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Student takes on entrepreneurship fellowship

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For Mridul Bhandari entrepreneurship is more than just a minor — it’s a way of life.

One of Bhandari’s (senior-chemical engineering and economics) three minors is entrepreneurship, which she recently focused on as a University Innovation Fellow.

The University Innovation Fellows is a program under Epicenter, a partnership between Stanford University and the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance, program Director Hummera Fasihuddin said.

The program is focused on addressing undergraduate engineering education with an entrepreneurial mindset and is geared for creative and innovative students, Fasihuddin said.

Bhandari’s academic and entrepreneurial successes demonstrated her apt for creative and innovative thinking, making her a perfect candidate for the program, Fasihuddin said.

John Oliver, Bhandari’s predecessor in the program, said he and several of her professors nominated her for the program.

As the creator of Penn State’s student entrepreneurial competition, the Ultimate Trader Challenge, Oliver said he could identify with Bhandari’s dedication for entrepreneurship.

“We had it narrowed down to six [candidates], and Mridul brought the key characteristics,” Oliver said. “She has the drive and passion to create something that other students can be passionate about.”

Fasihuddin said she was also looking for someone who cares about their campus and the opportunities for other students.

Throughout the fellows’ six-week online training, Bhandari said she worked to create a landscape analysis of possible entrepreneurship resources that Penn State offers.

Bhandari said her goal is to make information accessible for students who want to be involved in entrepreneurship on campus. The analysis is a spreadsheet consisting of entrepreneurship classes, advisers and helpful websites, she said.

While creating the analysis was an assignment, Bhandari said her other entrepreneur projects are being completed on her own time.

Two projects Bhandari said she is currently working on include a design for modular furniture for dorm rooms and apartments, and an app that choreographs traditional dances for Indian weddings.

The idea for these projects stemmed from problems that Bhandari said she noticed in her own life.

“I look at things in my life and ask myself how can I fix them,” Bhandari said. “That’s what entrepreneurship is — seeing a problem and figuring out how to solve it.”

After she graduates in December 2014, Bhandari said someday she would like to own her own company. Meanwhile, she wants to help expand the entrepreneurship minor.

Bhandari said there are currently five entrepreneurship minors within different colleges. She also said in the next several years, the minor is expected to expand into seven colleges.

“In the future, I want to see Penn State have a center for entrepreneurship,” Oliver said. “A center to help students set goals and achieve them, and give them guidance and resources.”

Oliver advises Bhandari, and other budding entrepreneurs to “set goals, aim high and never give up.”

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Hannah Sarisohn can be reached at (814) 865-1828.

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