The Next 36 for 2012 , a group of budding entrepreneurs from universities accross North America (Photo courtesy of The Next 36)

U of T Students Form One-Third of The Next 36

Selected from candidates across North America for special entrepreneurship program

University of Toronto students comprise fully one-third of the 36 students chosen from universities across North America for the prestigious entrepreneurship program, The Next 36, in 2012.

“Entrepreneurship and the commercialization of research play a crucial role in building economic prosperity,” said Professor Peter Lewis, associate vice-president (research) and acting assistant vice-president (innovations and partnerships). “We’re delighted to see so many U of T students recognized for their ability to take intellectual risks and develop bold, innovative solutions to problems.”

The Next 36 is based on “Economics of Entrepreneurship”, the popular U of T undergraduate course taught by entrepreneur Reza Satchu which seeks to change the way students define and approach problems. Satchu is one of the program’s founders, as is Professor Ajay Agrawal, the academic director and Peter Munk Professor of Entrepreneurship at U of T’s Rotman School of Management.

“This program offers unparalleled opportunities for ambitious students, providing insightful mentorship, intensive skills development and a powerful peer network,” said Lewis.

An intensive, eight-month program, The Next 36 aims to transform the country’s most promising undergraduates into Canada’s top entrepreneurs through a mix of team work, business planning, the startup of a mobile-app business, mentoring, and three months of intensive entrepreneurship instruction.

“There’s something great about the opportunity to spend time with peers who are like-minded,” said Melinda Jacobs, 22. Now in her fourth year of international relations studies at U of T’s Trinity College, Jacobs learned she’d been accepted into the program over the weekend.

“You’re getting 36 highly motivated people from across the country together all from interdisciplinary or varied backgrounds but all with a similar interest in impact and entrepreneurship,” Jacobs said. “And then there’s mentorship from the business community and the access to academic resources through the Entrepreneurship Institute through the summer months – it’s a very exciting opportunity.”

The winning candidates represent 14 universities and were drawn from more than 1,000 applicants from 62 schools across North America. The students hail from a wide range of disciplines including science, engineering, the arts, business, mathematics and architecture.

Until August 2012, they will work in multidisciplinary teams of four to invent, launch and sell a product or service for the mobile or tablet market. They’ll also receive in-class instruction on entrepreneurship from faculty from around the world in what The Next 36 calls an “innovation boot camp” beginning in May 2012.

“The team members bring a lot of different life experiences and perspectives,” said Jacobs. “My team has three U of T students and one Queen’s student, but we come from industrial engineering, commerce, computer science and international relations – and although we’re all Canadian citizens we come from diverse backgrounds, growing up in Jordan, China, Fredericton, and Toronto.”

U of T is a founding partner in The Next 36, launched last year by a group of business leaders, academics and entrepreneurs. Other institutions backing the program include McGill University, University of Waterloo, University of Western Ontario, Ernst & Young, Rogers Communications and MaRS Discovery District.

This year’s winning candidates from U of T include:

  • Zerzar Bukhari (electrical and computer engineering)
  • Freddy Chen (computer engineering)
  • Cheryl Cui (engineering science/biomedical engineering)
  • Anthony Darcovich (international relations, energy science & economics)
  • Rafal Dittwald (engineering science)
  • Melinda Jacobs (international relations)
  • Layan Kutob (industrial engineering)
  • Alexandru Litoiu (computer engineering)
  • Michael Murchison (psychology)
  • Anthony Vaz (commerce)
  • Donnie Yee (mechanical engineering)
  • Ji Zhou (engineering science)
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