Leaders in educating next generation of entrepreneurs gather for Deshpande Symposium

Posted on June 15, 2018

LOWELL, Mass. – More than 57 million Americans are employed by small businesses and each year, 200,000 new startups launch in the U.S. alone.

Leaders in educating the next generation of entrepreneurs, along with industry representatives and investors, are at UMass Lowell this week for the seventh annual Deshpande Symposium for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

More than 300 participants are working together on strategies to empower individuals to launch new ventures and how institutions can help those startups survive and thrive. They are also learning about how colleges and universities can take an entrepreneurial approach to their own operations, including maximizing resources to support growth and other initiatives.

Attendees from across North America and as far away as India are hearing from keynote speakers Jonathan Ortmans, president of the Global Entrepreneurship Network, which operates in 170 nations, and Julie Lenzer, associate vice president of innovation and economic development and co-director of UM Ventures, an expert on magnifying the off-campus impact of innovation developed on college campuses.

The symposium was established in 2012 by the Deshpande Foundation, which supports entrepreneurship programs around the world, and UMass Lowell. Noted tech entrepreneur and Deshpande Foundation co-founder Gururaj “Desh” Deshpande and UMass Lowell Chancellor Jacquie Moloney, an expert on entrepreneurship in higher education, are among the speakers at the symposium. In addition, 28 interactive sessions across four tracks – culture and ecosystems, entrepreneurship in curriculum, research commercialization and emerging trends – offer panels and presentations with representatives of numerous universities, venture firms, industry and economic development organizations. A full list of programs is available at www.deshpandesymposium.org/agenda.

Over the course of the three-day event, participants are touring local business incubators, makerspaces and headquarters of community groups focused on economic empowerment, including the UMass Lowell Innovation Hub, E for All, Lowell Makes and UTEC, and learning about unique programs like the Massachusetts Medical Device Development Center, a joint effort of the UMass campuses in Lowell and Worcester, and the DifferenceMaker Program, which teaches UMass Lowell students in all majors entrepreneurial skills that they can apply to business and community challenges.

“Entrepreneurship is fueling economic growth and development around the world and UMass Lowell is proud to partner with the esteemed Deshpande Foundation to bring together experts in this field to further encourage, support and inspire innovators,” said Moloney. “At UMass Lowell, we are seeing the power of entrepreneurship firsthand, from our successful DifferenceMaker students who are starting companies and securing patents, to startups that are benefitting from the expertise and resources of our business incubators.”

The symposium, which wraps up today, also featured the presentation of the annual Deshpande Symposium Awards last night. The honors, which recognize the best in entrepreneurial education, were presented to four institutions and one individual. This year’s awards selection committee was made up of VentureWell President and CEO Phil Wellerstein, Babson College President Kerry Healey and Worcester Polytechnic Institute President Laurie Leshin, along with Moloney and Deshpande. The awards program is overseen by Raj Melville, executive director of the Deshpande Foundation.

“Once again, the Deshpande Symposium Awards have drawn strong interest from the academic community, which presented the best kind of challenge to the distinguished academic leaders who comprised the award selection committee. The finalists in each category represent outstanding examples in advancing entrepreneurship in their category and excellent role models for their peer institutions,” said Melville.

The Excellence in Curriculum Innovation in Entrepreneurship Award, which honors innovative educational courses and programs to foster entrepreneurship education, was presented to the University of North Carolina at Greensboro’s Entrepreneurship Cross-Disciplinary Program. Dianne Welsh, the university’s Hayes Distinguished Professor of Entrepreneurship, serves as the program’s director.

“We congratulate Dr. Welsh for this outstanding honor,” said UNC Greensboro Provost Dana Dunn. “Because of Dianne’s decades-long commitment to building innovative courses that foster entrepreneurship at UNC Greensboro’s Bryan School of Business, the Entrepreneurship Cross-Disciplinary Program has grown exponentially under her leadership. UNC Greensboro graduates have launched successful businesses and the university continues to receive national recognition as an institution that demonstrates excellence and serves as a role model in the field.”

The Excellence in Student Engagement in Entrepreneurship Award – which recognizes an institution that encourages student leadership and engagement and supports the development of entrepreneurial awareness, skills and practice – was presented to the University of Houston’s Cyvia and Melvyn Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship.

“This is not your father’s entrepreneurship program. It’s not even your older brother’s entrepreneurship program. Our curriculum evolves dynamically to incorporate new developments and opportunities. For our students, entrepreneurship is more than textbook learning, it is about creating opportunity for themselves and for the community that surrounds us,” said Latha Ramchand, dean of the C.T. Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston. “Students learn that besides analytical skills you also need people skills; importantly, you need to learn to be resilient. The learning environment brings together instructors, entrepreneurs and mentors to create a powerful learning experience.”

The Exemplary Practice in Technology Commercialization Award, which recognizes comprehensive programs that accelerate innovative research into commercialization, was presented to the University of Pittsburgh Innovation Institute.

“It is an honor to receive the Deshpande Symposium award for Exemplary Practice in Technology Commercialization,” said Rob A. Rutenbar, senior vice chancellor for research at the University of Pittsburgh. “This award is a reflection of the talent and dedication of the Innovation Institute staff and of the commitment of Pitt leadership to growing the culture of innovation and entrepreneurship at the university. While proud of our progress, we understand that innovation and entrepreneurship in higher education is a relatively young and ever-evolving domain and we look forward to continuing to share our experience, while learning from our colleagues at other institutions. This is the value that the Deshpande Symposium brings to us all.”

The Outstanding Contributions to Advancing Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Higher Education Award, which goes to the individual who has demonstrated extraordinary achievements in entrepreneurship in higher education, was presented to Ted Zoller, T.W. Lewis Clinical Scholar, professor of strategy and entrepreneurship and director of the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Kenan-Flagler Business School.

“Making entrepreneurship an integral part of the student, faculty and alumni experience is a priority not just for myself, but for my colleagues at the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School and at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,” said Zoller. “I am delighted with the results we’ve achieved through our Learn-Launch-Lead program model. This model allows us to frame a cutting-edge curricula and co-curricula, build an entrepreneurial economy through the Launch Chapel Hill business accelerator and Blackstone Entrepreneurs Network, create more spin-out companies with the Startup-UNC course, develop the next generation of leaders with the Entrepreneurs Genome Project, and mentor students through the Adams Apprenticeship. It is a privilege to be part of this distinctive culture in Chapel Hill and at UNC-Chapel Hill where we are forging a new model for university-led entrepreneurship.”

The Entrepreneurial University recognizes an institution that demonstrates overall excellence in innovation and entrepreneurship. This year’s honor went to Northeastern University.

“Northeastern’s entrepreneurial ecosystem is an organic, bottom-up movement, started by, and for, students,” said Raj Echambadi, dean of the D’Amore-McKim School of Business at Northeastern University. “We pride ourselves in creating and training ‘Chief Entrepreneurial Officers’ who think differently and are capable of solving the grand challenges of business and society in a global economy. This award is a testament to the strength of experiential learning through the integration of rigorous classroom education and real-world entrepreneurial engagement.”

In addition to the Deshpande Foundation and UMass Lowell, the steering committee for this year’s symposium included representatives of Arizona State University, the Burton D. Morgan Foundation, Houston Community College, Middlesex Community College, Queen’s University, Rice University, University of Akron, University of North Carolina, VentureWell and Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

“UMass Lowell is once again honored to host the Deshpande Symposium. The engagement of institutions and thought leaders in higher education from across North America in the planning and presentation of the symposium is impressive and rewarding. Our keynote speakers reflect the breadth of conference participation, from national innovation initiatives to consideration of the global impact of entrepreneurship networks. On behalf of the planning committee, I would like to thank our partners, our sponsors and the many faculty, staff and entrepreneurs who help make the Deshpande Symposium such a success,” said Steven Tello, UMass Lowell vice provost for innovation and workforce development, who led planning efforts on behalf of the university.

UMass Lowell is a national research university located on a high-energy campus in the heart of a global community. The university offers its more than 18,000 students bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in business, education, engineering, fine arts, health, humanities, sciences and social sciences. UMass Lowell delivers high-quality educational programs, vigorous hands-on learning and personal attention from leading faculty and staff, all of which prepare graduates to be ready for work, for life and for all the world offers. www.uml.edu


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