{ Meet the LaunchU Team! }

Hello there! Today is the eagerly awaited start of LaunchU, Oberlin's accelerator and pitch competition for social, local, and for-profit ventures. Our dedicated team has spent the last four months recruiting applicants and preparing each and every last detail to ensure a transformative experience for our participants--41 Oberlin students, alumni, and co-founders.

Here are the faces behind the brand:

Danielle Hinrich, our star dynamo. Danielle is the person ensuring that our ideas are logical, challenging any overblown assumptions, and then executing the program to a T. She often builds spreadsheets that blow minds and is a fierce Catan player.

Matt Utterback, our fearless leader. After being away from Oberlin for almost 20 years after graduating, Matt returned this fall to become Oberlin's first Director of Entrepreneurship. With Matt's help, entrepreneurship at Oberlin has blossomed, exploding in quality and quantity. Matt has already brought in entrepreneurial alumni we didn't know we had and built relationships that will support Oberlin well into the future.

John Knific, our Entrepreneur-in-Residence. John has been with LaunchU since its genesis, and it was his touch that allowed LaunchU to quickly launch itself beyond all expectations. After graduating from Case Western and studying piano at Oberlin, John founded Decision Desk, an online application recruitment system that Oberlin Conservatory applicants use to apply. Since Decision Desk launched five years ago, John has worked with over 150 academic institutions and raised well over $3 million in funding. His tutelage and vision have helped create the new wave of entrepreneurs now leaving Oberlin. His special skills include employing an incredible vocabulary, creating tremendous metaphors, and using random computer productivity applications out the wazoo.

Andrea Kalyn, now Dean of the Conservatory. She was the educational innovator who started the Creativity and Leadership program eight years ago. She saw the opportunity to support Conservatory graduates who choose to start their own ventures after graduation through education and real-world experience, and started the ball rolling for entrepreneurship at Oberlin. After building Creativity & Leadership and coordinating the first year of LaunchU, she was asked to become the Dean of the Conservatory, overseeing the entirety of one of the most prestigious Conservatories on the planet. Her current championing of LaunchU continues to pave the way for our success.

And finally, Gene Carr, the Chair of our Advisory Board. Three years ago, charged with improving entrepreneurial endeavors at Oberlin, Gene envisioned the current manifestation of LaunchU and has worked tirelessly since to see it through. His management skills have been invaluable in coordinating and moving LaunchU forward, semester-by-semester and year-by-year. As his role has transitioned to the 30,000-foot view, he's ensured that we're growing sustainably and intelligently, in a manner befitting an organization that's built to last.

There you have it--the team that is bringing LaunchU to you this year. There are, of course, countless others behind the scenes, including the rest of our Board of Advisors, and we are endlessly grateful to them. Perhaps they'll show up in another post, but in the meantime, we'll take an inside look at LaunchU and the teams that are competing.


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