At Bucknell, entrepreneurship is more than a concept taught in a course, or a set of practical skills that help students launch a business. It's the development and fostering of creativity, innovation and exploration, and the process of taking purposeful, experiential action to bring new products, services or organizations to life. This is the core of Bucknell's newest cross-college center of excellence: The Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation.
The center was made possible by a founding leadership gift from a grateful Bucknell family who have temporarily requested anonymity. Set to open in 2024, the center is already poised to become a distinctive focal point for Bucknell as it will expand the entrepreneurial ecosystem of the University and advance entrepreneurial mindsets. Students from all three of Bucknell's colleges will have the opportunity to harness the support and guidance that the center will offer to transform their creative ideas into real-world products, services and ventures that can make a large-scale impact.
"We're incredibly grateful to the donors who have made our new Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation a reality," says Bucknell University President John Bravman. "Our goal is to be a University that empowers future founders — be they artists, inventors, investors, advocates, developers or leaders yet to be defined. The center will foster the creative learning environment that allows that to happen."
The new center will connect, strengthen and build upon Bucknell's hallmark entrepreneurial programs, including BizPitch, the Bucknell Small Business Development Center and courses like Management 101. Sitting at the intersection of these and other efforts are members of Bucknell's faculty and staff who collaborated to develop the center's vision: William Meek, the Campbell Rutledge Jr. and Eleanor Rutledge Professor of Management and Entrepreneurship; Professor Erin Jablonski, associate dean of engineering; Professor Emily Martin, the Ellen P. Williams Associate Professor in Music; Sabrina Shankar, assistant director of campus activities; and Steve Stumbris, director of Bucknell's Small Business Development Center. Together the group aims to unify existing infrastructure, creating a synergistic hub that fosters community.
"The grassroots efforts that have evolved over time are no longer enough for students who arrive at Bucknell with an entrepreneurial mindset," says Meek. "These students are hungry for access to entrepreneurship-focused educational opportunities. They want space and resources to help them incubate their ideas and do market research, and then develop products, services or business concepts that could be viable in a given marketplace. Many of our students are also interested in learning and applying entrepreneurial concepts for the benefit of society and the natural environment. With that in mind, we've developed a strategic plan for the center that gives students exposure, experiential learning activities, networking opportunities, mentorship and guidance."
Students and faculty from across the University will be encouraged to interact with and utilize the center's resources. "Students from all disciplines can benefit from cultivating an entrepreneurial mindset," says Margot Vigeant, interim provost. "We already see students from across campus seeking opportunities to contribute creative problem solving for the benefit of society. Through the Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation, we will not only support students' ventures into new businesses and nonprofits but we will also encourage holistic cultivation of the spirit of entrepreneurship."
With a long-term vision that includes the offering of venture funding, mentorship and business development coaching, the donors hope the center will spark the collective support of the entire Bucknell community as it moves from ideation to reality. Recruitment for an executive director will begin immediately. Upon hire, they will create a growth strategy and shape programming for the center that will help differentiate Bucknell as a leader in entrepreneurship education. "The center will be greater than the sum of its parts — it will encompass the space and resources, which are key, and provide the creative, action-oriented environment that draws people together," says Jablonski.
The center supports The Plan for Bucknell 2025, which was created to position the University to flourish in the coming decade, and aligns with several of the plan's key commitments, particularly in its potential to foster a culture of intellectual aspiration, and its promise to cultivate academic excellence across the institution. "We have incredibly successful, entrepreneurial alumni who found their start at Bucknell," says Bravman. "Having a foundation upon which we will build a distinguishing and sought-after program is the direct result of our community's belief in the hard work, creativity and cutting-edge developments that define our University."