Host families are being sought for foreign university students coming to Blacksburg to compete in the annual Virginia Tech Global Entrepreneur Challenge on August 16-25.

Virginia Tech’s Apex Center for Entrepreneurs, the challenge’s organizer, has so far secured host families in the New River Valley for 30 prospective students. It is seeking hosts for 15 more students.

During the challenge, the students, working in teams, present their business concepts for a chance to win the $30,000 grand prize and other prizes.

Derick Maggard, the center's executive director, said the challenge is “an example of Virginia Tech's vision put into action: an experiential learning opportunity that also fosters a community that is academically energized, technologically creative, and culturally inclusive."

The event also offers student teams and university representatives from all over the world a chance to collaborate, form social and academic relationships, and build their international networks, said Lindsey Eversole, the center’s global program manager.

Host families, Eversole said, provide the following:

  1. Lodging for one student or more from Saturday night, Aug. 18, through Saturday morning, Aug. 25.
  2. A couple of dinners during the week and breakfast every morning, except for Thursday, Aug. 23, the day of the challenge.
  3. Daily transportation assistance for the students related to activities and events planned by the Apex Center during the week. Host families will spend Sunday, Aug. 19, with their students, as they get settled in and prepare for the event week.

Host families are welcome to attend the challenge and watch their students present their business concept in the President’s Suite at Lane Stadium on Thursday, Aug. 23.

“As a small token of appreciation, host families are also invited to be our guests at the awards banquet, where we announce the winning teams,” Eversole says.

Many host families found the experience so enjoyable, they have been repeat hosts during the past eight years this program has been running, Eversole notes.

John and Susan Muffo have hosted the challenge’s students for eight years. The Blacksburg residents say they “purposefully desired to develop and cultivate a relationship with a single university partner and participant” — in this case, the University of Trento, Italy.

They have developed friendships at that university and even traveled to Italy to visit the students they hosted.

“Over the years, we have gotten to know some great, motivated students from a variety of countries and learned about their lives, families, and home countries, as well as the fascinating projects they come to present in the Global Entrepreneur Challenge,” the couple wrote. “Now we look forward to the one week in August each year when the challenge takes place, as we meet our new group of students.”

Robert and Bethann Parker, also of Blacksburg, have hosted students from Ecuador, Thailand, and Italy for three years.

“We chose to participate because we liked the philosophy of the competition — that students working to solve a local problem are also working to solve a global problem — as well as the idea of bringing talented students from across the globe to our community,” said Bethann Parker. 

She and her husband have three children, and “it is important to us to show them that there are talented students everywhere working hard to solve real issues and to hopefully make them better global citizens.”

The event is being supported by title sponsor Accenture and 18 other Apex Center sponsors. In addition to spending time with Virginia Tech and other students, and with their host families, the visiting students will receive mentoring from successful technology companies. 

Host families can preview an agenda of the events and activities in Washington, D.C., where attendees first fly to and stay for two days, and Blacksburg.

To sign up or learn more, contact Lindsey Eversole, leversole@vt.edu