Carolyn Strobel-Larsen: Your Best Friend in Innovation

A great aspect of Colgate is the seemingly never-ending list of extracurricular activities. There is something for everyone on this campus, from sports teams and social clubs, to the trivia team and a beloved stand-up comedy group. For students with a knack for innovation and entrepreneurship, Thought Into Action (TIA) and its related initiatives are a great way to jumpstart your projects and help you navigate the first steps to success. Carolyn Strobel-Larsen, director of entrepreneurship and innovation programs at Colgate, is ready and willing to assist students in their new ventures.

Before making her way to Colgate, Strobel-Larsen lived in Silicon Valley, Calif. and worked for a nonprofit supporting women in tech and two tech startups. She moved back to her hometown in Sherrill, N.Y. five years ago and began working in Colgate’s alumni relations office. In this position, Strobel-Larsen planned and prepared off-campus events for alumni, along with forming panels and discussions about upcoming issues and areas of interest.

“The job with TIA and entrepreneurship came open a few years ago and it just seem[ed] like a perfect fit for my background of being at startups combined with my experience working with alum[ni],” Strobel-Larsen explained. 

Strobel-Larsen is able to carry her expertise from her past job in alumni relations to her new appointment to director of entrepreneurship and innovation programs. 

“I still work a lot with alumni, we have a really robust alumni volunteer program, so I’m constantly meeting with Colgate alumni and parents and friends, but I’m also now having the chance to engage with students who are interested in entrepreneurship and startups.”

Strobel-Larsen’s main duties include overseeing strategies and programs dedicated to entrepreneurship and innovation. Although TIA is the most well-known of these programs on campus, there are a number of other initiatives that encourage innovation including an accelerated summer program, a campus venture initiatives committee to approve the sale of student goods and services on campus and a variety of collaborations with Colgate departments. 

“We collaborate with career services every year, typically on sophomore connections that always include an entrepreneurship or start-ups panel. And we’ve also done summer workshops as well with them where we really feature alumni who are founders of start-up employees,” she explained.

Another collaborative initiative that excites Strobel-Larsen is Design Your Life, a project run by TIA, Shaw Wellness Center and the Chapel House with a focus on personal leadership. Her goals go beyond assisting students in starting companies or making a product.

“We’re developing a suite of additional programs which focus on things like social entrepreneurship, leadership, thinking about research and other aspects of both entrepreneurship and innovation,” Strobel-Larsen said.

Strobel-Larsen is currently working on the middle-campus initiative for arts, innovation and creativity. At the end of the project, the Benton Center will be built near the Dana Arts Center to house computer science, some visual arts and theater components and new “maker spaces.” The new innovation center will take over the top two floors of the Dana Arts Center, where the Picker Art Gallery is currently located. Strobel-Larsen has been at the forefront of this initiative by working on planning committees and with architects. 

If you are interested in innovation, entrepreneurship, or start-ups, you can find more information about TIA through social media, posters around campus or visit Strobel-Larsen in her weekly office hours. 

“I’m always more than happy to connect with students who are interested in our programs or just talking over their business idea thinking about what they might do with that,” said Strobel-Larsen.

As a piece of advice, Strobel-Larsen encourages students to start implementing their ideas as early as possible. A good first step in the venture process would be reaching out to friends and family that might be interested in a project, rather than waiting years to finish larger steps such as real estate applications or legal requirements. Then, get feedback from as many people as possible.

When she’s not busy helping students realize their entrepreneurial potential, Strobel-Larsen enjoys taking day-trips to explore upstate N.Y. and all things outdoorsy: some of her hobbies include downhill skiing, cross country skiing, snow shoeing, golf and bowling.