Many students at Trinity University are on their way toward entrepreneurial pursuits during and after college. A new grant from the 80/20 Foundation and partnership with Geekdom will connect those students to local startups where they can get real world experience, as well as a larger appreciation for San Antonio’s innovation ecosystem.
The Students + Startups program will place 30 students with tech startups for summer internships.
Each student will be eligible to receive a stipend of $4,000 for a 10-week, full-time internship. The internship will also cover the cost of on-campus housing and tuition for one academic credit hour. The total cost per internship will be split between the 80/20 Foundation grant and the local startup companies selected for the program.
An email sent to local startups, including The Rivard Report, advertised the cost of the interns at $5/hour. It is a start-up friendly rate, indeed, and the quality of Trinity interns is widely known throughout the city. Full disclosure: The Rivard Report is considering participating in the new internship program as well, as its current and past interns from the midtown university have all turned out to be thorough, responsible, and talented.
“Trinity has historically been one of the fist places businesses in San Antonio have come to look for talent,” said Luis Martinez, director of Trinity’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
Most of those businesses are more established companies with wide recruitment nets, and many end up hiring their Trinity interns after graduation. Martinez hopes that the flexibility of Students + Startups will help tech startups take advantage of the Trinity talent pool.
A handful of Trinity graduates have been an important part of startups in San Antonio. The first hire at Techstars Cloud program was Trinity graduate Cole Wollak. Students have participated in 3 Day Start Up and other programs. By institutionalizing the internships, Martinez hopes to see talent pipeline connect to more tech companies themselves.
While some Trinity students are ready to begin their own startup journey building their own companies, others have the skills and passion to get in on the ground floor when they see a new idea that excites them. Trinity has many programs for the former type of student, including the $25,000 Stumberg Prize. Students + Startups will fill a practical need for the latter type, Martinez said.
Martinez is certain that as more startups see the value of the intern’s liberal arts education, more permanent relationships will follow. The ability to wear multiple hats and make connections between various company goals is something liberal arts students have been doing throughout their education. They are the kind of generalists whose value shows up in growing, changing environments.
“We think these students will be able to fulfill a special role in these companies,” Martinez said.
The 80/20 Foundation has been looking for ways to make that connection and develop a formal partnership with Trinity for years, said Executive Director Lorenzo Gomez.
When Gomez was in Detroit sitting on a panel for the City as a Startup conference, he met Quicken Loans chairman Dan Gilbert, whose massive internship initiative with students in the Detroit region is re-establishing the city as a place of opportunity and possibility for new graduates. Quicken is hardly a startup, but Gomez caught the vision for selling his city.
Students + Startups is a kind of beta test, and Gomez hopes to see the program expand.
“The big priority for me is trying to move students thinking that San Antonio is not the place they would consider having their career to imagining the career they could have in this ecosystem,” Gomez said.
Because 85% of Trinity students are not from San Antonio, many of them don’t have a deep connection to the exciting, but smaller corners of the job market and young professional culture. Trinity students are known for staying close to the “Trinity bubble,” and San Antonio’s most appealing opportunities are not always obvious.
“If you’re not in the know, you can be next door to something and not know it’s there,” Gomez said.
The summer internships will connect Trinity students to the real San Antonio, beyond the brochures, and put them in close proximity to the city’s most exciting new ideas.
“This is a phenomenal opportunity to get these young men and women from all over to world to see what amazing things are happening here,” Martinez said.
While the program will start small, with only 30 intern placements, Gomez hopes that these students will serve as ambassadors when they return to campus, not only for the program, but for the city.
“We’re hoping these students will have a great experience and go back and say there's some great stuff going on here,” said Gomez.
Top image: Trinity University students listen to the keynote speaker Ginger Kerrick during the Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics. Photo by Bria Woods.