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Designing Their Future — Bringing Creator Institute and Experiential Learning to John Carroll Studen

“Creator Institute gives me a platform to bring my creativity to life.” — Julia Ruggiero

The Muldoon Center of Entrepreneurship brought a new innovative program to John Carroll University students — the Creator Institute. This initiative guides JCU students through creating their career path by navigating the process of writing and selling a book.

With 75% of high school seniors thinking about working for or running a smaller enterprise, educational institutions around the world struggle to turn this interest into a career for students.

John Carroll University’s entrepreneurship minor has quickly become the most popular program on campus and has helped increase the more than 500 companies in Northeast Ohio operated by graduates of JCU. To continue growing this number and give students the entrepreneurship education they want and need to be successful, Muldoon Center Director and John J. Kahl Sr. Chair in Entrepreneurship Dr. Doan Winkel obsesses over how to inject experiential learning into the program.

“We want our students’ experience to mirror what they will experience in the real-world, including allowing them to taste failure and grow from it,” says Dr. Winkel.
“Creator Institute has helped hundreds of students clarify their vision, increase their knowledge and network around a passion topic, taught students how to organize their thoughts and research, and publish a book that can change their career trajectory. This program offers the perfect experience and outcome we want for our students.”

Creator Institute helps students learn-by-doing — enabling them to discover their passion, develop their expertise and establish their credibility through the creation and launch of their unique book.

In the program, led by Georgetown University’s Eric Koester, students complete what’s equivalent to two three-credit courses over two semesters. Because it is parallels the process of ideating, planning, and launching a business, Creator Institute is being implemented in entrepreneurship programs around the country.

Students that have participated in Creators Institute at JCU include Julia Ruggiero, Jacob Schupp, Katie O’Connell, and Jessica Cook. We asked these students to share their experience with us.

Katie O’Connell

“It has shown me that I am very energized by conversations with creative people and that is where I get my fuel.”

Graduating senior Katie O’Connell chose to write about creating a community in live music experiences. “I wanted to understand how to cultivate community and I use music as my case study,” says Katie. “Music was a big part of my life I lost touch with in college, so this was my way of writing it back in my story,” she continues.

The process of writing a book in the Creator Institute program was frustrating at times for Katie due to the lack of structure. However, Katie states,

“It is a really powerful idea, to do a creative project with structure and guidance with a clear end goal in sight.”

Through writing the book and interviewing professionals in the industry, Katie learned that she would not want to work in music. She would rather keep music in her life as a way to have fun and connect with others.

Although she has written a book, Katie does not see herself as a writer. Looking at her experience and what she gained from the program, Katie says:

“This is not about the finished product — a book. I am not an author. I am not a music buff, but rather I am a creator and a community builder — the big picture. The lessons of this project are applicable to anyone that builds community, in music and beyond.”

Julia Ruggiero

“I finally feel like I have an organized version of my thoughts that I can structure and share with the world in a fun and understandable manner.”

Julia, a graduating senior, learned “way more” than she expected throughout this process. She chose to write about vulnerability, saying she wants her book to “be a resource of support for people who are struggling with a significant life change.”

When asked about what she gained from the program, Julia says, “The course has taught me the importance of deadlines and holding myself accountable to finish what I started.”

While she wants the book to impact the lives of others, Julia isn’t concerned with how many copies she sells. “Regardless what happens with the book, this was one of the most informative experiences, and I’ve met so many people around the world along the way.”

Jacob Schupp

“I have been exposed to sectors of healthcare that I didn’t even know existed and I have been able to meet interesting people along the way.”

While going through the process of selecting a topic to write about, Jacob chose the healthcare industry. Through research, he realized that too often, the patient wasn’t placed in the center of the care being given to them.

Looking back on his experience, Jacob is proud of his accomplishment and encourages others to explore this program. “Participating in something like publishing a book before (or shortly after) graduating is something that not a lot of people do but it is something that can really help you learn about a topic that you are passionate about in a way that can’t be achieved in the classroom,” says Jacob.

Asked what others should know about writing a book, Jacob says it’s surprisingly easy. “When people hear that I am writing a book they are often caught off guard. But really if you set easy, attainable goals for yourself it changes a daunting task like writing a book into something more attainable like writing a page worth of stories that you are passionate about.”

Jessica Cook

“The Creators Institute has allowed me to explore certain areas that interest me that I would not be able to in a traditional classroom setting.”

Jessica Cook didn’t know what to expect going into writing a book.

“I knew that this was something outside of my comfort zone, so I did expect myself to grow throughout the process.”

Jessica is a graduating senior and student-athlete who played for the JCU softball team. She chose to write about college athletics and navigating the student-athlete experience. She wants her book to be a guide for student-athletes on how to make the most of their time in school and hopes that it will help her reach her professional goals, including landing a job in college athletics.

When asked what she would tell students interested in exploring this program, Jessica says, “It is not easy and that it takes a lot of time and effort, however, the experience, in my opinion, can be very rewarding if done correctly.”

Learn more about Creator Institute here. Learn more about the exciting things going on in the entrepreneurship program at John Carroll University by contacting Doan Winkel at

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