In time of growth, Dyer Center looks for more student direction

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The Dyer Center will have a new space in the Rockwell Sciences Center, while maintaining a remote office in Hogg Hall. (Photo courtesy of Dyer Center)

Kathryn Kelly

The Dyer Center is well-funded by alumni and has scheduled an array of events for this semester, but right now, they’re looking for more direction from students. From its future programming to the furnishings in its upcoming space in the Rockwell Integrated Sciences Center, the center wants to get to know more students of different passions and interests, Director of the Dyer Center Yusuf Dahl said.

In particular, he added, the center is currently lacking in students with innovative ideas to propel a socially minded cause—he emphasized that the center is not just in place for students with for-profit app or widget ideas.

One opportunity for students to take advantage of the Dyer Center resources, known as the Bergh Accelerator, has already passed for this year as the application deadline was March 3. However, it will be offered for the next three summers. Teams of four students can receive up to $20,000 to work on business ideas over the summer. 

“Each team will have an individualized set of milestones to hit, so there is no one size fits all approach to the direction of resources. We will build in some accountability to ensure the money is used for its intended purpose,” Dahl said.

The program is designed to have students on campus for the summer, but being located elsewhere isn’t out of the question: if the team can make a case for why they need to be in another place, such as California or New York, the Dyer Center would consider honoring that request, Dahl said. 

The Business Competition is another program the Center has in the works for April, something they also did last year. They’ve received “several” submissions for the competition thus far, and the deadline is April 18 to submit. The winner of that competition will receive $1,500 in prize money and the chance to represent Lafayette at the Lehigh Valley Collegiate Business Pitch Summit.

With these plans and activities ongoing for the semester, Dahl has thoughts in mind for the center’s future. Soon the center will call the Rockwell Sciences Center home, with their own designated space in the building.

The new area will allow the Dyer Center to form a greater sense of “community,” Dahl said, with hang-out spots for students and even a space to host speakers.

The Dyer Center, formerly known as IDEAL, has honed in on a more centered focus since Dahl took over as director, he said.

“When I started 18 months ago, we focused our efforts on innovation and entrepreneurship, because before, IDEAL was very broad and ambitious in its goal. It was leadership, design, it was a lot of things,” he said.

“So [when I started], we really kind of doubled down on those efforts, and this accelerator in many ways is a culmination of some of those efforts, we’re very fortunate to have Chip [Bergh] philanthropically support it,” he added. Bergh is the CEO of Levi Strauss & Co., and pledged to provide up to $20,000 per team in the Bergh Startup Accelerator.

The two teams that applied to the accelerator received the opportunity, but Dahl declined to reveal any details about them or their businesses since he hadn’t had the opportunity to speak with them himself as of Tuesday afternoon.

Dahl said that a donation to permanently fund the center’s prize money awards is currently in the works, but declined to reveal any further details, as details are still being finalized.