Lion LaunchPad in search of incoming students for special living option

Sean Yoder
March 26, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Lion LaunchPad (LLP) is looking to attract incoming first-year students to its special living option for entrepreneurially minded students.

Students who select this special living option (SLO) will live in Leete Hall located in the North Halls residence area. Students will have access to a well-stocked and outfitted makerspace and have the chance to be part of a community of students who are driven and relish collaboration. Students in the SLO will plan field trips, attend weekly meetings, and hear from local entrepreneurs who will share their experiences.

The deadline to sign up for housing is May 15. First-year students of any major, including those in the Division of Undergraduate Studies, are encouraged to apply for residence with LLP. Students may continue to live in North Halls as an LLP member through their sophomore year.

This coming fall will be a rebuilding year for LLP, said Linda Feltman, the faculty associate for LLP and lecturer of telecommunications and media industries in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications. She noted that this fall an entirely new cohort of incoming students will have the opportunity to continue building on the prior successes of LLP, as well as be mentored and work with the group of small — but dedicated — recent LLP alumni.

LLP first offered the special living option in 2017. Thanks to a grant from Undergraduate Education, Feltman and the students were able to build out the makerspace with all manner of equipment and software that entrepreneurs could use to bring their ideas into reality. Feltman said LLP built great momentum in the 2018-19 and 2019-20 academic years, nearly filling up all slots for the SLO. But that momentum was curbed when the pandemic continued into fall 2020, when no first-year students joined the SLO.

“We’re excited to welcome incoming first-year students this fall who will form a new core of students for the Lion LaunchPad special living option,” Feltman said. “Many of our alumni are still here at Penn State, so we have a great group who will be here to help mentor incoming entrepreneurially minded students this fall.”

Recent alumni of the special living option have taken many different paths through Penn State. From film to architectural engineering to computer science to liberal arts, they represent a diverse group of majors and disciplines with a common interest in innovation and entrepreneurship.

Students don’t need to know exactly what they want to do at Penn State or after college. Shane Westover is a junior majoring in film and is a former SLO member. Westover said his interactions with others in the SLO led him to start his own music career and market it through a combination of social media and streaming platforms.

“The special living option is beneficial for making new friends, building your personal network of creative and influential people and figuring out things that interest you, even if it's not entrepreneurship related,” Westover said. “Hearing about so many other projects the other members were doing enabled me to think about my future differently and gave me the inspiration to pursue my own unique projects.”

In a panel interview with former LLP residents, several pointed to the community- and network-building as one of the chief benefits of residing in a living-learning community.

Ben Yan is a Penn State senior pursuing a multidisciplinary degree combining psychology, business and sociology. He said living in LLP during his first year allowed him to find like-minded people at a time when forging new connections can be difficult after just arriving at college.

“In college, having a network is so, so important,” he said during the panel discussion. “I think LLP has been the place where I've been able to find my network.”

Khaled Khalil, a senior architectural engineering major and team member of the Xora student start-up, is the current peer mentor for LLP. He said the stereotype of entrepreneurially minded people being more inclined to work solo doesn’t bear out in reality, and that entrepreneurs crave collaboration.

“Entrepreneurs will collaborate much more than they will compete, especially if you find people who share common interests and want to help you succeed because they also believe in the same thing that you do,” he said.

The Lion LaunchPad Makerspace is one of the major draws of this special living option. The space, which is only accessible to North Halls residents who are members of LLP, is outfitted with a variety of equipment, including computers loaded with specialty software, podcasting equipment, large screen TVs, white boards and comfortable seating for group activities. There also is a well-stocked entrepreneurship-focused library to help students bring their ideas to life. A video of the makerspace can be found here. Lion LaunchPad follows all safety and health rules in place for students living on campus during the pandemic.

For more information on special living options, visit the Penn State Housing website or email Feltman at lcf8@psu.edu.

Lion LaunchPad is part of the Center for Penn State Student Entrepreneurship and supported by the Office of Undergraduate Education.

Last Updated March 26, 2021