International Penn State Lehigh Valley Students Discuss Enterpreneurship
By Colin McEvoy on October 26, 2022
Penn State Lehigh Valley students from across the globe shared their perspectives on international business and entrepreneurship during the latest event from the Launchbox Ladies speaker series organized by PSU-LV and Lehigh Valley LaunchBox.
The Oct. 18 panel discussion featured students Vaishnavi Ajila, who was born in South India and raised in Mumbai; John Alvarado, who was born and raised in Puerto Rico; and Marta Dalborg, was born in Stockholm, Sweden and also lived in Belgium and Singapore.
The event, entitled “Think Globally in Career and Entrepreneurship,” was held at the Penn State Lehigh Valley campus in Upper Saucon Township and moderated by Maung Min, PSU-LV Director of Business Programs and Assistant Teaching Professor, as well as the Program Director of the Business and Project & Supply Chain Management Programs..
Ajila, a senior majoring in Information Science & Technology, said coming to the United States confirmed for her a perception that outsiders have of the country as very entrepreneurial: a place where one can have an idea, pursue it, and become successful.
“If I’ve learned anything I would say – and I know it’s quite cheesy – but to believe in yourself,” she said. “I think I’ve done that more since I’ve come here, compared to when I was in India. Just to work hard and believe that your hard work will be paid off.”
Alvarado agreed, and said in Puerto Rico a great deal of value is placed on hard work, but with more of an emphasis on finding a 40-hour per week job, providing for one’s family, and working hard until retirement, rather than considering entrepreneurial options.
“For me it was a struggle because I didn’t have any success stories about businesses or family members having their own businesses or anything,” said Alvarado, a junior majoring in criminal justice. “When I came here I would hear from people lots of stories like, ‘Oh, yeah, my dad owns a bakery,’ and things like that. So I’ve been learning a lot about switching my mindset from a worker perspective to an entrepreneurial perspective.”
The panelists also discussed how PSU-LV faculty and staff, and others in the Lehigh Valley, can help young people coming from other countries like them. Ajila said the college already does a lot to help adjust to the “culture shock,” and Alvarado suggested language and study abroad opportunities continue to be offered to students.
This is the second consecutive LaunchBox Ladies event to feature students presenting a Generation Z perspective. PSU-LV Chancellor Tina Q. Richardson described them as the most diverse generation, and said it makes up about 35% of the total population globally, with a collective buying power of $143 billion.
“I’m lucky because I’m leading a campus where we have faculty and staff who are committed to developing students not only intellectually but helping them to develop personally, and we get to support very driven, educated, capable, smart students, like the ones you’re hearing from today,” Richardson said.
Lehigh Valley’s population between the ages of 18 and 34 grew by 10.7% over the last decade, a faster rate than every other region in Pennsylvania. Access to young talent from that prime workforce age group is a key factor to where companies locate, and key focus area for the talent attraction and retention efforts of the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC).
The panelists also discussed successful entrepreneurs around their home countries. Alvarado discussed the Bacardi drink company, which was founded in Cuba and has been family-owned for seven generations. Dalborg discussed Swedish companies that began as startups like Spotify and Skype, the latter of which her teacher was involved in founding.
The panelists also discussed various topics from the perspective of their home countries, including gender equality, maternal and paternal leave, sustainability, and the prospect of traveling further around the world.
“People at home have asked me if I would ever want to leave again, because they say I’ve already seen the world,” Dalborg said. “But I think that’s what made me realize I that want to see more. There is so much to see, so many people to meet and cultures to experience, and I find it very exciting to meet new people.”
Since it was formed in 2015, Lehigh Valley LaunchBox has been connecting aspiring entrepreneurs with microgrants, co-working space at Velocity in downtown Allentown, legal and intellectual property services, business advice and mentorship.
LaunchBox is a Penn State- and community-sponsored business accelerator program created as part of the Invent Penn State initiative. George Lewis, LVEDC Vice President of Marketing, Communications and Research, serves on the Lehigh Valley LaunchBox Advisory Board.
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