New director of IDEAL center aims to promote ‘a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship’

Yusuf+Dahl+took+on+the+role+of+the+director+of+the+IDEAL+Center+this+fall.+%28Photo+by+Irwin+Frimpong+21%29

Yusuf Dahl took on the role of the director of the IDEAL Center this fall. (Photo by Irwin Frimpong ’21)

Trang Le

After a dormant year, the Center for Innovation, Design, Entrepreneurship, and Leadership (IDEAL) is back on track with Yusuf Dahl taking the lead as the program’s new director. 

“Our main goal is to build, nurture and sustain a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship. All of our programs are designed to empower students, facilitating their abilities to effect positive changes, whether commercial or social in nature,” Dahl said.

The IDEAL Center coordinates the college’s faculty, staff, alumni and external partners, to support campus-wide opportunities for students in different academic disciplines “to learn and apply the skills, perspectives, and attributes of creative leaders in business, nonprofit, and governmental sectors,” according to the Lafayette website.

“This entire endeavor is about the students. I cannot make you an entrepreneur. You yourself need to have a passion about solving a problem, whether it’s improving a consumer’s life, or increasing opportunities for a historically disadvantaged group you care passionately about,” Dahl said.

Dahl, who graduated from Princeton University with a degree in public policy and urban planning, exhibited his excitement at the opportunity to revolutionize the definition of entrepreneurship at Lafayette.

“Originally, my plan when I matriculated at Princeton was to work on housing policies at [the] federal level, but things happened in Washington where that no longer interested me. At the same time, I was also teaching a social entrepreneurship course at Princeton as a graduate, and actively engaged in [entrepreneurship opportunities] given my business background. That was when the opportunity to work at Lafayette was brought to my attention,” Dahl said.

The IDEAL Center kicked off the year with the Elevator Pitch Boot Camp and the Elevator Pitch Competition resulting in a reception and a grand prize of $300. The “Lessons in Leadership” talk featuring Chip Bergh ’79, the President & CEO of Levi Strauss, next Wednesday is also being hosted by the IDEAL Center. 

In addition to hosting events, Dahl is also excited to recruit students from various fields as brand ambassadors directly involved in crafting and implementing the visions of IDEAL.

“The IDEAL center is the campus home for innovation and entrepreneurship, but it is not discipline-specific. Innovation and entrepreneurship is the domain for all who care deeply about something. We have selected six students from across different disciplines, ensuring that the message of inclusivity is heard by all,” Dahl said.

Among the candidates is Alexander Homsi ’19, who had previous first-hand experience with IDEAL as a freshman. Alexander believes the center is an enticing premise for students to develop essential skill sets.

“To me, entrepreneurship is identifying a problem and going out of your way to solve it, taking initiatives and establishing values for a better community,” Homsi said.

Returning to the center for a second time, Homsi has high expectations for his experience with IDEAL and the future of the program under new leadership.

“It’s not just ‘another thing’ on campus. We want to create a hallmark at Lafayette, something which people look forward to, and even apply to Lafayette for. There are lots of potentials and funding for IDEAL, and it’s certainly attracting attention from students,” Homsi said.