Ivana Korankyi and her older sister, Kristen, are close.
They share a bedroom at home, they’re pharmacy majors and they’ve both earned one of the top leadership awards for students at High Point University.
Both Kristen and Ivana are Extraordinary Leaders.
They’re the first sisters to win the award in five years. Kristen, who is three years older than Ivana, won in February 2019. Ivana won this past August.
Their parents came from Ghana, and they pronounce their last name Koran-CHI. They arrived in the United States decades ago to study, start a career and raise a family.
Their father, Yaw, is a pharmacist; their mother, Esther is a registered nurse; and they’ve settled in Jamestown, 20 minutes from campus. Kristen, Ivana and Yaw Jr., their younger brother, have heeded their mom’s advice.
“Without education,” Esther told them, “your mind is closed.”
Ivana knew she would go to college. But she didn’t think she would come to High Point University.
An open house changed that.
Cottrell’s Stimulating Mondays
Korankyi was a high school senior for Caldwell Academy, a private Christian school in nearby Greensboro, when she came to HPU for a tour.
She picked a seminar to attend at Open House, sat with other prospective students and their families and listened to Troy Knauss, an HPU entrepreneurship professor, talk about plastic toys.
Knauss used plastic toys as a reference point about smart investing. He then dove into a discussion about how nature can offer innovative design strategies that can be used to create something new and innovative.
Knauss’ seminar fascinated Korankyi. Afterward, she introduced herself, and Knauss invited her to participate in the weekly pitch practice sessions in Cottrell Hall with other members with HPU’s Entrepreneurship Club.
Every Monday for months, Korankyi came even though she was still in high school. She felt welcomed by Knauss and Kathy Elliott, director of HPU’s Belk Entrepreneurship Center. She felt that even more when she wrecked her car and told Elliott and Knauss she had to skip a few Mondays.
Both Elliott and Knauss kept in touch. They wanted to make sure she was OK.
Korankyi eventually came back to the Monday sessions. When she had to defend her senior thesis on the human genome, Korankyi invited Elliott.
Korankyi presented her senior thesis before a 5-member panel that included a doctor, a college professor and a theologian. In the audience, near Korankyi’s family, sat Elliott.
“Week after week after week she came here,” Elliott says on why she attended. “She stuck by her commitment, and when Troy and I see that spark, we get as excited as they do.”
Korankyi does have that spark. HPU helped her find it.
HPU: A Place To Grow
Korankyi came to HPU two years ago as a Presidential Scholar and a member of the Honors Scholar Program. She came in a pre-pharmacy major, and she’s now in her first of four years of graduate study at HPU’s Fred Wilson School of Pharmacy.
She’s conducted research with HPU professors Drs. Comfort Boateng and Andrew Wommack. She’s interviewed onstage Marc Randolph, HPU’s Entrepreneur in Residence, and later ran more questions by him over dinner.
She’s become a trained operator at HPU’s Culp Planetarium. She’s used the planetarium’s software to create programs for local schoolchildren during HPUniverse Day to get them interested in science.
She’s a Student Justice on the Student Conduct Hearings board, and she has volunteered at the Community Clinic of High Point, helping patients navigate the confusing language of health care.
She has stepped onstage at HPU’s Pauline Theater and talked to families and prospective students about the honors program during HPU’s Open House.
She calls the event “open heart” because she speaks from the heart and tells them her time at HPU has been “drastically transformational.”
Afterward, parents ask her more questions. One time, after her Open House presentation, a dad of a prospective student saw her studying in the Slane Student Center, and he stopped by her table.
“I can tell it’s real here,” he told her. “You spoke from the heart.”
“I hope your daughter comes here to experience what I have,” she responded.
Korankyi: The Underdog Inventor
Korankyi calls it Leopard Electric. She invented it.
It’s a portable electric charger that would help eliminate people looking for plugs everywhere for their laptops, TVs and appliances. The charger is smaller than a shoe box, and the 3-D printer Korankyi used to create it printed it out bright yellow.
Korankyi worked on her invention for two months. Elliott and Knauss helped her hone her business pitch, and physics professor Dr. Aaron Titus gave her a tutorial on electricity. Meanwhile, she worked on perfecting the idea she saw in her head.
Korankyi wanted to merge science with business –– just like what Knauss showed her during his open-house seminar she attended. She entered her invention in the BB&T 2018 Spring Business Plan Competition, and she liked the challenge of feeling like an underdog, the pre-pharmacy major in a sea of HPU entrepreneurs.
She practiced her 10-minute pitch at least 20 times before she stood in front of three judges. She came in fourth out of 20 students. She won $2,000.
Korankyi invested $1,000, used $500 to improve Leopard Electric, and she took the remaining $500 to start another business, an flower subscription service she called Elephant & Trunk. She sent out 640 direct mail flyers to snap up customers.
Korankyi’s idea and business plan for Leopard Electric made her a finalist for the LaunchGreensboro Business Pitch Competition last spring. The global pandemic canceled the in-person competition, and it was never rescheduled. Korankyi beat more than 90 other college students from the region to make it to the finals.
That doesn’t surprise Elliott.
“When I see Ivana, I see an inventor,” she says. “She is growing up here, and she wants to learn from others. She’s thirsty for it.”
‘You Feel Like You Belong’
After she graduates, Korankyi wants to start a philanthropic service to offer expanded health care options for people in need.
When she thinks about that idea, she thinks of Linda Sasser. She met her at the Community Clinic. Sasser has volunteered at the clinic’s pharmacy for 12 years. Outside the clinic, she’s a fierce advocate for drug rehabilitation.
Sasser’s advocacy moves Korankyi because she knows Sasser doesn’t have to volunteer. But Sasser does. Her selfless actions remind Korankyi of the mural she sees often inside the R.G. Wanek Center. There, near the steps, Korankyi sees three words that embody the core qualities she finds at HPU –– passion, generosity and gratefulness.
Korankyi sees those words in action at HPU. She also sees those words in action at the clinic.
“It’s humbling,” Korankyi says of the clinic. “There is a feeling of love there.”
Korankyi has felt that love at HPU. She has discovered what she calls an “army of mentors.” They all have helped her grow.
“High Point has something hidden inside its fabric,” she says. “The individuals here make High Point what it is. They care about me, and they’ve invested in me.”
In her essay for the Extraordinary Leader nomination, Korankyi wrote: “From High Point, I have learned how to be a leader, how to ask for help, how to think critically, how to dream big, how to advocate for myself, how to be professional, how to stand out, how to use my resources and how to stick to my plans.”
Ask her to explain, and Korankyi has an answer.
“Every single word,” she says, “represents an experience.”