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UTA focuses on entrepreneurship during annual Festival of Ideas

Monday, January 22, 2018 • Media Contact: Teresa Woodard Schnyder

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“The Entrepreneurial Spark in Liberal Arts” is the theme of The University of Texas at Arlington College of Liberal Arts’ annual Festival of Ideas.

The 2018 event will be held from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday, Feb. 9, in the E.H. Hereford University Center on the UTA campus. 

This year’s forum will feature a half day of thoughtful discussions about entrepreneurship by scholars and industry experts.

Elisabeth Cawthon, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, says while many people have ideas with the potential for success, only a tiny fraction have been able to develop those ideas into thriving businesses.

“It is only by moving from thought to action that people are able to make a difference in the real world,” Cawthon said. “Liberal arts graduates have a great base of training for turning an idea into something tangible. Whether in business, research or creative projects, we tend to understand what comes after the spark.”

The Festival of Ideas forum is made possible through UTA alumnus Mustaque Ahmed whose contribution helped the College of Liberal Arts launch its Festival of Ideas Global Research Institute. Ahmed’s vision for the annual festival was to create an outlet for students and the community to explore cultural and academic ideas together while highlighting impressive research initiatives within UTA and the College of Liberal Arts.

In accordance with UTA’s Strategic Plan 2020 Bold Solutions l Global Impact, the university focuses on transformational research in the areas of health and the human condition, sustainable urban communities, global environmental impact and data-driven discovery.

UTA has proven itself to be a haven for budding entrepreneurs. Over the past five years, more than 100 patents have been issued to UTA faculty and more than 25 technologies licensed to outside companies. Some 60 faculty and students are currently working on start-ups and more than 20 companies are developing around UTA.

The festival is expected to attract more than 300 attendees, including 180 students from the Arlington school district’s Dan Dipert Career and Technical Center and nearly 70 students from International Leadership of Texas.

The event includes four guest speakers who will give brief, dynamic addresses. There will be an opportunity for audience questions and interaction. Attendees also will visit interactive displays and entrepreneur-themed information tables presented by university organizations such as Pitch UTA, Wild Pony Editions and the Art Cart, known as cART. 

The guest speakers include Ryan Musselman, president of OpTic Gaming; Chris Christian, vice chairman and owner of the WNBA Dallas Wings as well as a songwriter and record producer; G. Scott Cook, coordinator of Studio CreaTec and UTA assistant professor of visual communication; and Payton Iheme, U.S. public policy manager at Facebook.

UTA alumna Payton Iheme is Facebook's U.S. public policy manager.

Iheme is a graduate of UTA’s College of Liberal Arts, having studied communication and military science.

“I truly value my time as a student at UTA in communication and ROTC,” Iheme said. “I am honored to share with my alma mater my views on innovation, diversity and the positive contributions that liberal arts graduates are able to make on the world.”

Professors within the College of Liberal Arts who are recent recipients of grants through the CoLA research initiative Liberal Arts + Smart Revolution, or iLASR, also will provide overviews of their projects.

David Arditi, assistant professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, will present an overview of his local music archive MusicDetour, which gives local musicians a platform to be heard by anyone with access to an internet connection.

“Through iLASR, I found the support to transition MusicDetour from a vision to a reality. I think it’s appropriate to share the idea of making music accessible forever with the community as part of the Festival of Ideas,” Arditi said.

CoLA’s Festival of Ideas will encourage creative students to explore entrepreneurship without fear, Cawthon said. “I want more emerging scholars to feel comfortable saying, ‘I think I have a solution to a problem no matter how big or small,’” she said. “Maybe that spark will be elevated locally, within the community, with bottom-up experimentation.”

The festival is free and open to the public. Breakfast and lunch will be provided to registered attendees. Visit the festival’s website for speaker and grant presenter biographies, a complete list of the interactive displays and to register for the event. 

--Tish Williamson, contributing writer