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Entrepreneur from Thailand Explores Ways ODU Supports Social Innovation

By Christian S. Williams

Social entrepreneur Sitta Marattanachai recently visited Old Dominion University from Thailand to learn how ODU supports innovation and entrepreneurship as part of the Professional Fellows Program.

While here, she presented to her first U.S. audience at the Strome Entrepreneurial Center and opened a discussion about how ODU entrepreneurs can start more socially minded ventures on campus.

The Professional Fellows Program is a U.S. State Department exchange program. Marattanachai is one of 68 fellows visiting the U.S. under the Economic Empowerment Cohort. This is the first time ODU has had a Professional Fellow on campus.

In her presentation at the Strome Entrepreneurial Center in October, Marattanachai compared the economies of Thailand and the U.S., gave insight on Thai culture and explained what she is doing to help entrepreneurs with her social venture, CareerVisa.

CareerVisa is aimed at empowering students and developing their entrepreneurial skills. CareerVisa recently hosted its Founder Apprentice program, linking startup founders with students, which Marattanachai regards as her proudest achievement. Marattanchai is also an official in the Industry Division of the Bureau of Committees at Thailand's House of Representatives, where she conducts analysis on urban planning policies.

Marattanachai came away with a positive impression of ODU. "It's a very innovative university," she said. "There's a lot of mechanisms that support student-entrepreneurs."

She witnessed firsthand how students such as Anthony Molyneaux and Glenn Bazemore use the resources at the center to run their ventures from campus.

On social entrepreneurship, Marattanachai suggested, "ODU can start a conversation with the state government on how to do more to help support social-impact ventures in this region." She felt ODU entrepreneurs were more product-centric teams of one. In Thailand, she said, "we try and solve the problems that we have to better a common pain."

During her four-week stay, which ended Nov. 21, Marattanachai met people who performed varying roles at ODU, such as at the Career Development Center and Office of Intercultural Relations.

Aside from her time spent on campus, Marattanachai enjoyed the Perry Glass Studio at the Chrysler Museum of Art, where she watched "glass blowing go from zero to a cat."

The Strome Entrepreneurial Center is where students, faculty, staff, alumni and the general community from across all disciplines collaborate and create innovative ideas and businesses. For more information on the center, visit www.odu.edu/sec.

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