You might say that a beauty pageant changed Laura Medcalf’s life.
A 2008 graduate of Ada High School, she was a freshman in her first semester at Oklahoma State University, intending to major in engineering but with no idea of what she wanted to do, when she won the Miss Ada title for 2009.
Today, after only three years, Medcalf is a senior majoring in computer science at East Central University – and the only student selected from a regional university to receive a prestigious i2E Fellowship.
“They (i2E) were so excited about that,” she said.
Medcalf, who will graduate next December, is one of six college students from across the state selected for the fellowships. Four of the six i2E Fellows are working on MBA degrees at the University of Tulsa and Oklahoma City University, and the only other undergraduate is from the University of Oklahoma.
i2E (Innovation to Enterprise) Inc. is a private not-for-profit corporation that focuses on growing technology-based companies in Oklahoma and making a positive impact on the state’s economy. Since it opened in 1998, it has helped hundreds of entrepreneurs, companies, inventors and researchers turn their technological innovations into high-growth business opportunities for Oklahoma.
After winning the Miss Ada title, Medcalf came back to Ada on a scholarship to ECU, one of the prizes in the competition. Since ECU does not offer a degree in engineering, she had to find a new major.
“My mom has a computer science degree, so she pushed me toward computer science,” Medcalf said. “I just loved the (ECU) department and the professors. It’s a very tight-knit department.”
Her mother, Rhonda Medcalf, a math teacher at Ada High School, also saw a notice in The Oklahoman newspaper about the i2E Fellowships.
“I knew I needed something like that,” Medcalf said. “It seems like a really interesting company.”
After a couple weeks, she was notified she was a finalist, and after three interviews, she was selected. The i2E Fellows were announced at the Governor’s Cup dinner along with the winners of the Donald W. Reynolds Governor’s Cup business plan competition. Medcalf said ECU President John Hargrave, School of Business Dean Wendell Godwin and several ECU business and science professors attended the dinner.
“ECU was really excited, too,” she said. “I hope to be a link between i2E and ECU.”
i2E Fellows are matched with participating host companies where they work for 10 weeks and are paid $6,000, which does not cover living expenses.
“Even if it paid nothing, it will be a great experience,” she said. “The experience alone is priceless.”
Medcalf was paired with Mintiva, a specialty pharmaceutical company that markets more than a dozen topical pain products and is developing additional topical creams and gels for other medical needs.
“It is a tech-based start-up company with four guys. I’m really thrilled to be part of that,” she said.
Mintiva, which has used Twitter to offer a free sample to people who clicked on its website, apparently liked the fact that Medcalf has been heavily involved in social media.
“I’m a big Facebook addict,” she admitted. “It fascinates me – just the impact of social media on companies. It can give companies a definite edge and an advantage over those that don’t use it. Facebook and Twitter are where the world is heading.”
She also has created a blog.
At Mintiva she will do web marketing. She will monitor how people interact with the company’s website, determine how it can be more user friendly and do a lot of demographic analysis to see who the company’s target market is and which pages people are drawn to.
“I guess they figured with my computer science background I had to have some knowledge of how to do that,” she said. “I started social media on Myspace in high school. Then Facebook took off. I got into it on my own. Computer science helps me understand what’s behind it. It takes so much to develop code for a Facebook or a blog page. It helps me understand the logic behind it.”
Medcalf said she has been doing “a lot of soul searching” about her future. She has decided to earn an additional bachelor’s degree at ECU in business administration, beginning next fall.
“I think that will be a great gateway into a future career,” she said. “Then I’ll see if I’m tired of school. I’ll probably want to get a job before I decide to go to graduate school.”
She hopes to “knock it out” in three semesters and graduate, again, in December 2012, only one semester after what would have been the “normal” time to finish one bachelor’s degree.
Medcalf also is the daughter of Dr. Tim Medcalf of Ada.
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