Smith Experiential Learning Opportunities: The Dingman Center

The Dingman Center is one of the nation’s pre-eminent institutions where the research, education and practice of entrepreneurship are pursued vigorously. We develop and execute curricular and non-curricular programs that uniquely leverage Smith School thought leadership, experiential learning and our network of practitioners to provide maximum resources to our startup community. Every initiative is designed to support the Center’s mission within the Robert H. Smith School of Business:

  • We equip the next generation to launch and support ventures that advance industry and society;
  • We connect the University of Maryland to the innovation economy; and
  • We leverage thought leadership and our network to make entrepreneurs of all kinds more successful.

Meet Chris Rehkamp, Student Venture Programs Manager
Chris joined the Dingman Center in May 2016 as the Student and Venture Programs Manager. Chris manages the strategy and logistics of curricular and non curricular student venture programs. His primary focus is to equip the next generation to launch and support ventures that advance industry and society through active student engagement and programs like Fearless Founders. Chris comes to the Dingman Center from the DC based food business incubator/accelerator: Union Kitchen.

Describe the Center in 3 words:

What opportunities do Part Time MBA students take advantage of most?
Last year we started doing advising events, called Dingman Center Advising at the three Part Time campuses (Baltimore, Rockville and Washington DC)  and the sessions were in high demand!  Dingman Advising hours allow current MBA students to work through business ideas and problems with successful entrepreneurs who are a part of the Smith community.  We also engage with students digitally through Brazen chats which allow are Part Time MBA students with busier schedules to have more flexible hours to “meet” with our mentors online.

The Dingman Center also hosts a year long pitch competition, called Pitch Dingman Competition, starting in the Fall, with applications due on October 15.  We encourage graduate students to enter the competitions which provide participants with constructive feedback on ideas, as well as resources to help get burgeoning businesses off the ground for the pitch winners.  These events bring together the undergraduate and graduate populations which creates a nice variety of ideas and business models which are great to share and see.

Every year Dingman also puts on a speaker series.  Last year Ted Leonsis came to College Park to engage with our students and to share his experiences at Monumental Sports.  We have an exciting lineup of guests coming to campus again this year, which will kick off with Steve Case next week.

Last but not least, we also hope to host Dingman Jumpstart at the Rockville campus this year.  This event is a half-day bootcamp that bringing together current students to learn about the foundations of launching a business.  The day includes a crash-course in business models, financials, and understanding your competition, among other concepts.

What do students like most about the Dingman Center?
The community is huge!  Not only do our students learn from our participating faculty and mentors, but also from each other.  Many students that participate in the Center bring a variety of ideas and expertise to the Smith entrepreneurial community that Dingman helps to facilitate.  Our alumni network also provides Dingman participants with subject matter experts and an expanded group of like-minded individuals who are willing to help Smith students to meet their business goals.  In our summer accelerator, Terp Startup, we had ten student ventures and almost 30 mentors working with them.

Jason Goger, a Smith MBA alumni and current President of STX – the Baltimore-based Lacrosse brand, served as a mentor to Aurora Tights, an athletic brand that designs performance sports gear in an array of tones for all complexions and sizes.

Rob Ginsberg, a 2018 Smith MBA grad was a member of the summer cohort with his company LzyFarmer, an app focusing bringing tech to the home garden. One of Rob’s mentors was also a Smith MBA alumni, Larisa Ciaoca, currently a Lecturer and Advisor at UMD’s Institute for Applied Agriculture.

What is the biggest success story to date?  
Defining success is interesting and can mean a lot of things in the entrepreneurship space… a couple examples include: Route 1 Apparel, a clothing brand that promotes Maryland’s brand, and Hungry Harvest, a social enterprise helping to get rid of excess food waste that’s expanding nationally. We have entrepreneurial alumni achieving success through growing their businesses, hiring more Terps, creating social impact, or becoming intra-preneurs at bigger firms where they’re applying their understanding of innovation and entrepreneurship to that entities mission.  Many of Dingman’s startups have gone on to become successful businesses and their alums have stayed engaged in the community; that, I think, is a true indicator of a successful, healthy, thriving entrepreneurial community.

How has the Dingman Center added to students’ Part Time MBA experience and/or professional goals?
Through Dingman Mentoring or the Dingman online platform students can leverage so much and plug in to the network quickly.  They can meet high level professionals who are already doing what they want to do — a High Level NETWORK. If student have the goal of meeting other entrepreneurial  professionals they’ll find value here!