Students and alumni of Lehigh’s MBA (masters in business administration) program gathered with faculty and parents recently to learn how the College of Business and Economics (CBE) promotes entrepreneurship across campus.
The occasion was the CBE’s annual MBA Day. Held on Sept. 24, it featured panel discussions, brainstorm sessions and addresses.
Chris McDemus, professor of practice in entrepreneurship, said entrepreneurs played an important role in job creation.
“Entrepreneurs and small companies are the ones who are creating jobs,” said McDemus, who directs VENTURESeries, an executive certificate program that includes a weekend of interaction with a real entrepreneur.
“An ecosystem for entrepreneurship”
Todd Watkins, the Arthur F. Searing Professor of Economics, talked about the aims of the Baker Institute for Entrepreneurship, Creativity and Innovation, which encompasses all entrepreneurship programs on campus.
“We want to nurture an entrepreneurial mindset and culture on our campus,” Watkins said. “Ultimately, we want to make campus an ecosystem for entrepreneurship.”
In a panel discussion, alumni and students talked about their experiences in the MBA program and how they’ve applied their knowledge to the real world.
Ben Pascal ’07G, cofounded Invisible Sentinel, a company that develops technologies for a safer food supply. As both a student and an entrepreneur, Pascal has been involved with VENTURESeries.
“It’s a lot more effective when you have a live entrepreneur right there in front of you,” Pascal said. “You’re able to ask them questions, hear their decision-making process and get insight directly from them.
“And when you’re on the other side as an entrepreneur, hearing fresh perspectives from students is very helpful. It’s an interactive process.”
Patrise G. Hahn ’11G, who recently started a business, also learned valuable lessons in VENTURESeries.
“The whole course was about putting the analytical part of me aside and working at the problem from a completely different angle,” Hahn said. “I had to think about how we were actually going to make money on this and how we were going to bring it to market.”
Robert A. Hunsicker ’11G agreed.
“VENTURESeries taught me to start thinking like a marketer,” he said. “You have to find out what the customer needs, not what you have.”
The panelists also spoke about their journey toward becoming entrepreneurs.
“Taking the plunge and truly becoming an entrepreneur is a hard and lonely road, but it’s one of the most rewarding things you can do,” Pascal said. “You find out what kind of person you really are. And this program really gives you a lot of tools.”
The event included the participation of the nine MBA students supported this year by the Robert S. Nanovic ’60G Endowed Fellowship Fund. The endowment was made last year by Robert Nanovic, a retired investment counselor and 1960 MBA alumnus, and his wife, Elizabeth.
The day concluded with brainstorm sessions in which alumni, students and parents discussed new ideas for the VENTURESeries program.