In just a year, Penn State has moved up 15 spots to 21 in the Princeton Review and Entrepreneurship magazine’s 2022 top schools for undergraduate entrepreneurship studies. Penn State’s growing entrepreneurship ecosystem includes areas of focus inside and outside the classroom.
In addition to the Corporate Innovation & Entrepreneurship major through Smeal College of Business, undergraduates can select one of 10 unique tracks in the Entrepreneurship & Innovation minor. Core courses establish foundational knowledge, and then students select a concentration cluster aligned to specific areas of study, such as biotech, food and bio-innovation, new media or digital entrepreneurship.
“Frequent visits from local CEOs and Entrepreneurs-in-Residence help to bring a real world perspective to students’ academic learning,” he said. “These business leaders share their insights on how everything from the courage it takes to get started to securing private equity and presenting case studies that teach student to solve real business problems.”
Greg Woodman, instructor of Entrepreneurial Leadership since 2006, CEO of local firm Affinity Connection and a former student entrepreneur himself, said the ongoing collaboration between the program and the area’s corporate leadership, particular in the tech arena, is driving its success.
“Frequent visits from local CEOs and Entrepreneurs-in-Residence help to bring a real world perspective to students’ academic learning,” he said. “These business leaders share their insights on everything from the courage it takes to get started to the importance of customer discovery to funding and presenting case studies that teach student to solve real business problems.”
“Now alumni from the entrepreneur Minor are out there making an impact and returning to mentor and provide their insights. DiamondBack Truck Covers is a perfect example and there are many others, both locally and nationally,” he continued. DiamondBack has over 100 full-time employees and growing. The founders are real believers in the Entrepreneur Minor, which gave them to the tools, knowledge and drive to get started, plus mentorship as they grew.”
Courses develop skills, knowledge and values in problem solving, innovation, opportunity recognition, self-efficacy, leadership, ethics, communications and learning from failure. Anne Hoag, director of the Center for Penn State Student Entrepreneurship and associate professor in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications said, “We encourage our students to be entrepreneurial in all aspects of their personal and professional lives. If we can teach students to think like entrepreneurs, they will be successful no matter what endeavor they pursue.”
“Now, alumni from their programs are out there making an impact. Locally, DiamondBack Truck Covers is a perfect example. The company has over 100 full-time employees and growing,”
Invent Penn State, the commonwealth-wide initiative to spur economic development, job creation and student career success, functions alongside a student’s entrepreneurial classes by presenting them with opportunities to learn from mentors, conduct customer discovery, pitch their ideas and potentially acquire funding to help build their startup.
According to Lora Weiss, Penn State’s senior vice president for research, “The recent success of our student founders in raising venture capital is not only driving economic development and job creation in Pennsylvania, but also was a large contributing factor to our national ranking.” Penn State student-founded Phospholutions, sustainable fertilizer start-up based in the Technology Center Incubator at Innovation Park, recently raised $10.3 million in venture capital.
The university recently celebrated completion of the new Penn State Innovation Hub, ecosystem, an 85,000-square-foot building that houses the Happy Valley LaunchBox powered by PNC Bank and adds state-of-the-art entrepreneurial and innovation resources such as makerspaces, a virtual-reality/immersive technology laboratory, student club storage, a sixth-floor vista point/overlook event space, and collaboration areas designed to accelerate innovation, technology commercialization, and local startup companies through peer learning, knowledge sharing, and mentorship.
“The recent success of our student founders in raising venture capital is not only driving economic development and job creation in Pennsylvania, but also was a large contributing factor to our national ranking.”
Penn State’s excellence in entrepreneurship also has donor appeal. A $5000,000 commitment from Peter and Angela Dal Pezzo will support entrepreneurship in engineering and the College of Engineering West Campus expansion. Their gift will name the Entrepreneurship Office Suite and Conference Room in the West 2 building, slated to open in fall 2023. Peter is a 1968 industrial engineering alumnus.