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Watkins named director of Lehigh's entrepreneurship program



Todd Watkins has been a leading advocate for entrepreneurship during his 17-year stint at Lehigh.

Todd A. Watkins, an associate professor of economics who also served as co-chair of Lehigh’s entrepreneurship implementation team, has been named the director of the entrepreneurship program. His appointment was effective June 1.

Watkins has been a leading advocate for entrepreneurship during his 17-year stint at Lehigh. Along with John Ochs of Lehigh’s P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science, Watkins co-founded the university’s Integrated Product Development (IPD) program, a nationally recognized interdisciplinary program that earned the American Society of Mechanical Engineers curriculum innovation award in 1996.

He also founded and serves as director of the Martindale Center’s burgeoning Microfinance program.

“Over the course of his career here at Lehigh, Todd has been at the forefront of some exciting interdisciplinary programs that span each of our undergraduate colleges,” says Paul R. Brown, dean of the College of Business and Economics. “He is an accomplished scholar who brings a collaborative spirit and creative energy to Lehigh’s entrepreneurial infrastructure.”

During the course of the 2007-2008 academic year, Watkins guided Lehigh’s entrepreneurship implementation team, a group charged by President Alice P. Gast and Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Mohamed El-Aasser to create an internationally recognized community of educators and practitioners of entrepreneurship. Watkins will be drawing on that experience as he leads the entrepreneurship program.

“For years, we’ve known that Lehigh has had a thriving entrepreneurial climate that fully supports our students, both here on campus and once they’ve graduated from Lehigh,” says Watkins. “Now we’re in a great position to expand our entrepreneurial offerings and to truly become a national leader in that respect.”

Students have a long history of winning competitive product development grants from a variety or regional and national associations. Student teams from Lehigh have won nationally competitive awards to launch technology-based startups from The National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance, for example, for 13 consecutive years. Watkins has advised nearly all of those student startups, several of which have spun-out of the on-campus “Garage” incubator program and steadily grown their businesses in the region, attracted by the Lehigh Valley’s deepening entrepreneurial ecosystem.

But the campus entrepreneurial climate has remained somewhat disconnected. In all, Lehigh has about 25 programs with an entrepreneurial focus. It also has an extensive network of partnering organizations, ranging from Ben Franklin Technology Partners to the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Technology Alliance (PITA) and the Keystone Innovation Zone.

Watkins will help bring clarity and increased momentum to the university’s overall commitment to expanding entrepreneurial activities and programs. He will also lead the College of Business and Economics’ entrepreneurship minor, a popular program offered to the entire undergraduate population.

“We have a great foundation on which to build here at Lehigh. Our students and faculty have already achieved so much,” says Watkins. “By strengthening the formal structure for entrepreneurial activities on campus, we’re now able to take entrepreneurship to a new level and truly make it a university-wide endeavor.”

--Tom Yencho


Posted on Tuesday, June 02, 2009

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