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Freshman Sam Swayze wins entre­pre­neurial com­pe­tition. Facebook.

The role of an entre­preneur is inno­vation through cre­ativity. Through its Inde­pendent Inno­vators Network schol­arship com­pe­tition, The Michigan Col­leges Alliance encourages stu­dents to develop a business of social entre­pre­neurship concept.

Hillsdale freshman Sam Swayze won the most recent round of the com­pe­tition earlier this month, receiving more votes than any of the other 24 sub­mis­sions for his concept of a new way to train workers in Michigan’s man­u­fac­turing sector. He was awarded a $7,500 schol­arship for his achievement.

“I wanted to pick a topic that was rel­evant to the state of Michigan, so I settled on tackling the problem of under­em­ployment in the Rust Belt,” Swayze said.

In context, under­em­ployment refers to under­uti­lization of assets, be it labor or some form of capital, such as machinery or buildings. Swayze said he found this to be a large issue in Michigan.

“I then went about brain­storming and used Google to find what the current dia­logue on the issue is. It turns out there is a lot,” he said. “It’s a big problem and there are a lot of people pushing solu­tions.”

One potential solution Swayze found com­pelling came from Awesome Inc. in Sweden. The idea is that gov­ern­ments, busi­nesses, and uni­ver­sities work together to facil­itate mean­ingful research and the sale of said research, allowing for a decrease in trans­ac­tions costs.

“I really like the idea a lot, and so in my own pro­posal I wound up somewhat mim­icking that,” Swayze said.

Swayze called his pro­posal “Redesigning the Rust Belt.” The basic idea is of a firm which “helps clients increase their return on investment in training on the oper­ation, repair, and main­te­nance of their indus­trial equipment,” according to Swayze’s sub­mission. Said firm — made up of inno­vation-minded employees — helps clients gather data on their product-spe­cific knowledge and uses this data to develop cutting-edge training processes.

Swayze pro­posed potential steps to the actu­al­ization of this idea, while also pos­tu­lating some of the potential con­cerns asso­ciated with the concept, such as funding.

Pro­fessor of Mar­keting Susan King served as Swayze’s sponsor for the com­pe­tition. After her initial review she said she found Swayze’s idea promising, but sug­gested he develop more con­crete ideas for potential sources of funding, avenues for raising awareness of the project, and ways of coping with ever-changing tech­nology.

After addressing King’s con­cerns, Swayze sub­mitted his final pro­posal to a com­mittee of reviewers com­prised of Michigan’s business leaders, according to Michigan Col­leges Alliance Chief Oper­ating Officer Marcie Levey. Swayze’s project received more votes than any of the other pro­posals, making him one of the six schol­arship winners. According to Levey, Swayze is the first freshman to receive the top score in a round of sub­mis­sions.

“The com­pe­tition has drawn many inter­esting and com­pelling projects,” Levey said in an email.  “Sam’s pro­posal addressed a par­tic­u­larly rel­evant and timely need in the Michigan economy, using inno­v­ative tech­nology to provide a new way to train workers in the man­u­fac­turing sector.”

King said she was proud to see a Hillsdale student win the award, espe­cially since there were sub­mis­sions form stu­dents at 11 dif­ferent col­leges and uni­ver­sities throughout the state.

Swayze, who thanked King for her help, said he appre­ciated the financial prize, but added that the real benefit came from the pro­duction of the pro­posal itself.

“I’ve never really felt like being an aca­demic was some­thing I was quite good at,” he said. “But this was some­thing I felt like I might have some talent at and be able to do. Michigan is my home for the next four years and helping my com­munity was some­thing I was really pas­sionate about back home. Although I am no longer there, I wanted to con­tinue that habit.”

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Stevan Bennett Jr. is a senior from the pumpkin capital of the world, Morton, Illinois. He is studying economics and journalism, and plans on attending law school after Hillsdale. He has written for the Collegian since 2014 and is the sports editor. His addictions include coffee, the Chicago Cubs, NHL 2015, and miscellaneous adventuring. email: Sbennett1@hillsdale.edu | twitter: @StevanBennett