New internship at The ONEIL Center at Wright State will place student in entrepreneurial hub

Brandy Foster, executive director of The ONEIL Center at Wright State University, and Tyler Rupert, student director of strategic initiatives and entrepreneurship. (Photos by Erin Pence)

A new internship at The ONEIL Center at Wright State University promises to strengthen the center’s relationship with the entrepreneurial community by placing the intern in the innovation hub of the historic Dayton Arcade.

The hub, expected to open in late 2020, will occupy 95,000 square feet in the 500,000-square-foot Arcade with working space for small businesses and start-ups.

“It really positions itself to be an entrepreneurial hub or an innovation ecosystem. This will make The ONEIL Center Wright State’s only participant in that ecosystem downtown,” said Brandy Foster, the center’s executive director. “It gives us a presence there.”

This center launched the new innovative internship earlier this semester, creating a position called student director of strategic initiatives and entrepreneurship and naming management intern Tyler Rupert to the post.

“This role functions as a liaison to the entrepreneurial community,” said Foster. “It focuses on business development and building relationships.”

The ONEIL Center, which opened in 2017 in the Neuroscience Engineering Collaboration Building, provides an innovative transdisciplinary experiential learning workspace that simultaneously functions as a classroom, incubator, small business, social impact organization and research lab in a new model of workforce development. Students deepen expertise via new contexts while forming collaborations across disciplines, thereby expanding the group’s capabilities.

The center was launched thanks to a $675,000 gift from O’Neil and Associates, Inc., a 73-year-old Dayton-area company that develops technical publications, training and other product support materials for equipment manufacturers globally.

The ONEIL Center at Wright State was designed to serve as a workforce pipeline to the Dayton region. The center provides internships to students that connect them to researchers, businesses and other organizations through the services it provides.

“Our goal for the center has always been to support the region’s brightest talent with experiential and meaningful learning opportunities,” said Hernan Olivas, president and CEO for ONEIL. “Tyler’s new function in business development and as a ‘deal flow liaison’ between the ONEIL Center and the entrepreneurial community will create strong relationships and further cement our joint mission of creating a solid, experienced pipeline of innovators in Dayton.”

The center’s interns, which currently number 14, have featured English majors who do technical writing and proposal support, communication majors who provide social media services and media writing, graphic design students who do branding and logos, computer science majors who develop websites and web tools, and business students who offer management and marketing skills.

The ONEIL Center has also received nearly $250,000 in grants and contracts to work on projects involving additional students majoring in neuroscience, biology, psychology and computer science.

“We are transdisciplinary so we can recruit from any academic program and we have students from both Wright State campuses,” said Foster.

The center has forged strong regional partnerships with The Entrepreneurs Center, the Miami Valley Small Business Development Center and the Procurement Technical Assistance Center.

Foster said Rupert will serve as a liaison to the entrepreneurial community and focus on business development and building relationships.

Jordan Roe, ESP venture manager at The Entrepreneurs Center, said Rupert and the ONEIL Center’s role is a key driver in a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem, where support services are diffused and economic impact is accelerated.

“The Entrepreneurs Center is excited about the opportunity to partner with Wright State and The ONEIL Center to connect the region’s entrepreneurs to much-needed support services and to assist in the talent development the student interns will receive as they engage with startups and small businesses,” he said.

Foster said The ONEIL Center provides clients referred by its partners with low-cost services below market rate because its mission is to provide its students with meaningful experiential learning.

“We work with a company on one thing and they get so excited about our model and really want to champion it,” said Foster. “So they’ll come up with another project just for us.”

Rupert, who grew up in Dayton, enrolled at Wright State in 2016. He majors in computer science and minors in entrepreneurship.

“I was very happy with my choice of Wright State because I realized how possible it was to make an impact as a student,” said Rupert. “I think this internship speaks very well to what’s possible at Wright State. I don’t think it’s really possible to overstate how impactful this internship and position is for me.”

Rupert is the lead on several strategic initiatives for the center, including planning for the center’s participation in the annual TechStars Dayton Startup Week, working on the center’s grant-funded project in collaboration with the Wright State Research Institute to create an internship pipeline to the medical technology startup ecosystem and chairing the center’s newly formed steering committee to give the interns a formal role in advising the executive director.

The center’s interns also partner with The Entrepreneurship Club on a multistate market research project for Global Neighbor Inc. The Centerville-based company provides environmentally friendly solutions for lawn and garden needs such as weed killers without the use of harmful chemicals.

Rupert started working at The ONEIL Center last fall as a management intern. Foster discovered that he was highly entrepreneurially focused as the founding president of the Entrepreneurship Club at Wright State and knew a lot of the same people in the organizations with which the center partners.

The center’s new internship was inspired in part by the renovation and rebirth of the Arcade, a sprawling complex of five connected buildings in downtown Dayton crowned by an ornate rotunda. Constructed between 1902 and 1904 and undergoing a major renovation, it has been mostly dormant since 1990.

The Entrepreneurs Center has sponsored a working space for Rupert with Nucleus CoShare in the Kuhns Building next to the Arcade. Rupert will eventually have a dedicated desk in the innovation hub at the Arcade.

He will work at the Arcade once or twice a week, sharing the center’s mission and working to connect small businesses and start-ups to the center for support services.

Foster said the internship will help the center better understand the needs of small businesses and start-ups and be responsive to that.

“It’s empowering Tyler to be a decision-maker,” she said. “And we can gauge how well a student is prepared by their experience at The ONEIL Center to work as a peer among all of the entrepreneurs and service providers downtown. That’s a really significant piece.”

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