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Entrepreneurship Initiative

Lehigh students in all disciplines are empowered to spark their creativity and challenge the status quo through Dexter F. Baker Institute for Entrepreneurship, Creativity, and Innovation.  The Institute is led by Professor Todd Watkins.

Throughout its storied history, an entrepreneurial spirit and inspired thinking have been part of Lehigh’s fabric.

Lehigh ingenuity has lead to the creation of the first escalator and the first implantable working artificial heart, and has even helped to build one of the most successful automobile companies in the world.

Now, with its cutting-edge, cross-disciplinary research and an engaged student body, Lehigh is well positioned to provide answers to a range of 21st century questions—whether it’s making breakthroughs in nanotechnology, discovering drug-free treatments for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or developing a system that filters arsenic from contaminated well water.

To ensure that Lehigh’s entrepreneurial fire continues to be stoked, Lehigh President Alice P. Gast and Provost Mohamed El-Aasser have appointed an Entrepreneurship Implementation team charged with creating an internationally recognized community of educators and practitioners of entrepreneurship.

“The aim of this implementation team is to foster entrepreneurial attitudes and creative thinking to support innovative ways to make significant contributions in all corners of human thought, from things like social programming and arts outreach to international development and educational management,” says Paul R. Brown, dean of the College of Business and Economics and co-chair of the implementation team.

“Our goal is to broaden and grow entrepreneurship beyond its traditional, business-driven definition—and we believe Lehigh’s collaborative culture will allow us to do that,” he adds.

It’s a goal not many other universities have been able to realize. Brown fervently believes that Lehigh can become a nationally recognized thought leader and create a new model for entrepreneurial education.

“Infused in Lehigh’s approach to education”

The implementation team is already exploring new and enhanced program initiatives, deeper and more substantive community outreach, and broader faculty teaching and research engagement in this area.

“The concept of entrepreneurship and social innovation is really infused in Lehigh’s approach to education,” says implementation team co-chair Todd Watkins, associate professor of economics. “We continue to have an incredible commitment to this area. Entrepreneurial thinking is infectious and already has left a significant imprint on our curriculum. Now it’s time to ratchet things up across the entire Lehigh community.”

That’s no small task, which is why an external advisory panel will help formulate a university-wide structure that takes advantage of Lehigh’s current entrepreneurial successes. All told, Lehigh has more than 20 entrepreneurial-related programs offered across its four colleges and nearly 40 percent of all undergraduate students at Lehigh participate in at least one of those programs.

Its Integrated Product Development program has earned national accolades, for example, and Lehigh’s relationship with such business incubators as Ben Franklin Technology Partners has led to a new generation of creative start-ups.

But Lehigh’s success extends into the cultural and philanthropic realm, as well. ArtsLehigh has actively promoted entrepreneurship in the arts, while the popular Pennsylvania Governor’s School for Global Entrepreneurship attracts upwards of 70 of the best high school students from the state and abroad each summer.

Many more entrepreneurship activities exist at Lehigh, says Brown. “For us, studying, teaching and practicing entrepreneurship is about innovative thinking—about challenging existing assumptions and taking advantage of Lehigh’s rich multidisciplinary culture. This is a tremendously exciting initiative for Lehigh.”

The implementation team is following the recommendations of an earlier task force convened by El-Aasser, which was originally charged with evaluating the entrepreneurial environment at Lehigh.

The implementation team now includes Brown and Watkins, as well as Sandra Holsonback, director of the Small Business Development Center; Tom Hyclak, professor of economics; Bruce Koel, vice provost for research; William Michalerya, assistant vice president of government relations and economic development; Graham Mitchell, director of the program in entrepreneurship; Bruce Moon, professor of international relations; John Ochs, professor of mechanical engineering; and Neal Simon, professor of biological sciences. Lisa Getzler-Linn, associate director of the Integrated Product Development program, is also serving as an ex officio staff member.

One of the early recommendations that the implementation team is following through on is a more strategic Web presence for Lehigh’s entrepreneurial efforts. They plan on launching a new Web site next semester that coherently lays out Lehigh’s entrepreneurial offerings.

It’s the first of many proposals to bring Lehigh’s entrepreneurial spirit to life in a way that is visible and compelling to future students, investors and funding agencies.

“Lehigh is poised to make its entrepreneurial mark in the 21st century, just as it did in the 19th century under the leadership of Asa Packer,” says Brown. “We have much of the infrastructure and talent already in place. Now it’s up to us to make the best use of our entrepreneurial ecosystem, expand it wherever appropriate, and continue to foster an entrepreneurial spirit among the Lehigh community.”

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