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Hillman Entrepreneurs Alumna Accepted into Creativity, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship Scholars Program at Oklahoma State University

Hillman Entrepreneurs Alumna Accepted into Creativity, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship Scholars Program at Oklahoma State University

Pictured: Shauntia White
Pictured: Shauntia White

Story by Luke Catherine

Shauntia White, a graduate of the Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute (Mtech) Hillman Entrepreneurs Program, has been accepted into the prestigious Creativity, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship Scholars Program (CIE) in the Spears School of Business at Oklahoma State University.

White, a master's student studying human development and family science at Oklahoma State, was selected from a large pool of students in the MBA, M.S. in Entrepreneurship Program, and other top graduate programs outside of OSU's business school. Of the 18 candidates chosen, White joins six other non-business students.

The Creativity, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship (CIE) Scholars Program is a distinguished initiative developed to recognize and engage the top students enrolled in the MBA Program at the Spears School of Business.

Each year, an average of up to ten outstanding students are selected based upon an application and interview process. Selected individuals receive a $5,000 scholarship awarded over two semesters and, at the end of the academic year, a plaque recognizing their service as a CIE Scholar.

Selection criteria include previous academic performance and achievements, leadership experiences, extra-curricular or community engagement activity, and unique life accomplishments.

CIE Scholars are expected to act as ambassadors for the Spears School while fostering a culture of innovative thinking, creative problem solving, and the entrepreneurial mindset among the graduate students and faculty of OSU. White will have the opportunity to work on an innovation project of her own choosing and represent OSU in national competitions. CIE scholars also participate in community-building activities that help apply the entrepreneurial approach to all levels of the university.

Community spirit is familiar to White. As a first-year graduate student, she studied the cultural and developmental repercussions of grandparents raising grandchildren in Alaska. The Alaskan community is very "interdependent," says White. The CIE program also creates an interdependent environment for its scholars. Students in the program become part of a community of excellence, with each student bringing a different perspective. This intellectual melding culminates with the scholars working together to organize a creativity event during the spring semester.

"The CIE program will be a meeting of the minds," White says. "The students are very interdisciplinary. Many are international students."

White believes the personal experiences of students will help her understand what life is like in other countries. This is especially important for her doctoral thesis, in which she explores the "health-seeking" actions of mothers with infant children. She studies the services mothers and pregnant women receive, the availability of vaccinations for infants, the locations and convenience of health services, and other factors. The research surrounding her thesis will help her achieve her entrepreneurial goal: to create an enterprise that helps expand the health care systems of under-developed nations.

White is interested in exploring "health systems-based businesses" while in the CIE program, especially in the area of maternal and child development health. She hopes to explore the market for a health systems-based business, even though the need for health system reform is apparent. In Ethiopia alone, 300,000 women die giving birth, and many deaths are due to the fact that 94% of Ethiopian women give birth at home. Families who are lucky can afford the $10 birthing kit, which only includes a tiny bar of soap, gauze, and gloves, but many women are left without even these meager supplies. White recognizes the need for improved health services, and is looking forward to the opportunities that the CIE program offers for her to find a solution.

The second part of White's thesis involves studying maternal relationships in Hassawa, Ethiopia. She is working alongside Ethiopian native Tesfaye Waltamo, who is also a graduate student at OSU. The research focuses on maternal responses to infants in distress.

"We are looking at infant cues of distress, such as crying, vocalization, or physical signals," says White. After observing infant-mother interactions, her team developed a manual to code maternal responsiveness. "Coding" involves assigning a numerical sequence for the physical value of a maternal response. So the manual becomes a tool to help quantify the observed behaviors and reactions in a consistent and reliable format.

White hopes to provide this manual to community workers to help improve physical and cognitive development in children.

White is validating the manual not just in Ethiopia, but in other countries as well. Her team is investigating means of coding for the wealth of families and individuals based on their attire.

"Some children have no bottoms, while some are clothed from head to toe, including hats and shoes," says White. Mothers, too, have different levels of clothing. Once a scale has been established, White can monitor the parent-child interactions within different wealth classes.

White credits the University of Maryland for a large portion of her coding experience. While here, she participated in a study of didactic parent-child interactions with children diagnosed with ADHD. Although she only spent four months on the study, White says she learned a lot in a short amount of time.

The Hillman Entrepreneurs Program, White says, helped her think entrepreneurially in all of her of her research endeavors and pursuits.

October 6, 2011


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