Student-Run Ventures Begin Leadership Collaboration

More stories from Margaret Kusar


Image courtesy of Millikin University

One of the biggest parts of academics at Millikin is performance learning—getting hands-on experience in any discipline from day one. From class assignments to extracurriculars, there are dozens of ways to be involved on campus, one of which is student-run business ventures.

Millikin has a number of these ventures, including Blue Satellite Press, 1901 Productions, and Millikin Tabor Consulting. All these ventures allow students to learn how to run a business through trial and error.

“That’s the distinction. It’s not theoretical,” Sara Theis said.

Theis is the director of Millikin’s Center for Entrepreneurship. Last semester, she worked with senior finance major Sean Miller to bring student leaders from each venture together to collaborate. Theis said Miller had been advocating for student venture leadership meetings for at least a year prior to the leadership meetings happening.

“One of the things that I firmly, firmly believe in in terms of the student-run ventures is the students are in charge,” Theis said. “You are learning things about leadership, about running a business, about the way the world works.” 

Theis said Miller came to her with the student venture leadership proposal. He thought it would be a good idea to get student leaders together because the students in each venture were learning how to run a business when they’ve never done it before.

“As faculty, we take a little bit of a backseat because ownership and drive of those businesses has to come from you all,” Theis said.

Student-run ventures bring students of all majors and backgrounds together to collaborate. Business, marketing, design, and art majors are all part of Millikin Creates, which is a design and media company.

“It was exciting because we were able to do professional work,” said Emily Lux, the account manager for Millikin Creates. “We were actually doing the jobs that a lot of us were wanting to.”

Lux is an Arts Administration major but was a design student when Jessa Wilcoxen invited her to be a part of Millikin Creates. It’s hard for her to pick a favorite project, but she learned the most from the sports media day project, where she did setup and troubleshooting and oversaw communication.

“It was a very long day, but it was super rewarding,” Lux said.

Millikin Creates has already collaborated with some of the other student-run ventures on campus. 1901 Productions ran the videography for short videos at the sports media day event, and Millikin Creates has had discussions about future collaboration with Millikin Tabor Consulting.

As a commuter student, Lux sees Millikin activities from an external view. She hopes that student-run ventures will be able to have a bigger voice and increase involvement through their collaboration.

“I think one of the things Millikin really needs right now is for the students to be more involved on campus, myself included,” Lux said. 

Other ventures are also seeing the benefits of wide campus involvement.

“It’s been really fun partnering with more than just theatre students,” Jake Deetz said. “You get not only a wider array of audience members, but you also get a wider of array of in-house people telling you their own ideas and bringing their own stuff to the table.”

Deetz is the interim artistic director for Pipe Dreams Studio Theatre. He was nominated to be an SRV leader by Sara Theis when she was the faculty instructor for Pipe Dreams. He is excited by the opportunities the leadership group offers.

“It helps my mind kind of go racing on like, how can we partner with these people?” Deetz said. “What can I do to help each other out and help each other flourish?”

Deetz said Pipe Dreams has plans to collaborate with Arts Café, Millikin Creates, and the Campus Store in the coming months for cross-promotion and Pipe Dreams’ season announcement.

The process of producing a show is going to be different than shooting a film or printing physical media, but leadership collaboration can help all the ventures regardless of content overlap.

“There’s always something to be learned from another way of producing art or producing content,” Deetz said. “Something that benefits everyone is partnership. Working together to make the best versions of our groups possible.”