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California Dreaming: Local College Graduates Take Entrepreneurial Dreams West
June 30, 2011
Matthew Fouts has been an entrepreneur for years. That is
impressive considering that he's only 23 years old.
The Terre Haute native and Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
graduate has already started two business enterprises:
Rose-Learning, an one-on-one tutoring service, and Fouts
website and software development. That came while he was
completing an engineering physics degree.
||Prof-Desk Development Team: Rose-Hulman Institute of
Technology graduate Matt Fouts (right) founded the Prof-desk online
learning management system with Indiana State University graduate
Tabitha Russell (marketing vice president) and Rose-Hulman senior
Matt McGhehey (financial officer).
Now Fouts, along with partners Matt McGhehey, Tabitha Russell
and Rose Haft, have launched the online learning management system
Prof-desk and have taken their entrepreneurial dreams to California
in hopes of tapping into financial resources and valuable business
Prof-desk (www.prof-desk.com) provides
students with over 400 educational resources, including online
educational games, access to grades and assignments, and a homework
forum. The software also allows student-users to seek help
from teachers and classmates, and collaborate with students at
other schools. Teachers can post assignments, track student
progress and interact with parents as well as students.
"It's a course-management software," explains Fouts, Prof-desk's
chief executive officer. "It's based online and students can
see their grades in real-time."
Online learning management systems, such as Blackboard, already
exist. However, Prof-desk differs from such options in
several key areas. The most obvious difference is cost.
"Ours is free to use for all schools," Fouts says. He says
that the system, developed with funding from Fouts Ventures(www.foutsventures.com),
will use advertising to generate revenue rather than charging users
"It's our mantra to innovate a free online learning resource for
every student, and, as a result we'll help struggling school
districts whose technology and education budgets continually get
cut," Fouts stated in a recent press release.
Prof-desk also incorporates a social media that's lacking in
other learning management systems.
"(Prof-desk) has been called Blackboard meets Facebook,"
McGhehey explains. "The ability for schools to interact
seamlessly and instantly through the internet is a big step forward
for the students and the school administrations. Students,
teachers and parents will be able to interact in ways they haven't
before, which is beneficial to all of them."
Fouts adds, "Our real-time chat is advanced because it features
screen sharing as well as file-sharing capabilities."
The website features group interaction as well as a
newsfeed-type feature where users can interact individually.
"Prof-desk offers a way to make learning fun for the teachers as
well as the students," Russell notes. The Terre Haute native
and Indiana State University graduate student joined the Prof-desk
team as vice president of marketing because she thinks it is a tool
whose time has come. "I believe in it and I really do think
it's a great idea considering how technology is advancing today,"
Fouts states, "The reason I like Prof-desk for struggling
students is that it's a good way for teachers and students to keep
track of the grades," allowing fewer students to fall through the
Another advantage, McGhehey notes, is that the system offers a
place for kids to gain experience working with online software.
"We had to ensure that students or outsiders do not have access
to teachers' gradebooks, while maintaining that students could
access their grades," Fouts explains. "We also had to look at
the security of information being sent from our servers and the web
browser to an individual computer, so someone doesn't hijack
McGhehey, the company's chief financial officer and a senior
chemical engineering major, states, "We spent a lot of long nights
on the security system to make sure the system was completely
Fouts, McGhehey and Russell have relocated to the Los Angeles
area, where they will be opening a retail shop for Fouts
and continuing to do website and software development for
individuals and companies all over the U.S. Haft, a 2008
physics graduate, is assisting the team as chief technology
officer. They plan to grow the business in order to generate
necessary funds to get Prof-desk off the ground, and into the
"Hopefully this time next year we'll have Prof-desk officially
in schools," Fouts says.
Although the young entrepreneurs are heading west to follow
their dream, they say that in the long term, they plan to return to
Indiana and that Prof-desk's corporate headquarters will remain in
Terre Haute. Russell says it's very important to her that the
company's success benefits local students as well as the local
economy. "Remember your roots and where you came from," she