News Release

Deshpande Symposium honors leaders in entrepreneurship education

International conference draws participants from around the world

Grant and Award Announcement

University of Massachusetts Lowell

LOWELL, Mass. - More than 300 leaders in educating the next generation of entrepreneurs are at UMass Lowell this week for the eighth annual Deshpande Symposium for Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Higher Education.

While they hail from across the U.S. and beyond, the participants all have a common goal: to raise the next generation of entrepreneurs. More than 50 million Americans are employed by small businesses and hundreds of thousands of new ventures are launched each year.

"The Deshpande Symposium brings together a group of practitioners dedicated to advancing entrepreneurship and innovation in higher education. I'm excited to be able to share what we've learned at Venture For America in supporting recent college graduates on their journey to entrepreneurship. By supporting the next generation of business builders, we have the power to build a more resilient economy for the years to come," said Amy Nelson, CEO of Venture For America, who is delivering today's keynote address.

The university - which runs three business incubators and a student entrepreneurship program - has presented the annual symposium with the Deshpande Foundation since 2012. The event was launched by UMass Lowell Chancellor Jacquie Moloney and the foundation's co-founder, technology entrepreneur Gururaj "Desh" Deshpande.

Both Moloney and Deshpande are among those addressing the event, which began Monday and runs through today. Thirty sessions are being held across a series of tracks including Entrepreneurial Universities: Cultures and Ecosystem, Entrepreneurship in the Curriculum and Commercializing University Research, as well as awards for institutions and individuals who are leading the way in entrepreneurship education. Tours of local sites - the UMass Lowell Innovation Hub and Fabric Discovery Center; UMass Lowell's DifferenceMaker Central, home of the student entrepreneurship program; the IDEA Center at Middlesex Community College; Lowell Makes; and EforAll - were provided.

"We are extremely excited to once again welcome innovators and thought-leaders from more than 100 colleges and universities worldwide. With three days packed full of panel sessions, workshops, keynote presentations, an annual awards ceremony and extensive networking opportunities, the Deshpande Symposium offers a unique opportunity for attendees to share best practices, discuss new ideas and develop strategic collaborations to help advance innovation and entrepreneurship initiatives on their campuses," said Tom O'Donnell, senior director of innovation initiatives and director of the UMass Lowell Innovation Hub, who is among the conference's organizers, which also include representatives of the Deshpande Foundation, 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.

Recognizing excellence

The symposium featured the presentation of the annual Deshpande Symposium Awards last night. The honors were presented to six institutions, two organizations and three individuals. This year's awards selection committee members are Babson College President Stephen Spinelli, VentureWell President and CEO Phil Weilerstein and Northeastern University President Joseph Aoun, along with Deshpande and Moloney. The awards program is overseen by Raj Melville, executive director of the Deshpande Foundation.

"In addition to the regular awards, this year's Deshpande Symposium Awards recognize emerging and innovative programs and institutions with the Rising Star Award. Together with the other awardees, they represent best practices in innovation and entrepreneurship and serve as role models in academia," said Melville.

The Deshpande Symposium Founders Award was presented to:

* Jack Wilson, former UMass system president and founder of the Jack M. Wilson Center for Entrepreneurship at UMass Lowell, in recognition of his dedication to the symposium and support for entrepreneurship and innovation in higher education;

* VentureWell of Hadley, Mass., for its outstanding work in furthering the field of entrepreneurship and innovation in higher education.

Annual awards

The Entrepreneurial University recognizes institutions that demonstrate overall excellence in innovation and entrepreneurship. The main award went to University of Houston and the Rising Star award in this category went to West Virginia University.

"Over the past decade, the Cyvia and Melvyn Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship's reputation as one of the nation's leading entrepreneurship programs has grown tremendously, and this award from the Deshpande Foundation reinforces that Bauer College is empowering students to innovate through a world-class program that emphasizes experiential learning and personalized attention by dedicated mentors," said Paul A. Pavlou, incoming dean of the University of Houston C.T. Bauer College of Business.

"West Virginia University's IDEA Hub Network has worked hard over the past five years to establish comprehensive programs for our students, faculty and staff on all of our campuses, as well as entrepreneurs and innovators in the community and across the state. We pride ourselves in serving all students, regardless of major, encouraging the development of an entrepreneurial mindset and supporting start-up businesses," said Nora Myers, director of West Virginia University's LaunchLab - Beckley. "As the flagship university in our state, our work in supporting entrepreneurial development and thus the economic diversity of West Virginia is paramount. The Entrepreneurial University Rising Star Award is important recognition of our efforts, and our successes."

The Excellence in Curriculum Innovation in Entrepreneurship Award, honoring innovative educational courses and programs to foster entrepreneurship education, was presented to the University of Rochester Master of Science in Technical Entrepreneurship (TEAM) Program and the Rising Star award in this category went to the University of North Alabama College of Business Institute for Innovation and Economic Development.

"To be selected by the Deshpande Foundation for their Rising Star Award for Excellence in Curriculum Innovation in Entrepreneurship Award is a result of the outstanding work of our faculty and staff," stated University of North Alabama College of Business Dean Greg Carnes. "It is an honor that our commitment to innovation and entrepreneurship has been recognized by such a distinguished organization and we are glad to take part of the symposium."

"It is very gratifying to be recognized by the Deshpande Symposium. This award continues the increase in stature of the Ain Center for Entrepreneurship, which was ranked ninth in the U.S. by the London Financial Times and 17th by The Princeton Review," said Duncan Moore, University of Rochester vice provost for entrepreneurship.

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 LaunchNET Kent State and the Rising Star award went to Abilene Christian University's Griggs Center for Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy.

"As a campus-wide catalyst and ambassador for collaborative innovation and entrepreneurship, LaunchNET Kent State is extremely honored to receive this prestigious honor. We are certainly in good company. Our team continues to work on connecting resources and promoting the entrepreneurial mindset across the university and the community. We are incredibly proud of the creativity and hard work of the 1,800-plus students that we have served and thrilled to be part of their journey," said Julie Messing, executive director of entrepreneurship initiatives at Kent State University and LaunchNET.

"It is an honor to be recognized by the Deshpande Symposium for the Rising Star Award for Excellence in Student Engagement in Entrepreneurship. This award is a reflection of the dedication of our team to encourage and empower students and foster an entrepreneurial spirit across ACU's campus," said Jim Litton, director of the Griggs Center for Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy. "We look forward to continue developing high-quality programs that allow our students to experience entrepreneurship and equip them for success in the future."

The Exemplary Practice in Technology Commercialization Award, which recognizes comprehensive programs that accelerate innovative research into commercialization, was presented to the Massachusetts Medical Device Development Center, a joint project of UMass Lowell and UMass Medical School in Worcester.

The Outstanding Contributions to Advancing Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Higher Education Award, which goes to individuals who have demonstrated extraordinary achievements in entrepreneurship in higher education, was presented to Bill Aulet, managing director of the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship, and Steven Tello, UMass Lowell vice provost for innovation and workforce development.

"I am truly honored to be a recipient of a Deshpande Award for my part in MIT's entrepreneurship programs," said Aulet. "At MIT, we are driven to bring knowledge to bear on the world's great challenges. Our entrepreneurship program, delta v, is about trying to solve some of these great challenges - and we do it by creating an environment and an ecosystem where these entrepreneurs can thrive and flourish."

"I am deeply honored to be recognized by highly respected leaders in higher education who themselves championed the need for innovative and entrepreneurial solutions to the challenges faced in education. I accept this award on behalf of the many colleagues who helped me to make contributions and build programs that really do make a difference in the world," said Tello.


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 leaders in their communities and around the globe.

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