Ilana Mermelstein

The Entrepreneurial Experience: Lessons of business and self-discovery

Students sit at tables strewn throughout a large classroom, focusing and taking notes.  They raise their hands to ask questions, eager to learn more, eager to participate. They feel comfortable sharing their opinions, cracking jokes, being genuinely interested in the lessons.  They learn through action over lecture, gaining insight on the realities of entrepreneurship.

The Entrepreneurial Experience module was taught by Professor David Eyman, a self-made businessman and entrepreneur, who teaches to inspire.  “I fell in love with the concept that people could be helped,” he said, recalling his first teaching experience. “I fell in love with teaching right there.”

Eyman directly instructs students during his class. — Photo by Ilana Mermelstein

When it came to his Summer Scholars module, though, Eyman clearly stated that “this class is not taught, it’s facilitated.”  Throughout their two weeks at Miami University, students were presented with interactive opportunities to learn about entrepreneurship, and Eyman made a point to include as few lectures as possible.  “It’s all experience,” he clarified. Eyman presented a few, short learning modules each day, leaving the rest of class for hands-on activities.

Students in The Entrepreneurial Experience module use creative thought processes to develop ideas. — Photo by Ilana Mermelstein

Students learned to use creative thought processes to solve problems, the same method used by entrepreneurs in the real world.  They scribbled idea after idea on sticky notes and posted them on the walls, filling the space in minimal time. Not only did they use this tactic in class, but they put it to use on the field trip they took on Monday, July 23.  

Eyman took his students to Hubbard Radio in Cincinnati to brainstorm real solutions to real problems.  Groups of three students worked with pairs of DJs to create the beginnings of ideas, which the students later developed in class to be presented at the recognition dinner.  After their time at the radio station, the budding entrepreneurs tried their hand at improvisation, a necessary skill in the world of business.

Summer Scholars students work with Hubbard Radio’s DJs to brainstorm ideas. — Photo by Professor David Eyman

Eyman’s goal for the program was to teach students “to do great work, no matter what.”  According to those in the module, Eyman succeeded. Chris Schar, a student in the module, said he learned “how to be creative,” which was seconded by his classmates, including Ryan Jenkins and Alex Copits.  Jenkins added that Eyman was more than qualified to teach the course because “he has real experience,” an asset that the students valued immensely.

While Eyman enjoyed instructing his students, he felt that the work was really done by them.  “I want them to learn what they’re capable of, not what I tell them to do,” he elaborated. “Knowing that makes us better people and stronger professionals.”

Alissa Meyerhoffer: An athlete’s journey

Alissa Meyerhoffer, a rising senior from Raleigh, North Carolina, spends time outside of school on the tennis court.  Despite a late start to the sport, she has played on her school’s tennis team for the past two years and hopes to play for a third.

Meyerhoffer models a Prince racket and Nike gear. — Photo by Ilana Mermelstein

Meyerhoffer got her start in tennis after a health scare in the summer before her sophomore year.  “About two weeks before school started, I had a huge GI (gastrointestinal) bleed,” she recounted. “I got to the point where I could barely walk up a flight of stairs.”  Rather than allow it to hinder her athletic abilities, though, Meyerhoffer used her experience as motivation to further improve.

Meyerhoffer practiced with Ethan, her 15-year-old brother, to rebuild her strength and stamina, but most importantly, her mental game.  “I built the strength to know if I lost a game, I could come back from that loss,” she explained. And come back she did, as Meyerhoffer placed second in the L4 USTA tournament in April of this year.

Meyerhoffer practices her swing on Miami University’s tennis courts. — Photo by Ilana Mermelstein

Meyerhoffer stated that she enjoys tennis because “you can be competitive while still being polite.”  While she appreciates the comradery of the sport, Meyerhoffer admitted that she prefers singles to doubles.  She further explained her response, saying that in singles “any mistake I make is against myself,” indicating that she becomes stressed when her mistakes affect others.  Meyerhoffer enjoys that, when she slips up while playing singles, she is able to calmly consider her error and change her approach.

In her time at Miami University, Meyerhoffer has been maintaining her skills by practicing with Mia Schmittenberg, another Summer Scholars student and tennis player.  Meyerhoffer can be seen showcasing these talents at her school’s tennis tryouts Aug. 8-9.

Vidisha Patni: Performing onstage and off

Shakespeare once said that “all the world’s a stage,” and for this Summer Scholars participant, his words hold true.  Vidisha Patni, a rising senior from Mason, Ohio, is an active member of the theater community in more ways than one.

Patni has been involved in her school’s drama department since her freshman year, participating in shows such as Romeo and Juliet and Sweeney Todd.  She looks forward to her school’s production of Chicago in the spring of next year.  

Patni (left) performs in her school’s production of My Fair Lady. — Contributed photo

While Patni enjoys performing in theatrical productions, she recently pursued an interest behind the scenes: directing.  “I assistant directed Disaster: The Musical,” she recalled, considering some of her favorite theatrical experiences thus far.  “It was a blast.” She took on the position in the spring of this year, and the production was a success.  

Patni is interested in participating both onstage and offstage, depending on the show.  She clarified, saying, “there are some shows where I say, ‘I need to be onstage for this.’ ”  She added that shows “like Chicago” are exciting to perform in, while others are exciting to work on behind the curtain.  

Patni hopes to pursue theater work in the future on the corporate side of the industry.  “I would love to work for a big theater or movie company,” she declared, offering examples such as Disney and major Broadway theaters.  She aspires to “create something that everyone enjoys,” as that is what theater has brought to her own life.

Patni sees theater as a “good escape” from the struggles of everyday life, whether it be school, family, or otherwise.  When asked about why she loves it, she responded concisely: “Theater brings me a lot of joy.”

Katlyn Shaw: The quintessential band experience

Katlyn Shaw, a rising senior from Sacramento, California, is considered what many would call a “band nerd.”  She has participated in her school’s band program since the fourth grade, and she has never looked back.

Shaw began her band experience by playing the clarinet, though her expertise has since expanded.  She now plays two additional instruments: the bass clarinet and the tenor saxophone. Shaw participates in three bands at her school, which include jazz band, concert band, and “a fun class I like to call smamble.”  Smamble, short for small ensemble, is a class in which “you’re allowed to do whatever you want with whoever you want.” “One of the highlights of last year was playing “Boyfriend” by Justin Bieber in front of the whole school,” she recalled.  “It was a party.” Shaw occasionally vocalizes in smamble, an opportunity she takes advantage of when she can.

Katlyn Shaw, with her bass clarinet, and bandmates wait for their turn on stage. — Contributed photo

Before arriving at Miami University, Shaw spent two weeks in Ireland with her school’s band.  “We did touristy things and played quite a few gigs,” she recounted, naming venues such as Ulster Hall in Belfast, Headford, pubs and concert halls.  While on the trip, Shaw and her bandmates received tin whistles, which they all subsequently learned to play. She enjoys “annoying everyone in [her] surroundings” with the instrument, though most find her rare talent amusing.  Shaw showcased her expertise at Monday night’s talent show, where she played “Despacito” for the Summer Scholars community.

While band drama can be difficult to deal with, Shaw decided that her favorite part of band is the friends she’s made.  “Not to be sentimental or anything,” she confided, “but they’re homies for life.” Shaw hopes that others will follow in her footsteps by joining band, as she finds that her experience has been one of a lifetime.

Media Matters: An experience worth having

Morgan Schneider, Ilana Mermelstein, Sawyer Muir, Lexi Whitehead, Megan Salters and Lydia Mandell pitstop at Washington Park between stops at Cincinnati news organizations. — Contributed photo

Before my experience at the Summer Scholars program, I was already quite interested in the field of journalism.  I’ve written for my school newspaper, outside publications, and my own blog, but none of those experiences had given me the insight I gained at Miami University.

While in Professor Patricia Newberry’s class, I learned that journalism doesn’t have to be limited to the major political stories or criminal cases; journalism can be found anywhere.  I learned that great stories are easy to come by when you look hard enough, that everyone has a story or two worth telling. I learned that people enjoy talking about themselves and being recognized for the things they’ve done and the things they aspire to do.  I learned that any story can be a good story when it’s told the right way.

Summer Scholars students tour an ABC studio in Cincinnati. — Photo by Ilana Mermelstein

A majority of my time in the Media Matters module was spent reading the work of professional journalists, creating questions pertaining to the articles they wrote, and asking them questions over video chat or in person. After two weeks of this process, I became more skilled at quickly finding questions in every piece of writing, video, or other journalistic medium.

Over the two weeks in the program, my classmates and I met with about 30 professional journalists, 11 of whom were Miami University graduates.  I found all of them influential in one way or another, but I was especially impacted by Bethany Bruner, a crime reporter for the Columbus Dispatch. Bruner reports on stories that would be unbearable to most, including deaths of children, drownings and car accidents.  However, Bruner doesn’t do what she does because she likes telling tragic stories; she does it because she feels it’s her responsibility to be the voice for the voiceless, to share the stories of those who can’t share their own. Her experience taught me that journalism fulfills the passion for storytelling shared by people like both Bruner and myself.

Ilana Mermelstein visits the famous ‘M” flower bed at Miami University. — Photo by Lexi Whitehead

Despite the many success stories of journalists, I’ve been told time and again that journalism is a poor career choice, that it’s a “dying industry.”  After speaking to so many successful journalists, visiting newsrooms, and seeing journalism in action, I’ve learned that journalism isn’t dying; it’s thriving.  I will admit that people aren’t picking up newspapers as often or listening to news radio, but they continue to get their news in one way or another, and someone has to be there to provide it.  That is what journalism is, and that is why media matters.

About the author

Mermelstein visits Washington D.C. with her confirmation class. — Contributed photo

Ilana Mermelstein, 16, is a rising junior from Alpharetta, Georgia.  She has been pursuing a career in journalism since the summer of 2017, when she began blogging.  In addition to writing for her blog, Mermelstein writes occasional articles for Your Teen Magazine, an Ohio-based parenting publication.  Outside of time spent writing, Mermelstein is involved in her synagogue’s teen youth group, serving as its Religious and Cultural Vice President.  She passes time at home by playing the ukulele, spending time with Ruby, her 3-year-old Corgi-Lab mix, and watching The Office.  Mermelstein aspires to earn an undergraduate degree in journalism and a possible second one in psychology.  She then hopes to move to New York City because she thrives in the high-energy atmosphere, though she secretly finds the idea of not driving quite appealing as well.  Mermelstein chose the Media Matters module because she is interested in a career in journalism, but also because she has a passion for telling stories.