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The Dartmouth
April 20, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Project Z event hosts motivational speakers

In its inaugural year, the Project Z conference aimed to "excite, innovate and evolve" on Saturday, featuring speakers that included multi-millionaires, professors, ex-marines and professional athletes, according to Project Z social media coordinator Kyle Dennis '15. Over 300 people attended the conference in the Rockefeller Center to discuss entrepreneurship and enterprise.

Co-creator Catherine Bryt '15 said that the event gave students a chance to seek advice from successful entrepreneurs and facilitated peer-to-peer conversations that could "break out of conference and into student's actual lives."

"We are filling a gap that is lacking at Dartmouth because people have all these ideas, but there is not necessarily something to help them figure out how to take their ideas and do something with it," Bryt said.

Co-creator Riley Ennis '15 said that the main problem with education today is that there is a lack of "doers and problem solvers." Project Z brought in speakers who took ideas and turned them into projects that have made an impact, showing the Dartmouth community that learning is not just passive, Ennis said.

"I think that the goal of Project Z is to change the mindsets of students," Dennis said. "You're not looking at your peers just as kids you go to class with. We're here because of our talents and we are so much more capable then we credit ourselves for."

In his speech, Tuck School of Business professor Ron Adner discussed the importance of innovation and recognizing the "ecosystem" entrepreneurs will work in, reading excerpts from his new book "The Wide Lens."

"We must learn how to look at an opportunity and recognize their inherent risks in a way that lets you manage them better, learning smarter ways to prioritize the opportunities that you want to dedicate yourself to," Adner said.

Tuck professor Gregg Fairbrothers spoke about how to make Dartmouth a place that celebrates innovation and that is friendly to innovators.

"It's a little harsh to say that Dartmouth isn't an innovative place and it's hard to get things done," Fairbrothers said. "Doing something new with no resources is hard, and if you make it to easy you just get a lot of wacky people doing wacky things. There is a certain value to the challenge it's easy to blame the environment, but in reality most entrepreneurs who have any backbone figure out how to get it done."

At the conference, Jim Coulter, co-founder of the private equity firm TPG Capital, said that for one to be successful, he or she must be an "athlete." Coulter said that entrepreneurs must have an edge, have vision, be daring and must find a passion, which they must pursue regardless of success or failure.

"Two of the speakers ended up having different approaches to what they were talking about which was interesting, and someone in the audience asked a very poignant question that led to discussion between the two speakers," Bryt said.

Ennis said that he enjoyed seeing Olympic gold medalist Hannah Kearney '15 in a different light, as her Dartmouth experience is allowing her to find a career into which she can channel her energy.

"The reason why I'm here at Dartmouth is because I have this amazing passion for skiing, and I'm here to find out where I can channel that energy when I'm done," Kearney said during her presentation.

Ennis said he was inspired to create Project Z after he spoke at a New York University conference earlier this year. His goal was to modify the conference for the Dartmouth community, tailoring that to the school itself and the College's community and culture, he said.

"You usually don't see these things getting run by students because they're mostly run by faculty," Casey Dennis '15 said.

The conference conflicted with Kappa Delta Epsilon sorority's Derby party and Alpha Chi Alpha fraternity's Pigstick party, resulting in low attendance among upperclassmen, he said.

Casey Dennis said he would like to have the talks in a larger venue next year so that the attendees can see all the speakers at once. He said, however, that this would present a problem, as the group would also like to increase the number of speakers next year.

"We want to figure out how to expand the event while keeping it very intimate, broadening the speakers and the space," Bryt said. "This year it conflicted with fraternity and sorority events, which was our biggest weakness."

Despite the conflicts, Ennis said that the project received support from various corners of campus.

"Today, I've gotten 10 or 15 emails from attendees who said they were inspired that at a school like Dartmouth, they saw a little bit of Silicon Valley going on here," Ennis said. "People always say we can't do it, but we are pioneering a space at Dartmouth that hasn't been shown before, showing that we at Dartmouth can make an impact."

The event was sponsored by the Rockefeller Center.

Casey Dennis is a member of The Dartmouth Staff.