Business Pre-Grad Intern Jordan Ramirez
I spent my semester in the Intellectual Entrepreneurship, founded by Dr. Richard Cherwitz. The friends and I enrolled in the program have come up with a nickname for the program called the follow your dreams program. This is exactly what the program is designed to do - help you find a challenge facing your community or the world that you are passionate about. Then, you are given the proper mentorship in order to continue to pursue that goal, and make it into a reality. Throughout this semester, I applied my education, learned much more than could ever be taught in the classroom, and strived to change the world through my efforts to restructure urban environments, introducing the plans necessary to create the much talked about "intelligent city of the future".
The problem that I attempted to solve over the semester was specifically in the realm of public transportation. If you take a look at public transportation, the core purpose it holds is inherently good. It is designed to transport many people across large distances, getting them to their destinations, all while reducing the traffic congestion and wear-and-tear happening to our roads through private commuters. Public transportation is able to transport around sixty people per bus, reducing the possibility of sixty cars on the road assuming that the majority of commuters are solo drivers (which research says to be true). In addition to reducing traffic congestion in cities, public transportation participation synonymously is able to reduce CO2 emissions, benefitting the areas within urban environments and the world at large. With the core purpose of public transportation being a low-cost, environmentally friendly alternative to private transportation, the question then is presented on why participation is so low within cities across America.
For my Intellectual Entrepreneurship project, I took a look at this problem, and I decided to do everything in my power to solve it. My goal for public transportation was not only to make for a more reliable and efficient system as a true alternative to private transportation, but also to determine the problem that was causing citizens of cities to choose private transportation when a more economical and beneficial alternative was offered. In reality, I was really attempting to understand the rationale that I hold of choosing to pay hundreds of dollars for a University of Texas at Austin parking pass whenever a Capital Metro bus stop sat literally outside my door. It is nonsensical to me, and it was this lack of participation that I wanted to change because of the true belief that I had in the public transportation ideal to change the world in a very literal sense.
The theory that I established on the lack of participation in public transportation was found through psychological research into the way that we as human beings make decisions. I found through research that there are two primary systems our mind uses for different decisions: the rational and the experiential systems. While the rational system is logical, thoughtful, and conscious the experiential system is everything opposite of that. The experiential system for making decisions is how we decide what we are going to eat for breakfast - it based on routine and highly emotionally significant experiences. If you scan the social media channels for Capital Metro or any public transportation system at that, you understand that the public transportation system is found to be unreliable and inefficient. While maybe not always so, the stigma associated with it is spawned from this because in the long run we are willing to focus on that one horrible time we were failed rather than the many times we "just got lucky" and the bus was on time.
I chose to solve the problem of a lack of participation in public transportation by determining what would fill the gap between necessity and efficiency - specifically, what would convince people that the public transportation system is a true competitive alternative to private transportation. I soon discovered that the answer was in two things: information and control. I argue that the primary reason people are willing to choose private transportation over public is because at the very least they will be able to maintain their sense of control over their experience. At the very least, they have the right information to make their own decisions versus placing their complete trust and faith into the hands of a bus driver. To solve this stigma, I spent my semester designing and patenting a solution for public transportation systems across the world to transform the stigma, distribute control and information into their potential rider's hands, and open up additional revenue streams through information technology as a rationale for investment in the solution. In essence, I brought GPS data to mobile phones to track bus listings while using the mobile customer data to fuel targeted advertising in the system.
The point of this paper is not to recount what I did, but rather to state what I learned. The two go hand in hand, however, because what I did is what I learned. I believe that the most beneficial aspect of both my semester and the IE Program in general is that it empowers students to do something with their education - to change the world through passion and innovation. People around the world are looking to younger generations to fix the problems present in business, the environment, and the globe but too many students are graduating selling themselves short. I stand testament, as an IE participant, that even the most ordinary of men are capable of accomplishing great things if they have a vision and are willing to go through the grueling process of bringing it to life. The truth is that if you want to change the world, if you want to see something remarkable come from the story of your life, it is going to take extreme dedication. The whole point, however, is not even whether you succeed or fail but that you were willing to have the faith to try. The inherent motivation for innovation is in the ability to see the many problems facing the world, and maintain the idealism necessary to not only see, but believe in something beyond the present reality. The IE Program, more than anything else, is a means to build character by doing - disciplining yourself, and giving yourself to a greater cause, finding the contentment that comes from living outside yourself.
The scope of your story is insignificant. I am no different, no better, than any of the other classmates that I was surrounded by in the IE Program. The purpose of the student striving to aid in cancer research or work within a non-profit organization have an equivalent significance in their calling. What makes participants in the IE Program significant is their passionate response to the eternal calling to innovate to serve the world around them. What sets the remarkable apart from the average is not a certain IQ, but rather is a childlike belief that anything is possible. I would suggest the IE Program for anyone and everyone who is wiling to challenge The University of Texas at Austin motto.