased against. To encourage the continuation of this work beyond the classroom, we will be increasing support for (and specifically allocating funding for) ventures, projects and programs that focus directly on addressing inequities based on race and other forms of discrimination. More details to follow. Your input and suggestions are welcome.
We will also continue to work collaboratively with partners both on and off campus to provide further support and leverage their additional resources. As a reminder, current EIP student ventures in these and other areas are eligible to apply to Mtech’s Citrin Impact Seed Fund. The Impact Seed Fund offers grants, in $500 to $5,000 increments, to students who present business plans for new companies that benefit society. For those who have completed Terp Tank in HEIP241, your final report is well-aligned with the application for these grants, and we encourage you to take advantage of them. More information is available here. Please reach out to us with questions and for assistance with your seed fund application.
There is much to learn from the experiences and ideas of our own students, including upperclassmen, and alumni. As we teach in design thinking, the first step is building empathy and greater understanding. One way to do this is via discussion panels to better understand the lived experience of Black members of our community. We are planning to hold a forum with students and alumni in the coming weeks to begin to specifically address racism, discrimination and bias and how it has impacted their personal, academic and professional lives. To start, we have begun to invite a few alumni for this panel. If you have a desire to be on this panel, please contact us.
We will be creating a variety of other opportunities to share the perspectives of anyone interested in contributing and advancing ideas and solutions for these issues, as well as strengthen our own individual understanding and approaches. Moving forward, our events newsletter will include items regarding racial bias and discrimination, resources for students of color, impacts of COVID-19, mental health, self-care, and more as we continue to navigate this critical point of change. Your suggestions and contributions are essential as we need to hear, share and amplify all different voices. Please forward any resources or events you would like added to the newsletter to email@example.com.
Lastly, as proponents of education and lifelong learning, we as your staff will continue to listen, learn, self-evaluate, self-correct, and stay informed of injustices on campus, in our community, across the country, and throughout the world. As a staff that benefits from various forms of privilege, we know that we cannot truly understand the discrimination and biases that all Black people and other racial minorities face in our society and the damage it causes on so many levels. Regardless, we stand with you and will fight to create a space that is equal, safe, and beneficial to our Black students.
Our students past and present are our most important "stakeholders". We care about you and your well-being in all aspects. We welcome any input and ideas to help our EIP family create meaningful connections, mutual support systems, and learning opportunities. Please feel free to reach out to any of us and know that you will be met with a safe space to discuss or share. We are here for you with open ears and open hearts.
Jay Smith, Director
Katherine Zmoda, Specialist
Le-Marie Thompson, Lecturer
John Jabara, Lecturer
Ryan Elza, Social Entrepreneur-in-Residence
Peter Sandborn, Faculty Director, EIP and Director, Mtech