A Harvard Team’s Surprising Vegas Spring Break

Hyde and An took the feedback home to Harvard and formed a multidisciplinary team to tackle the challenge. They recruited six of their classmates, ranging from a former Olympic speed skater to a self-professed international relations wonk. The idea was to pair skills sets with the problem at hand, but all the students shared an overarching commitment to creating something great and an “inclination toward action,” Hyde says.

Over the course of nine weeks, the students winnowed their list of ideas down to two: a downtown sidewalks project that developed new creative spaces and the apprenticeship program. A community survey revealed that some 75% of respondents were in favor of the apprenticeship. The HBS MBAs are now in the process of piloting that project, which, if successful, will create a pipeline of talent in the Las Vegas community.

On Sunday, the group will hold an orientation for its pilot apprenticeship class. Five recent and current undergraduate students will complete a four-day program that includes a mix of classroom and on-site instruction. They’ll be paired with local businesses, ranging from social canine group Hydrant Club to the Las Vegas Performing Arts Initiative, which hosts classes taught by star performers.

On Tuesday evening, midway through their visit, the MBAs will host a public forum to solicit feedback from some 200 Las Vegas residents. “If the community overwhelmingly says we think this is a great way to bring young talent into Vegas and build a thriving startup scene, then we’ll work with Dave [Gould] to make it sustainable for downtown Law Vegas. But there’s also a possibility that they’ll come back and say this is a terrible idea and we don’t want to move forward with it,” Hyde says. “That’s also great learning. So either way, really understanding how a project like this could fit into the fabric of the community is the core goal.”

Beyond the ostensible project aim, the HBS MBAs will walk away with hands-on social entrepreneurship experience and key connections in a burgeoning startup scene. “This is the first time I’ve really experienced a startup community. It was really uncharted territory for me. I was very nervous about how to even get myself through the door there,”An says. “So being embraced by the startup community, where people are willing to speak with you and help you out, has just been wonderful.”

For Gould, the impact of the project goes even further. “It’s interesting that 75% of the world will live in cities in our lifetime, and my higher ideal is that the lessons and models that we are able to create–if you’re transparent and share it with other cities–could in a way change the world.”

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