University to invest in students with new idea bank

Lilly Casolaro

News Editor

Emma Daniel



Troy University is bringing a new application to an old concept with the historical Regions Bank building downtown.

Troy University purchased a property downtown to open a new Innovation, Design, and Entrepreneurship Accelerator (IDEA). The Troy University IDEA Bank, sponsored by Troy Bank & Trust, will feature small business resources and training programs for students to help establish themselves in their future careers.

Students like Aaron Wilhite, a senior marketing major from Spanish Fort, who owns his own photography and videography business, and Avalon Dudinsky, a senior marketing major from Panama City, owner of Stan’s Stuff, an all-purpose seasoning, have been involved in working on the project.

Dudinsky said her business professors were familiar with her product and asked her to share her business with Judson Edwards, dean of the Sorrell College of Business and associate professor of economics, who then asked for her help in the process.

“I went and met him (Edwards) and told him about my business,” Dudinksy said. “By the end of it, he was stoked.

Wilhite said the IDEA bank will be beneficial to all students.

“It’s more than just a place for entrepreneurs; It’s a place for all students of all ages to experience other students jump-starting their careers,” Wilhite said.

Dudinsky said this process has allowed her to make connections and grow her business.

“I have been able to tell my story (of a small business owner) and been able to express some of the issues I faced such as not having a business address and the need for a storefront,” Dudinsky said. “This (IDEA Bank) solves all that.”

Wilhite said this process has allowed him to “be an example of potential” to current and future young entrepreneurs and small business owners.

Major General Walter Givhan, senior vice chancellor for advancement and economic development, has a special appreciation for the project since Troy University got its original start downtown.

“Troy University began its life downtown, so how fitting that this represents the return of Troy University to the downtown area,” Givhan said “This is a building that has always been a bank. . . now, it’s a bank for ideas.”

According to Givhan, Judson Edwards, dean of the sorrel college of business, and Troy University’s Sorrell College of Business came up with “this idea,” and they have been exploring models from other universities to serve as inspiration for the project.

“This is a completely original concept,” Givhan said. “It is something that we have seen at other places, but the application to Troy is somewhat unique.”

One program Givhan mentioned was Duke University’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Academy (I&E), which helps encourage creativity, risk-taking, technological competency, and collaborative skills.

Duke’s I&E Academy, which opened in Spring 2015, provides resources to everyone.

“Academy offerings are designed for everyone—undergraduate students, graduate and professional students, faculty, staff, and community members,” its website said.  “Whether you are looking for expertise in a specific area of innovation and entrepreneurship, committed to building a solid knowledge base, or simply curious to learn more, our programming provides opportunities to meet your needs.”

The Troy University IDEA Bank is still in the planning and preparation phases of the project, and Givhan said that SCOB and Edwards, are “working towards further defining the use of the space.”

The goal and vision is for students who are competitively selected for the program to be housed at the facility, according to Givhan.

“(The) IDEA Bank is not only a place to have classes,” Wilhite said. “It’s a work environment, and you learn on the job.”

Givhan said the University, community and alumni will play an important role by serving as potential mentors to students.

‘I would love to come back and be a mentor,” Wilhite said. “That would be a dream for me.”

No confirmed completion date for the project has been established at the time this article was written.

“This is not just a theoretical exercise; this is actually application of what you have learned and a form of experiential learning, which we encourage at Troy,” Givhan said

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