Office of Engaged Learning Office of Engaged Learning - Entrepreneurship

Seeking Clinton Global Initiative “Commitment-Makers”!

The Office of Engaged Learning coordinates the Clinton Global Initiative University program at SMU. Undergraduate and graduate students can apply to join a growing global community of over 12,500 social entrepreneurs working to solve our world’s most pressing issues.
SMU’s CGIU “Commitment Makers” receive
  • Up to $1500 to fund their Commitment to Action Project
  • Funding to attend the CGIU annual meeting
Application Process
The deadline for CGIU 2024 is March 15, 2024. Contact our office at for help with your application.
Information sessions/workshops with former winners, on Zoom:
More details: SMU.EDU/CGIU
Office of Engaged Learning Office of Engaged Learning - Entrepreneurship

SMU Alum’s business featured on NBCDFW

We love seeing SMU entrepreneurs in the news! SMU alum Lidya Winnie ‘19 was recently featured on Texas Today on NBC discussing her natural beauty business Konjo Beauty. Watch Lidya’s Texas Today segment

Lidya started her company Konja Beauty while studying Arts Entrepreneurship and Markets and Culture and developed this idea as a fellow at the Big iDeas, SMU Incubator. You can learn more about her business and shop her products at

Office of Engaged Learning Office of Engaged Learning - Entrepreneurship

Congratulations Big iDeas Business Plan Winners!

On Friday, February 12, The Office of Engaged Learning held its annual Big iDeas Business Plan Competition where twelve undergraduate entrepreneurship teams pitched their business plan in four minutes to a panel of business experts. Seven entrepreneurs were awarded funding up to $7,000. Please help us in congratulating the winners:

Ryder Mc Neal ’24, PREVO

Jude Lugo ’24, LectureLogger

Mason Morland ’24, SteadiSpoon

Anish Senthikumar ’25 and Vedang Uniyal ’24, The Active Mind Initiative

Joshua Baier, ’24, Timio News

Mason Dierkes ’27, Seed Innovate

Benjamin Omoregbe ’24, Internsurf

Special thanks to our judges Ayodele Aigbe (CEO of Hangio), Andrew Denton (Founder of Glia Health and Prosper AI), and Michael Kelly (Co-Founder of Resolute Future).

Office of Engaged Learning Office of Engaged Learning - Entrepreneurship

Introducing Big iDeas Marketplace!

The Office of Engaged Learning invites all SMU-affiliated entrepreneurs to sell their products, demo their apps, share brochures, etc. at the Big iDeas Marketplace on February 9, 2024 from 11am to 1pm.

Big iDeas has held a demo fair featuring past winners each spring. Now we are opening up the fair to the community. If you have a business, no matter the size, and want to participate, please sign up for a table at the Big iDeas Marketplace.

Big iDeas business plan competition February 9 2024. Apply at


Winners of the Big iDeas Business Plan Competition will also be announced at the Marketplace. The Competition is open to all SMU undergrads. Apply here.

News Office of Engaged Learning Office of Engaged Learning - Entrepreneurship Student Academic Engagement & Success

SMU student entrepreneur Trevor Gicheru in the news

Trevor Gicheru, a computer science junior at SMU, is making headlines with his software Nurovant AI, which uses AI technology to create quizzes, flashcards, and study tools from audio recordings of lectures. While preparing for a class at SMU, he saw an opportunity for the app, and fellow students are already using it to improve their learning experience. Nurovant AI is growing popularity among students and investors alike, and recently featured in the Dallas Morning News.

In 2024, Trevor and his team have ambitious goals for Nurovant AI.

“We are currently in the midst of raising a pre-seed round of 250k. We’ve already secured about half of our funding target and aim to complete this round by the end or middle of January,”  Trevor said. “Additionally, we’ve garnered venture interest from VCs across the country. Our objective is to finalize a deal with one of these firms by mid-year. Another key goal is to achieve 10,000 downloads of our app by April, a milestone that would significantly demonstrate our product’s traction and market fit. We’re also aiming to pilot our school-facing version of the software in at least five schools, broadening our impact and reach.”

As a two-time winner of the Big iDeas Pitch Competition, Trevor has great advice for students aspiring to build a startup:

“My advice is straightforward: take action,” he says. “Don’t wait for others to believe in your dreams. It’s essential to be proactive and pursue your vision with determination and resilience. Building a startup is a journey filled with challenges, but with a strong belief in your ideas and a willingness to work hard, you can create something truly impactful.”

For SMU students looking to take the next step in building their startup, The Office of Engaged Learning will be holding the Big iDeas Business Plan Competition on February 9 from 9am -1pm. Encourage students to apply today to pitch to win $5000.

Office of Engaged Learning Office of Engaged Learning - Entrepreneurship

Big iDeas E-Launch propels latest generation of entrepreneurs

SMU’s Big iDeas program in the Office of Engaged Learning offers funding, training and mentoring to undergraduate entrepreneurs in any major. The E-Launch workshop series guides entrepreneurs in the creation of their businesses. E-Launch met each Monday evening this semester and was led by Entrepreneurship Fellow Michael Kelly (Founder, Resolute Future), with sessions taught by Seth Orsborn (Director, Deason Innovation Gym), John Rougeux (Partner, Category Thinkers) and Ellen Smoak (Founder & CEO, The Society of Women Entrepreneurs).

Each student entrepreneur has made considerable strides in crafting their businesses through sessions covering market research, prototyping, business planning, and storytelling. We asked our entrepreneurs about what they’ve learned throughout the sessions.

“E-Launch has helped me ground my business idea and determine which elements to focus on and which are most important,” said senior Ryder McNeal, founder of PREVO Streaming. PREVO is a streaming platform dedicated to showing a curated catalogue of independent or student-made films from across the country. Ryder, who is majoring in Marketing and Film, looks forward to his next steps. “I am extremely excited to launch my business in the coming months and work to refine my pitch deck.”

Ryder McNeal Prevo Streaming with big check from Big iDeas

Throughout the process, the entrepreneurs completed assignments, such as a Lean Canvas, that are designed to help them develop a business plan and seek more funding in the future. “I’ve learned a lot,” said first-year Yaw Boateng, “such as the entire concept of category design, what an MVP is (minimum viable product), the different stages of prototypes, and how to conduct market research.”

Yaw Boateng, Peruna Bot with big check from Big IDeas

Yaw is majoring in Data Science and Electrical and Computer Engineering. He is developing PerunaBot, an AI chatbot, to help SMU students navigate all the resources on campus. Yaw enjoyed learning broader entrepreneurship lessons like “alignment is purpose.” He explained, “from this framework, you’re reducing all friction from achieving your goals and creating a natural tailwind to push you forward. Also, understanding nuance for decision-making that can be applied to all areas of life.”

The next step for many of these entrepreneurs will be the Big iDeas Business Plan Competitionon February 9, 2024. All SMU undergrads are eligible to apply. Details on the application, business plan, and future E-Launch sessions are on the Big iDeas website,

These interviews were conducted by Leon Jackson, interim Project Coordinator for Big iDeas.

Office of Engaged Learning Office of Engaged Learning - Entrepreneurship Student Academic Engagement & Success

Interview with 2023-24 Big iDeas Entrepreneurship Fellow Michael Kelly

Michael Kelly is the Co-Founder of Resolute Future, a software company dedicated to empowering the next generation of innovators. He was a former VP of investments at JPMorgan Chase where he spent 12 years with a variety of responsibilities including sales, financial planning, management, & training. 

Michael helps to lead the Big iDeas E-Launch which is a series of co-curricular workshops with mentoring and guest speakers including book authors, investors, and Dallas company founders. The E-Launch aims to guide SMU students in developing the critical skills needed to be successful throughout their entrepreneurial journey.   

What are some exciting things you’re seeing from the students in our E-Launch program? 

From one week to the next, I’ve seen a lot of growth with each entrepreneur. They ask great questions, and every week comes with something new, which is really refreshing.  

What tips would you give to our E-Launch entrepreneurs to tackle the challenges of building and growing an early-stage startup? 

Never take your eye off the problem that you’re solving. There are a lot of distractions out there, so keep your eye on the problem you’re solving. 

What will be some of the biggest challenges that our E-Launch entrepreneurs will face as their journey begins or some common mistakes that they could make as young entrepreneurs? 

It can all be summed up the word “distractions.” There is always another business opportunity, there is always a way you can contort your business for opportunities, and there are always people and things that demand your time. The ability to block out all those distractions is a necessity and the biggest challenge for any entrepreneur. Going back to the biggest tip – never take your eye off the problem you’re solving, block out the distractions, and keep pushing forward.  

What are some key lessons you hope E-Launch entrepreneurs have learned throughout our workshop programs? 

The frameworks that can carry them forward as they run into new challenges. Starting and running a business is all about solving challenges until you hit the next leg of challenges. I hope that these frameworks are ways that they can go thinking about problems and solutions and will carry them forward in each new level that they reach.  And keeping the problem their solving as their north star in everything they do.  

Why should a SMU student learn to be an entrepreneur and take a chance at building a startup while in college? 

Learning to build a startup, you are doing several things. You are building self-motivation, you are learning to solve problems, you are learning to construct systems that allow you to move an organization forward, and you are learning to be creative about how to solve problems. As you look and project forward throughout the rest of your career, these are all essential, whether you are an entrepreneur or you are going to be a change agent in a large enterprise. 

This interview was conducted by Leon Jackson, interim Project Coordinator for Big iDeas.

Office of Engaged Learning Office of Engaged Learning - Entrepreneurship Student Academic Engagement & Success

Congratulations to the 2023 Big iDeas Pitch Contest winners!

 On Friday, September 29th during SMU Family Weekend, the Office of Engaged Learning hosted the annual Big iDeas Pitch Contest in the Hughes-Trigg Chamber. A panel of Judges watched 22 SMU students give 90-second pitches for their businesses.  

Big iDeas provides funding, training and coaching for entrepreneurial projects to undergraduates of any major. 13 student teams were awarded funding at the Pitch Contest. 

Among the winners were senior Tiffany Jones, who proposed the Next Chapter, a collection of resources for adolescents aging out of foster care. Junior Jude Lugo proposed LectureLogger, an attendance tracking solution that uses secure QR codes to enhance classroom efficiency and learning outcomes. Junior Nrithi Subramanian proposed Mantra and Co., a service-based apparel and accessories brand seeking to create unity within the South Asian community. 

Special thanks to our judges Michael Kelly (Co-Founder of Resolute Future), Mona El-Gharby (Founder & CEO of CURLē), Tia Nayar (Founder & CEO of Wildflower Insight), Dr. Seth Orsborn (Director of the Deason Innovation Gym), Kat Weaver (Founder of Power to Pitch).

 Congratulations to the following winners:

A’Style Productions
Atrion Sorrells ‘24

Rohit Patnala ‘23

Speed Gregory ‘23

Jude Lugo ‘25

Mantra and Co.
Nrithi Subramanian ‘25

Yaw Boateng ‘23

PREVO Streaming
Ryder McNeal ‘24

Eric Vu ‘25

Reflectly AI Inc.
Trevor Gicheru ‘25
Bernadette Cruz ‘27

Nick Ludwig ‘24

Sallie’s Halo
Kennedy Honors ‘25

The Next Chapter
Tiffany Jones ‘23

Office of Engaged Learning Office of Engaged Learning - Entrepreneurship Student Academic Engagement & Success

Spread the word about the Big iDeas Pitch Contest!

Applications for the Big iDeas $1000 Pitch Competition are due this Wednesday, September 27 at 9:00am. Be sure to spread the word! Students can go to to apply.


Office of Engaged Learning Office of Engaged Learning - Entrepreneurship Office of Engaged Learning – Research

The Office of Engaged Learning welcomes Kelly Chandrapal as new Program Coordinator

The Office of Engaged Learning welcomes Kelly Chandrapal as the new Program Coordinator. Kelly comes to SMU most recently from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s art museum where she worked closely with undergraduate and graduate students in her position as the Learning Resources Coordinator. Prior to working at UNC, she implemented educational programs in museums and taught elementary and high school art in Texas public schools. Kelly earned a BFA in Visual Art Studies from The University of Texas at Austin and MA in Museum Science from Texas Tech University. She is a Texas native but new to Dallas and is looking forward to becoming a part of the SMU community!