The synthetic divide that distinguishes the North and South Residential Villages, the Mather Quad and Case Quad, “soft science” and “hard science” is daunting. Euclid Avenue does more than divide the campus into separate halves; it drives the wedge that separates Case and Western Reserve in the namesake of the university.
After all, Case Western Reserve continues to fight an unrelenting battle with itself. As past editorials in The Observer explained, the university suffers an extreme case of major elitism, in which students engaging in engineering and natural science coursework are epitomized and separated from business, humanities and social science students.
But this divide has grown smaller in the last year, thanks in no small part to Blackstone LaunchPad. Funded by the Blackstone Charitable Foundation and The Burton D. Morgan Foundation, Blackstone LaunchPad arrived at Case Western Reserve in 2012 as the result of a three-year, $3.2 million commitment. The program—spearheaded at the university by Director Bob Sopko—offers tools and guidance to students of varying majors seeking to develop ideas into entrepreneurial success stories.
Blackstone LaunchPad has obtained a substantial foothold in Northeast Ohio, with peer programs existing at Baldwin Wallace University, Kent State University and Lorain County Community College. The network offers a valuable mechanism by which students with similar ideas, passion and expertise can be connected despite their enrollment at different institutions.
More importantly, the program is systematically tearing down the obstacles that exist within our own campus. Sopko and his passionate team of Blackstone LaunchPad Fellows host networking and competitive events for aspiring entrepreneurs, as well as promote dialogue between individuals who would otherwise not associate.
With prime real estate in the atrium of Thwing Center, Blackstone LaunchPad aims to foster relationships between students of diverse academic interests, from engineering and art design to science and marketing. With the expert guidance facilitated by Sopko and his team, Case Western Reserve is not only rectifying a problem at the school’s core, it is enabling students to create jobs rather than find them.
Blackstone LaunchPad is giving students and faculty members their first compelling reason to cross Euclid Avenue and collaborate with peers on the other side of this relatively small campus. One program alone cannot eliminate the historical divide between the Case Institute of Technology and Western Reserve College; however, it is an inspiring way to begin.