Growing up in a family of entrepreneurs, CS senior Jay Bensal has seen firsthand the opportunities that arise from creating new businesses. It’s not that surprising, then, that Bensal helps lead several startup-related events for College of Engineering students.
On March 12, Bensal will be honored as a 2016 Knight of St. Patrick, a College of Engineering distinction that recognizes leadership, excellence in character, and exceptional contributions to the college and its students.
“This award is really special for me,” said Bensal, who attended previous Knights’ induction ceremonies as an underclassman. “I know students who were Knighted in the past, and I know what kind of leaders they are and how they’ve contributed to the College, so it’s great to be recognized and in their company.”
One of the early members of Founders, a registered student organization focusing on entrepreneurship, Bensal took the lead in organizing the first iteration of 54, a high-energy startup event, where students of all majors team up to bring their business ideas to life over the course of 2-1/2 days. According to Bensal, several of the teams that participated in 54 in the three years it has been held have gone on to win cash prizes at campus entrepreneurial competitions and further develop their ideas over the school year and into the summer.
In addition, Bensal has helped lead the Founders Startup Career Fair that brings together hundreds of engineering students with dozens of startup companies from Champaign, Chicago, New York, Seattle, and the Bay Area. This event is co-sponsored with ACM in the fall and Engineering Career Services in the spring. In total, the event has reached thousands of students and over a hundred companies in its four semesters on campus.
“The work I’ve done with Founders definitely wouldn’t be possible without the efforts of the other students on the team,” Bensal said. “We try to cultivate a fast-paced, collaborative environment that people want to be a part of and is reflective of our mission and this helps us get more done.”
Bensal will be formally inducted as a Knight of St. Patrick along with nine other COE students at the annual Knights Ball. As for his future, Bensal is interviewing for jobs in software engineering now, and he hopes to work for a startup company in the news or education fields.
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