KEEN – A Springboard for Student Success SLU’s iScholars program blends student leadership, creativity, and community 18 P eering out at a sea of new faces, Rebecca Mitrovich, a 2014 Saint Louis University graduate, takes a deep breath and begins, “Good morning, class!” Graduates with degrees in civil engineering and chemistry don’t often choose to start their careers in K12 education, but an entrepreneurial mindset allowed Mitrovich to be comfortable choosing an unexpected path. “I really owe a lot to the KEEN program at SLU,” says Mitrovich. “I was given a number of experiences I wouldn’t have had otherwise, and it broadened my ability to meet new challenges and think on my feet.” Mitrovich specifically credits SLU’s iScholars program as transformative. SLU began iScholars (innovative scholars) with program support from The Kern Family Foundation and now funds the effort within institutional budgets. For students like Mitrovich, the timing was perfect. “I started participating in iScholars as a sophomore, when it was just taking off, and I was involved through my senior year.” She continues: “Students in iScholars came from different backgrounds and were studying different subjects, but we all had the same ‘itch’ to improve and build upon things. We were never satisfied and were always challenging the status quo – and I think that trait is definitely a part of the entrepreneurial mindset.” Through iScholars, Mitrovich was invited to join a team to compete in the 2011 National Ford Innovation competition, hosted each fall at the University of Detroit – Mercy and sponsored by Ford Motor Company. Though her teammates were all seniors, all mechanical engineers, and all males, she accepted their invitation without hesitation and became deeply involved in a multidisciplinary collaborative project. The competition, open to 20 teams from KEEN partner institutions, challenged students to identify and investigate an automotive problem or opportunity that would lead to innovations for future vehicles. “Initially, our group came up with a number of proposals that were presented to Ford,” Mitrovich explains. “From that list, they indicated which ideas were most promising and feasible, giving us the opportunity to pursue one of those. We chose to address the problem of drivers being unaware of an approaching emergency vehicle or the direction it was coming from.” “We all had the same ‘itch’ to improve and build upon things. We were never satisfied and were always challenging the status quo.” In developing their concept, Mitrovich’s team worked collaboratively to examine current and emerging technology options. They delved into the fields of communications and electronics while considering available frequencies and evaluating