Students in the Texas A&M College of Architecture's design process clas heard a presentation from a third-year finance major at Virginia Tech whose four social-media businesses have made more than $45,000 in net income.
Nathan Latka discussed his entrepreneurial ventures and the creative process on Oct. 7 and 8 in the class, ENDS 101, led by Rodney Hill, professor of architecture, and Jorge Vanegas, professor of architecture and dean of the college.
Open to students in all majors, the design process class is a creativity workshop that sees students spark, explore, discover and develop their creative problem-solving abilities and entrepreneurial spirit, both individually and in multidisciplinary teams.
Latka said his current main business, The Fan Page Factory, designs customizable Facebook fan pages. His clients, he said, have amassed more than 600,000 Facebook fans.
He focused on three themes in his lectures: the difficulty of attaining a financially secure life in today's economic conditions through a traditional work environment, his entrepreneurial story and why one has to be creative or be outsourced.
The course, said Hill, examines the issues and theories behind the creative process — from the formation of ideas through incubation to the final product and its future impact on the physical environment and society — and covers problem-solving skills as well as systems and futures theory. Individual and group assignments require students “to produce knowledge rather than reproduce knowledge.”
Students, he said, have to come up with one innovation a week, do a patent search for it in individual assignments and take part in entrepreneurship competitions as team members.
“I am trying to get my students to start new businesses and create their own future. If they don’t, they stand the chance of becoming a commodity and being off-shored,” said Hill. “Knowledge creators are the only people that can continue to map out their future,” he adds, “and that is the most important skill of this century."
Hill was introduced to Latka by Robert Riggs, an outstanding alumnus of Texas A&M's College of Architecture and a Peabody Award-winning investigative reporter who is now a media entrepreneur in Dallas. Riggs earned a Bachelor of Environmental Design degree at Texas A&M in 1971. After hearing a speaker praise Latka’s work at a technology conference, Riggs visited Latka’s website to learn more.
“I was struck by the creativity and entrepreneurship in such a young person,” recalls Riggs, a regular guest speaker in Hill’s course. I thought that Nathan would be the perfect speaker for this class on creativity — here’s someone doing it. Nathan brings such infectious energy to his writings and his work, and students could be inspired by him,” said Riggs, whose firm, frontpagetv, creates and optimizes online videos for search, social media, and mobile devices. Riggs said he likes to “stay in the orbit of creative people” and hopes he and Latka can work together on a project.
In addition to his finance studies and business ventures, Latka also serves as president of the Entrepreneur Society at Virginia Tech. “Nathan has revived the student club,” notes Reed Kennedy, its faculty advisor. “He commands members’ respect, has a lot of energy, and is passionate about entrepreneurship,” said Kennedy, who teaches the Small Business Institute course at Virginia Tech.
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