Access to Innovators

This story is featured in the Spring 2019 edition of the HPU Magazine. Discover below how HPU’s Access to Innovators program empowers students through working with global thought leaders. 

“If you want to be great, walk side by side and hand in hand with great people.”

High Point University President Nido Qubein received this advice from his mother when he was a child, and it transformed his life. He’s never forgotten it.

That’s evident throughout HPU’s campus. Qubein shares this lesson with all freshmen in his President’s Seminar on Life Skills. It’s furthered by distinguished faculty and caring staff who serve as heroes, models and mentors.

Then, it appears on the Kester International Promenade, where 24 sculptures of history’s celebrated leaders can be found. From Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi, to Amelia Earhart and Mother Teresa — they serve as a constant reminder that greatness can’t be intimidated by naysayers.

They mirror HPU’s call to action: “Choose to be extraordinary!” It all sets the stage for another kind of titan found frequently on HPU’s campus — the living, breathing, global thought leaders of today.

HPU’s Access to Innovators program has evolved into a robust lineup of change agents who come to coach, mentor and work with students on campus.

In the last year, students across campus learned from the following: Apple Co-Founder Steve Wozniak, HPU’s Innovator in Residence; Netflix Co-Founder Marc Randolph, HPU’s Entrepreneur in Residence; ABC “Nightline” Co-Anchor Byron Pitts, HPU’s Journalist in Residence; Karen Jacobsen, known as “The GPS Girl” and the Australian voice of Siri, HPU’s Global Artist in Residence; Bob Ryan, former Boston Globe sports writer and HPU’s Sports Reporter in Residence; and Scott McKain, best-selling author, business consultant and trainer who serves as HPU’s Corporate Educator in Residence.

The list is long, but students like Michael Welter, ’18, know them well.


Working with Apple’s First Engineer

A physics major from Ohio, Welter spent the majority of his time at HPU leading a team of students called HPUMinds. While working with Wozniak, who they’ve come to know as “the Woz,” they set out to build a self-driving vehicle.

The project was no easy feat, but they were working with the co-founder of Apple Computer and one of the brightest minds of the 20th Century.

So they started with a golf cart and eventually turned it into an autonomous vehicle that could navigate a path with a few simple instructions from an iPad. During the last three years, Wozniak has participated in on-campus brainstorming sessions and conference calls with the group. He also joined campus-wide question-and-answer events in the Hayworth Fine Arts Center for hundreds of students during his visits to HPU.

It culminated in an experience that required Welter and his teammates to grow and persist through troubleshooting and unexpected challenges.

“Working with Steve Wozniak gave us the confidence to test our limits, and it taught us to use our passions to strengthen our community and to solve problems,” Welter says.

In the spring, HPUMinds finalized their efforts and presented the vehicle on campus for other students to see. With the tap of a screen, Welter brought the driverless vehicle forward. It navigated turns on its own and stopped in front of the group members’ feet.

Welter smiled and took a deep breath. In that moment, there was a sense of finality.

“Developing HPUMinds and working on The Woz Project has inarguably been the most demanding yet fulfilling challenge of my college journey,” says Welter. “It has broadened my life perspective, sculpted my career path and enhanced my academic experiences by demonstrating the real-world applications of my education.”

Working with someone like Wozniak on a project as big as building a self-driving vehicle taught students more lessons than they can count. For Welter, the biggest lesson of all was about transformation.

“The transition from a factory-standard, electric golf cart to an autonomous self-driving vehicle is a perfect analogy for how HPU molds its students,” says Welter. “HPU provides students with invaluable resources, including engaged and compassionate professors, clean and safe dorms and innovative classrooms paired with abundant support and motivation. HPU teaches us to see change as opportunity, to address challenges as invitations for greatness, and to search for the extraordinary buried within the seemingly ordinary.”

Students elsewhere on campus know all about the transformational process, too.


Networking with the Netflix Co-Founder

To students in HPU’s Belk Entrepreneurship Center, Marc Randolph, HPU’s Entrepreneur in Residence, is both a mastermind and a friend.

On one hand, he helped start Netflix — the world’s most well-known streaming platform. On the other hand, his willing-to-listen demeanor shows students that he’s approachable and ready to coach them.

Students in HPU’s Professional Selling Club and Entrepreneurship Club pitch their ideas to Randolph for his feedback. So do students in other majors across campus, such as the Fred Wilson School of Pharmacy. Problem solvers like Randolph know the entrepreneurial spirit applies to every industry.

“The only way to figure out if your idea is a good one is by taking a risk,” Randolph told HPU students during a recent visit to campus. “You have to do something, try something, make something, build something or sell something. You learn more in one day of doing than in a year of practicing your speech or writing your business plan.”

For HPU students, Randolph’s guidance changes the way they view their future. Derek Kucharski, a freshman entrepreneur and sales major, is currently working on his own business idea. Kucharski says the opportunities at HPU, such as having Randolph as HPU’s Entrepreneur in Residence, prepare him to succeed in many ways.

“The opportunity to work with Marc Randolph is highly unique, and you can’t get this anywhere else,” said Kucharski.

“To hear from somebody who has the experience, knowledge and insight that he has is so impactful. Especially because I’m trying to build my own business one day and I’m currently producing a product, it’s hard to keep my eye on the prize. But to learn from someone who has built great businesses and gone through those hardships gives me the hope to succeed.”

Professors like Kathy Elliott, director of the Belk Center for Entrepreneurship, understand the impact that someone like Wozniak and Randolph have on students.

“I have seen both Steve Wozniak and Marc Randolph ask students questions that make them think differently — questions about how they quantify their success or measure the value of their business,” says Elliott.

“Marc Randolph always reinforces that students must get sales rather than just getting wrapped up in nurturing their business plan. I know by the way Marc interacts with them that he wants them to move forward,” Elliott says.

“The co-founder of Netflix and the cofounder of Apple care about our students and have changed their own beliefs in themselves.”

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