DifferenceMaker Co-Ops Learn Marketing Strategies at Innovation and Entrepreneurship Conference

Two young women and a man in glasses pose for a photo in front of a conference backdrop Image by courtesy
DifferenceMaker co-ops, from left, Maddie Gear, Nick Jarek '23 and Cameron Famiglietti represented UML, along with Neyder Fernandez '23, at the 12th annual Deshpande Symposium on Innovation & Entrepreneurship in Higher Education in Scottsdale, Arizona.

By Ed Brennen

“Entrepreneurship” never seemed like a scary word for rising senior business majors Cameron Famiglietti and Maddie Gear.

As marketing co-ops for the Rist DifferenceMaker Institute, a big part of their jobs is to inform fellow UML students how they can explore and develop their entrepreneurial ideas through the campus-wide program.

However, after attending the recent Deshpande Symposium on Innovation & Entrepreneurship in Higher Education in Scottsdale, Arizona, Famiglietti and Gear are rethinking their marketing strategy.

“We have been marketing DifferenceMakers all wrong. We were trying to market it as an entrepreneurship resource rather than a resource that's open to all students,” Famiglietti says. “We never really realized that the word ‘entrepreneurship’ can be really scary for most students, especially those who aren't majoring in business.”

A session on broadening student engagement convinced Gear that by instead “using terms such as ‘problem-solving’ and ‘social impact,’ students will be more likely to want to progress their ideas.” 

Launched at UMass Lowell in 2012 by Chancellor Emerita Jacquie Moloney and technology entrepreneur Gururaj “Desh” Deshpande, the annual Deshpande Symposium brings together faculty, administrators and business leaders from around the world to share strategies for promoting entrepreneurship on college campuses.

Famiglietti and Gear attended the three-day symposium with another DifferenceMaker co-op, MBA student Nick Jarek ’23, and former Student Government Association President Neyder Fernandez ’23, who is pursuing a master’s degree in education administration.
“It was a campus full of people who are doing the same thing I want to do, so it was great to connect with them.” -MBA student Nick Jarek ’23 on Deshpande Symposium

Manning School of Business Interim Dean Steven Tello says the university sponsored the students’ participation because it was a valuable opportunity to learn about entrepreneurship programs at other institutions.

“Our students got to share stories, learn about new types of competitions and innovation ecosystems and build their own professional networks,” says Tello, who joined the students in Arizona along with iHub Director Tom O'Donnell, Dean of Student Affairs and Wellness Brenda Evans and Jessie Santer, associate director for promotions and media for Student Affairs.

Armed with “literally 20 pages of notes” from the symposium, Jarek says he has already begun to implement what he learned during this summer’s First-Year Orientation sessions, which include a visit to DifferenceMaker Central on North Campus.

“We teach people that what we do is for everyone,” says Jarek, who began working as a DifferenceMaker co-op while earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in digital media. The co-op experience has made Jarek want to pursue a career in higher education and “dedicate my life to helping students change the world” — something that was reinforced at the Deshpande Symposium.

“It was a campus full of people who are doing the same thing I want to do, so it was great to connect with them and learn more about what they do,” he says. “It helped me be sure that that’s what I want to do.”

Famiglietti, who manages the DifferenceMaker social media channels, was nervous at first about being one of the only students at a professional conference, but “everyone was super-inviting,” she says. The UML students connected with faculty from the University of New Brunswick in Canada, who invited them to a conference on their campus in October.

Gear says she returned home from the symposium inspired to help students turn their ideas into reality.

“DifferenceMaker offers such tremendous resources to students, and I would love to see more students utilizing them,” she says.