It’s really been a chicken and egg situation for GO Topeka and the Washburn University School of Business.
For years, the economic development organization has supported the business school’s efforts, including financial support for the annual pitching competition for budding entrepreneurial students. It’s all part of the goal of growing the local economy by developing and nurturing young talent, especially that of Washburn.
But the challenge, representatives of the two organizations have often found, is that the same young people who can create economic opportunity often leave Topeka because they haven’t found it here.
“Things are really starting to heat up here in Topeka”
Moreover:“I was a ball of nerves the whole time”: Washburn’s pitch contest gives experience, starts business
That’s why GO Topeka and the Washburn University School of Business want to be more intentional about their work.
“We’ve already worked together for several years, but things are really starting to heat up here in Topeka, and as that happens, it’s important to make sure we include our important stakeholders and partners,” said Laurie Pieper, vice president of innovation for GO Topeka. “This seemed like the best way to be proactive about how we work with Washburn. They are so important to us and we wanted to make sure we had all the touchpoints there.”
The two organizations signed a memorandum of understanding on Thursday afternoon detailing their partnership in a more formal way.
Moreover:Jerry Farley will be the background player, incoming interim Marshall Meek secures the Washburn faculty
Dmitri Nizovtsev, associate dean of the School of Business, said the formal agreement would serve as a springboard for the two organizations to collaborate more closely in the future.
“We sat down and looked at everything we do and realized that it’s so much more than what other schools or community organizations are doing,” Nizovtsev said. “We thought everyone would benefit from knowing exactly what we do together. There’s a PR element to it, but it’s also a sign of commitment.”
In the short term, the partnership simply consolidates much of what the two organizations already do collaboratively, such as assisting college students with local businesses through the university’s Center for Small Business Development.
But Pieper and Nizovtsev see far more opportunity to shape what a successful school-community partnership could accomplish.
Moreover:The Washburn Law Building will not meet the December timeline. That’s why it will be worth the wait.
GO Topeka will fund a second annual student competition
A nine-year funder of the School of the Business’s business student competition, GO Topeka is already committing to funding a second competition, this one focused on social entrepreneurship, each year, starting next spring.
“We all want Topeka to be a more vibrant place to live and work, and we want our graduates to want to stay and work in Topeka, rather than leaving for Kansas City or elsewhere,” Nizovtsev said. “But it’s really a chicken and egg problem – we need to create more exciting activities so that young people have ways to apply themselves.
“This creates repercussions, because when there are good opportunities for young people, they are there for everyone.”
Rafael Garcia is an educational reporter for the Topeka Capital-Journal. He can be reached at [email protected] or by phone at 785-289-5325. Follow him on Twitter at @byRafaelGarcia.