The University of Wisconsin-Madison prides itself on the Wisconsin Idea, the idea that education should influence people's lives beyond the classroom. This fall, three UW students put that into action.
In MHR322: Introduction to Entrepreneurial Management, Drew Spencer Cobin, Enrique Banez and Shaun Luce were tasked with creating, manufacturing and selling an original T-shirt. They decided to honor former Chancellor Rebecca Blank by raising money for cancer research and a patient care organization.
“When [Chancellor Blank] retired [from Northwestern] because of her diagnosis with cancer, we were really saddened to hear that news,” said Cobin. “When they pitched the idea, I kind of jumped off that and said it would be even better if we took a step forward and dedicated it to something involving cancer research.”
The group got in touch with Blank to discuss which cancer organization the funds should be donated to, and together they chose the Carbone Cancer Center.
“This project really goes beyond the scope of the classroom,” Banez said. “The Carbone Cancer Center is a world class center and has many initiatives like pioneering Tomotherapy, which is a radiation therapy used to treat different types of cancers. It’s so meaningful to think that we’re supporting a world class organization through a class project.”
According to Luce, the students have already raised over $500, and the group earns about $8 in profit for every T-shirt because of production costs associated with each shirt.
“It's been really rewarding to see the amount of people that care towards this initiative and this cause and really just reflects on Chancellor Blank and what she did for the community,” Luce said. “It also just makes me realize that the Madison community is really just one huge giant family that really cares about each other.”
Blank was well respected for her hard-working attitude, which kept morale up among faculty during the COVID-19 lockdown. During her tenure, she also started Bucky’s Tuition Promise, a financial aid program that offers free tuition to low-income students across Wisconsin.
Ultimately, this initiative stems from both a desire to fund cancer research and wanting to honor the contributions Blank made to the Wisconsin community during her nine-year tenure, Banez said.
“This really highlights the magnitude of Becky Blank’s tenure. Hearing the news of her diagnosis has been so heartbreaking because of how beloved she is,” said Banez. “I think it's so heartwarming to see the sense of community really arise through the Madison community through the support of the Carbone Cancer Treatment Center.”
Cobin said this experience and class inspired him to pursue and study entrepreneurship further.
“At the beginning of the class, I didn't see myself as an entrepreneur or interested in any type of entrepreneurship. But I keep going back to this rewarding feeling I have when I'm working on this project, and it doesn't have to do with my grade,” Cobin said. “We're putting in extra work, not because we need to, but because we want to.”
Luce reiterated this sentiment.
“As this project was introduced, and further along in class, it kind of pushed us in different ways once we actually found something meaningful that we all can contribute to entrepreneurially,” he added. “That just motivated us more, I know, Drew and I were just talking today that once we got that threshold mark that we needed for the requirement to sell shirts, once we got there, we were more motivated than ever to sell more shirts, because it’s more than just a class project.”
T-shirts will be on sale until Monday, Nov. 21 on the group’s website.