Entrepreneurship for All
Carmen Aramanda named full-time Trinity Entrepreneurship Director

Carmen Aramanda is here to pitch you on entrepreneurship.

Not just that it’s accessible, creative, nurturing, fun, and challenging—but also that it’s for you.

“I want to bolster awareness and enthusiasm that entrepreneurship is for everyone,” says Carmen, now named director of the Center of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) after serving in an interim role for the past 15 months. “My motivation, why I get up in the morning every day, is that I believe that entrepreneurship is the answer for individuals who want to be the change where change is needed, and there’s a lot of room in our world for change.”

At Trinity University, entrepreneurship is both a center and an academic department. There’s a minor in entrepreneurship with a wide array of classes that develop Tigers into entrepreneurs, and there’s also a rich series of programming and opportunities for them to start creating and experimenting without committing to a whole curriculum.

Nestled right above the iconic Cube in the Center for Sciences and Innovation, Carmen and her entrepreneurship team are perfectly positioned to continue being a hub for collaboration and discovery.

"We are excited about the future of the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship under Carmen's leadership,” says Jennifer Henderson, Ph.D., associate vice president for Academic Affairs. “There has never been a more important time for our students to be connected to San Antonio, the region, and the world through innovative ideas and new ventures. We believe the energy and talent that Carmen brings to this role will be the spark that propels Trinity into a new phase of entrepreneurship."

In her new position, Carmen is eager to talk about what’s been consistent about Trinity Entrepreneurship over the years: personalized, high-level mentoring and expertise and expansive and robust hands-on opportunities for Tigers not only to succeed but also to fail.

“Undergraduate entrepreneurship is all about our students testing guardrails, testing the assumptions they're making about the opportunities they think they've identified,” Carmen says. “By the very nature of entrepreneurship, they’re going to discover that they're wrong. And that's good: Because, if they make a discovery, they learn how to make a pivot.”

And most importantly, with Carmen at the helm, Tigers don’t have to make these discoveries alone.

“I think entrepreneurship as a profession can be one of the most uncomfortable things you can choose to do with your career because a path isn’t laid out for you, and there’s no safety net,” Carmen says. “But by engaging with a program like Trinity's, you are immediately positioned for a different experience while breaking down some of that discomfort. You’re talking to mentors, you’re meeting alumni who’ve been through it: Trinity is connecting you with the chance to make meaningful, personal connections that build strong networks.”

Right now, the center is gearing up for the start of the next Louis H. Stumberg Venture Competition. During this multi-round journey, student-founded startups first compete for seed funding in the spring. The winners of the seed round then undertake a 10-week Trinity Accelerator program over the summer (complete with paid housing, business crash courses, and access to high-level mentorship and creative resources) and present their final pitch to a panel of judges for the chance to win a $25,000 grand prize in the fall.

The students behind Well and Worthy, the 2023 Stumberg Competition-winning startup, discuss how to improve their app during the Trinity Accelerator. 

“The Accelerator pushes student founders to make intentional connections and move well beyond theory into the testing phases. We do mentor round tables where we bring in founders from the community to talk to them about different approaches and angles on various topics, and we are spending time bringing in folks from each student’s industry,” Carmen says.

A spirit of mentorship and connection also springs from initiatives like Trinity’s Venture Mentoring Service (VMS), Immersions, and StartHER, all of which provide personalized, small-scale approaches to networking.

Carmen is particularly excited about StartHER, which was piloted in 2019 and relaunched full time in 2021. “We bring in female entrepreneurs from the community to speak with students over a meal about eight times a year, and it’s a space for both introverts and extroverts to have one-on-one time with a female founder because we limit it to five people per event,” Carmen says. “These women talk about building support networks for themselves as founders, how to harness the courage to launch, how they identified the need/opportunity their venture would meet, and how to fund their companies, amongst other topics.”

Similarly, the Immersions program connects current student or recent Trinity alumni founders with an accomplished alumni founder by flying the travelers to the host home city for an intensive couple of days, where they receive valuable feedback and insight about their venture and learn about the host's entrepreneurship journey. The Immersions program provides students and young alumni with critical mentorship and networking as they build their companies and consider the options available to them as early-stage entrepreneurs.

For Carmen, Trinity Entrepreneurship realizes the University’s ethos of a small school environment with big school resources through this exact type of authentic mentorship.

“Students need one-on-one exposure beyond just building a personal network. When we run events that are this small of a group, you get a chance to really get to know the person on the other side of the table, and you are adding a resource to your network that you can always call on in the future.”

Daniel Lubetzky ’90, founder of KIND, sat down with Trinity student startups in 2019. 

The act of creating personal connections extends to the student level, too, with events like Meet a Co-Founder, where aspiring entrepreneurs find partners. “Fifty percent of our Tigers have ventures that they’re looking for somebody to join, and the other fifty have skills they’re looking to bring to a startup, and we just connect them,” Carmen says.

Carmen’s skills, in her words, take shape in expertise, collaboration, and accessibility.

“We can't wait to see more of Carmen's leadership and creativity,” says Megan Mustain, Ph.D., provost and vice president of Academic Affairs. “Her care for the many details is what makes entrepreneurial learning shine at Trinity.”

Since joining Trinity in 2016, Carmen has been part of every major growth phase of entrepreneurship at the University, from the momentous launch of Students + Startups in partnership with Geekdom (now run full-time by the San Antonio 80/20 Foundation) to the first-ever Trinity Accelerator all the way through the latest aforementioned programming.

During her time at Trinity, Carmen has steadily risen through the CIE ranks, first as a program coordinator, then as the programs manager, then as the assistant director, and most recently, as the interim director in October 2022. She’s now a proud graduate of the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin with a master’s degree in technology commercialization, which she terms “tech entrepreneurship.”

“I’ll continue to provide students with expertise and thoughtfulness both in who we hire and how we steward our students: These things have not and will not ever waver at Trinity University,” says Carmen. 

While noting what’s remained consistent about the CIE, Carmen also has a dynamic vision for the future of the center.

“We’re thinking about accessibility, and we’re thinking about how we can become more collaborative,” Carmen says. 

As director, Carmen wants to invite faculty and academic advisers to dream big about the ways that the center can work with different majors, departments, and interests across campus. She is also making moves to help the CIE to reflect a more student-centered approach.

“Our investor panel in April this past year was led by students instead of by faculty. Both the seed and final round of the Stumberg Competition had student voices as the primary MCs. We’ve always been student-centered, but we’re introducing new ways to demonstrate what it means to be student-centered,” Carmen says.

Most notably, the entrepreneurship minor is getting a curricular revamp, as Carmen says her team is “excited about some new decisions being confirmed by the University Curriculum Council, which will make this a new minor experience for students.”

Tigers like Minh-Nhat Nguyen ’24, an economics major with a minor in entrepreneurship, can vouch for Carmen as a leader who’s got their interests at heart.

“Carmen has always been accessible to me, and she takes having an open-door policy seriously,” says Nguyen, who’s engaged with entrepreneurship both as a student and as a startup founder. “I've continually provided feedback to Carmen about my experience, which she's always taken care to incorporate. Related to this, as part of a revamp of the department courses, Carmen held a round-table with me and two other entrepreneurship minors to help re-envision the department offerings to give minors a more rigorous experience while reflecting what modern entrepreneurs and startups need."

Carmen Aramanda speaks with a student at the 2016-17 Summer Undergraduate Research and Internship Symposium. 

Undergraduates aren’t the only people Carmen wants to help build connections. “Our center is also here to promote the successes our alumni are having. So, if they're reading this and thinking, ‘Wow, I want mentorship,’” then initiatives like our VMS program are specifically designed to support our alumni, too, as they continue their journeys. We are always excited to share and enhance their successes.”

Entrepreneurship veterans like Chikanma Ibeh ’23, now a project manager at Dell Technologies who founded the digital storytelling platform StorySpread at Trinity, are also excited to see Carmen leading the way as director.

From the beginning, Carmen has been an integral part of entrepreneurship at Trinity University. She's a marvel. She consistently executes at a level that not many can ever achieve,” Ibeh says. “She is extraordinary, inspirational, and iconic. After years of dedication to students and the department, I have an unbelievable amount of confidence in Carmen.”

Graduates like Jacob Hurell-Zitelman ’19 and Selena Davila ’21, who teamed up to create the startup Quick Sip Coffee, both note Carmen’s commitment to creating connections for Trinity students.

"Carmen is not only heavily invested in the well-being and professional growth of the students on campus but also thrives in ensuring their connection with the community at large,” Hurell-Zitelman says. “The peaks and valleys of entrepreneurship that I experienced as a student seemed insurmountable at times, but with her mentorship, I gained the knowledge and confidence to succeed in both business and life."

Davila adds, "As a female entrepreneur with little experience in business, Carmen guided me and helped build my confidence to be a leader in my business and in the community. I know that she will do the same for all future students. I look forward to how her fresh perspective and years of experience will positively impact the entrepreneurship program at Trinity."

Thus, with a renewed focus on student success and with support from alumni, Trinity Entrepreneurship moves toward a new era of collaboration and opportunity under Carmen’s leadership. It is an exciting time to be a Tiger and a perfect time to explore entrepreneurship. 

Jeremiah Gerlach is the brand journalist for Trinity University Strategic Communications and Marketing.

You might be interested in