Innovation LLC welcomes new members

The next cohort of East Carolina University’s newest trailblazers kicked off their first week as Pirates as the Innovation Living Learning Community (LLC) welcomed 15 new members to its 2024 class.

The group of innovators, ranging from Greenville to as far north as New Jersey, will spend the next four years exploring ECU’s innovation and entrepreneurship programs while living in Gateway Residence Hall.

The LLC provides an interdisciplinary and collaborative environment where students explore opportunities to develop creative, innovative and entrepreneurial responses to community issues. In its third year, the LLC has welcomed students from varied backgrounds — from political science to finance and nursing — and provides basic skills for entrepreneurship practice and theory, no matter what academic course its members pursue.

Elizabeth Hodge, left, professor and assistant dean for innovation and director of engaged research, welcomes the 2024 class of the Innovation Living Learning Community to East Carolina University. (Photo by Matt Smith)

Freshman Peja Ogbebor, a Greensboro native, said that the name of the program stuck out to her when researching where she wanted to fit in at ECU.

“The Innovation LLC appealed to me because of its name — its focus on innovation,” Ogbebor said. “Anyone who joins the LLC is coming in with a creative and innovative mindset. Those are the type of people I want to be around.”

Ogbebor, who runs her own resume writing business, said she’s looking forward to working with the Greenville community during the next four years.

“I know there are a lot of underserved and underprivileged communities in and around Greenville,” she said. “If we put our minds together, we can create something amazing and tackle the problems facing these areas.”

As part of the Innovation LLC, students spend their four years participating in entrepreneurial-focused co-curricular activities. These range from ECU’s Pirate Entrepreneurship Challenge, to the National Science Foundation-funded I-Corps program, and ECU’s Hult Prize. Students can also participate in ECU’s award-winning student entrepreneurship program, RISE29.

Additionally, students meet with local businesses and community partners to develop working relationships with eastern North Carolina entrepreneurial leaders.

When they finish the program, Innovation LLC graduates will have earned a certificate in entrepreneurship from the Miller School of Entrepreneurship on top of their traditional academic programming.

Students participated in their first face-to-face meeting on Tuesday, masks included, learning about ECU traditions during a viewing of the university’s new student orientation video.

Freshman Brandon Baddock, who first took notice of ECU in part because of its College of Business, said that during the short gathering he could tell that this group was going to come up with great ideas.

“I’m ready to get going, start working together and brainstorming some ideas,” Baddock said. “Everyone seems very open-minded and that’s important when you’re trying to launch an idea or business.”

New cohort members begin their semester with a student development course and continue in the spring with entrepreneurship essentials.

The Innovation LLC is part of a growing effort to advance entrepreneurship across ECU’s campus. In 2015, the university established the Miller School of Entrepreneurship and last year announced a new undergraduate degree in entrepreneurship.

ECU offers 18 LLCs for students living on campus.