Nathan Latka, a junior majoring in finance in the Pamplin College of Business who is also a successful social-media entrepreneur, will speak at Texas A&M this week as a guest lecturer in an award-winning professor’s popular classes on creativity.

Latka, who is from Leesburg, Va., has launched four social-media businesses, which he says have made more than $45,000 in net income (as of end of August). His current main business, The Fan Page Factory, designs customizable Facebook fan pages. His clients, he says, collectively have amassed more than 600,000 Facebook fans.

He will discuss his entrepreneurial ventures and the creative process in talks on Oct. 7 and 8 to students in an entry-level course on creativity and innovation taught by Rodney Hill, who holds the Eppright University Professorship in Undergraduate Teaching Excellence and the Harold L. Adams Endowed Interdisciplinary Professorship in Architecture at Texas A&M.

The students in his course, Hill says, are enrolled in a variety of majors, with business, engineering, and biotechnology being the largest groups. Latka will address two classes, with 160-200 students each, and will also speak to members of the student architecture club.

He plans to focus on two themes in his talks, Latka says: “the difficulty of attaining a financially secure life through a traditional work environment, given current economic conditions; and my entrepreneur story and why you have to be creative or be outsourced.”

The course, Hill says, examines the issues and theories behind the creative process — from the formation of ideas through incubation to the final product and its future impact on the physical environment and society — and covers problem-solving skills and systems and futures theory. Individual and group assignments require students “to produce knowledge rather than reproduce knowledge.”

Students, he says, have to “come up with one soft innovation a week and do a patent search for it” in individual assignments and take part in entrepreneurship competitions as team members.

“I am trying to get my students to start new businesses and create their own future. If they don’t, they stand the chance of becoming a commodity and being off-shored,” says Hill, whose many teaching honors include Texas A&M’s 2010 Presidential Professor for Teaching Excellence Award and the ING Professor of Excellence Award. “Knowledge creators are the only people that can continue to map out their future,” he adds, “and that is the most important skill of this century. Creativity is the currency of the new millennium.”

Hill was introduced to Latka by Robert Riggs, a Peabody Award-winning investigative reporter who is now a media entrepreneur in Dallas. After hearing a speaker praise Latka’s work on his custom-designed Facebook fan page at a technology conference in Austin, Texas, Riggs visited Latka’s website to learn more.

“I was struck by the creativity and entrepreneurship in such a young person,” recalls Riggs, an alumnus of Texas A&M and a regular guest speaker in Hill’s course. “It’s a hot class,” he notes, adding that hundreds of students are turned away each semester for lack of space.

“I thought that Nathan would be the perfect speaker for this class on creativity — here’s someone doing it. Nathan brings such infectious energy to his writings and his work, and students could be inspired by him,” adds Riggs, whose start-up, frontpagetv, creates and optimizes online videos for search, social media, and mobile devices. Riggs says he likes to “stay in the orbit of creative people” and hopes he and Latka can work together on a project.

In addition to his finance studies and business ventures, Latka also serves as president of the Entrepreneur Society at Virginia Tech. “Nathan has revived the student club,” notes Reed Kennedy, its faculty advisor. “He commands members’ respect, has a lot of energy, and is passionate about entrepreneurship,” says Kennedy, who teaches the Small Business Institute course in Pamplin’s management department.



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