News Release 

Higher education entrepreneurship event goes virtual for 2020

Conference on June 11-12 expected to draw more than 1,000

University of Massachusetts Lowell

LOWELL, Mass. - More than 1,000 people are expected to participate in a virtual conference next week on advancing entrepreneurship in higher education, from supporting current and future entrepreneurs to how entrepreneurial thinking can benefit the field.

The ninth annual Deshpande Symposium on Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Higher Education will present a wide range of sessions and two keynote addresses. The symposium is presented this year by UMass Lowell, the Deshpande Foundation and the Burton D. Morgan Foundation.

"Higher education has an important role to play in the promotion of new and future entrepreneurs to support economic growth locally and globally. UMass Lowell is proud of the ways we have integrated entrepreneurship into our curriculum, research and business operations and the Deshpande Symposium provides an unparalleled opportunity for participants to explore best practices and new ideas," said UMass Lowell Chancellor Jacquie Moloney, who launched the symposium with Gururaj "Desh" Deshpande, successful entrepreneur and co-founder of the Deshpande Foundation.

The event will be held virtually for the first time in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Programs including presentations and panel discussions will be held Thursday, June 11 and Friday, June 12 starting at 11 a.m. on both days.

"We are excited to see the global interest in this year's first virtual Deshpande Symposium. Viewers from around the world have a unique opportunity to benefit from the panelists' shared experiences of building innovative and entrepreneurial ecosystems at their colleges and universities," said Deshpande, whose foundation supports entrepreneurship efforts in Massachusetts and across the globe.

Because no travel is required, the number of people participating is expected to be about double what it typically is, according to lead organizer Tom O'Donnell, UMass Lowell's senior director of innovation initiatives. Thanks to the support of event sponsors, the symposium is presented at no cost to participants, he said. Anyone interested in participating can still register at

As in past years, the symposium is organized into tracks by theme. For 2020, these are Entrepreneurial Universities: Culture and Ecosystems, Entrepreneurship in the Curriculum and University Research Commercialization. In total, the tracks consist of 24 panels of presentations and discussions. Participants can decide to virtually attend all or some of the sessions based on their interests.

Deshpande Foundation Executive Director Raj Melville and Moloney will welcome participants on Thursday to kick off the symposium at 11 a.m., followed by the first keynote speaker, Dan Isenberg. Isenberg is an author and pioneer in the development of entrepreneurial ecosystems, networks of organizations embedded in a region, including universities, financial institutions, corporations, nonprofits and government agencies. Isenberg has established programs to scale up these ecosystems around the world, as well as speaking at events including the World Economic Forum and serving as a faculty member in business at institutions including Columbia University, Harvard University and Babson College.

On Friday at 11:30 a.m., the keynote event will feature Lauren Washington, co-founder and chief operating officer of the membership organization and conference Black Women Talk Tech, in a virtual fireside chat with Judith Cone, vice chancellor for innovation, entrepreneurship and economic development at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Washington is also the cofounder of Fundr, a platform that automates seed investing for startups and angel investors, and KeepUp, a social listening platform.

The full schedule of speakers, panelists and events can be found at

One change from past Deshpande Symposiums is that annual awards for excellence in various aspects of entrepreneurship education will not be presented this year. Instead, O'Donnell said, they will be given out at next year's event, which is scheduled to be held in Cleveland, Ohio, home of the Burton D. Morgan Foundation, one of the presenting partners in the symposium.

"For the past eight years, the Deshpande Symposium has been a highlight of the year for the Ohio-based Burton D. Morgan Foundation. The symposium serves as a unique gathering of colleagues passionate about inspiring students as they explore their entrepreneurial potential. As a symposium sponsor, we are thrilled that the 2020 event has attracted hundreds of new attendees to join virtually for keynotes and panels aimed at powerful sharing and learning. For the 2021 symposium, Northeast Ohio looks forward to welcoming participants for an extraordinary in-person opportunity to visit the region's entrepreneurship ecosystem, celebrate at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and connect with like-minded colleagues from North America and beyond," said Deborah Hoover, president and CEO of the Burton D. Morgan Foundation.

UMass Lowell will continue to serve as a major organizer of the symposium as it celebrates its 10th year in 2021, according to O'Donnell.


In addition to UMass Lowell, the Deshpande Foundation and the Burton D. Morgan Foundation, the 2020 organizing committee includes representatives of Houston Community College, Middlesex Community College, Queen's University, Texas A&M University, University of Akron, University of North Carolina and VentureWell.

In addition to the three presenting organizations, sponsors include Ashland University, Omnova Solutions, Purdue University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and VentureWell.

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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