Kent State student receives fellowship for entrepreneurial skills

Robin Bonatesta

Robin Bonatesta

Andrew Bugel

Junior computer science and fashion merchandising major Robin Bonatesta was the first Kent State student named a University Innovation Fellow by the National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation in October.

The program, directed by Stanford University and VentureWell and funded by the National Science Foundation, allows students in engineering and related fields to think entrepreneurially and create opportunities for projects, clubs and workshops at their universities.

Bonatesta said she enrolled in the program this past summer.

“J.R. Campbell, who is the director of the fashion school, just came back from a conference in Boston, and he emailed me telling me I am going to apply and that he was going to sponsor me,” Bonatesta said.

When Campbell went to the Boston conference, he learned a little bit about VentureWell and its work with student fellows.

Campbell said Kent State never had students apply before because the program focused on students with links between engineering and business.

“It sounded like a platform that would give an opportunity for a student from Kent State to investigate things we know we already want to find out more about,” Campbell said. “With Robin already working as a computer science and fashion merchandising double major, she seemed like the perfect student to sponsor.”

Bonatesta said she agreed that it made sense for her to apply for the position.

“It is right up my alley between all of the Hackathon stuff that I do, but then I’m also very involved with Blackstone LaunchPad and the fashion school,” Bonatesta said.

Fellowship training for the program lasted six weeks, where Bonatesta worked and kept in touch with the directors. She said the program training was intense and difficult.

“All throughout the program we had weekly assignments and video chats where we would talk about innovation spaces, design thinking and business models,” Bonatesta said.

Bonatesta had to create a product pitch for one project she wanted to do on her campus that showed entrepreneurial skills and innovation change.

Her pitch was creating a co-working space where people can rent a desk for a semester or year and have an office where they can go whenever they want to work or study.

After passing the course, she was awarded the fellowship.

Julie Messing, executive director of entrepreneurship initiatives at Kent State, also sponsored Bonatesta and said she is happy for her and all she accomplished.

“I am extremely proud of Robin,” Messing said. “She has represented Kent State very well, working with peer students from all over to create an innovation culture across campuses.”

Bonatesta said she is honored to be recognized as a fellow, but it is not the title itself that she is satisfied with.

“For me, it isn’t about the award and honor,” Bonatesta said. “It is about this movement and getting other students onboard about spreading the word.”

Contact Andrew Bugel at [email protected].

Editor’s Note (Nov. 14, 2014): Due to an editor’s error, Bonatesta was incorrectly called a senior instead of a junior. The story has been updated to correct this error.