The Deshpande Symposium is an annual gathering of like-minded professionals focused on accelerating innovation and entrepreneurship within higher education institutions and through partnerships with private, public and non-profit organizations. All were excited to gather in person this year in Cleveland, where best practices were shared and learned for developing entrepreneurial ecosystems, and the importance that diversity, equity and inclusion to their success.
Philip Gaskin, VP of Entrepreneurship for the Kauffman Foundation, and Renu Khator, President of the University of Houston and a true example of crashing the glass ceiling, were featured as Keynote Speakers. Anyone that has tried to shift university culture to integrate innovation and entrepreneurship recognizes it can be a daunting challenge, with a strongly entrenched culture, both immediate in the university but more broadly in the “academy” -the broader academic ecosystems of faculty and students. The Deshpande Symposium is to the culture shift a source of ideas, a chance to share best practices, and a chance to reflect on initiative that did work or didn’t work. It has become an important niche in the pantheon of university-related conferences as the “symposium of practice”
This year contributed to the sharing of best practices by hosting two plenaries, one on HBCUs (Historically Black College and Universities) as Entrepreneurial Change Agents, and another on the organizational makeup and innovative activities implemented by creative Renu Khator, Chancellor of the entire University of Houston system. The former’s panel included Bowie State’s innovation center director Johnetta Hardy, Morehouse C-Center director Dr. Tiffany Bussey, and Fayetteville State’s Director of Innovation & Entrepreneurship Carolin Glackin. Each contributed to the evolving growth of HBCUs to the field of entrepreneurship. Chancellor Khator’s theme “Dare to Ask, Dare to Act” governs her leadership. During her tenure she has changed education by doubling graduation rates, added micro-credentialing to workforce development, and started after school K12 mentoring. Dr. Khator has impacted health care in the Houston community through university backed underprivileged community clinics, and been a prime mover in social entrepreneurship through the Wolff Center, rated the no. 1 in the U. S. by the Princeton Review. The latter is a immersive program of 1,000 businesses and 500 community mentors, and a boot camp which has trained 350 students.
As they say, save the best for last. Venture Well (VW) sponsored the closing plenary which Phil Weilerstein (VW CEO) hosted virtually by interviewing the NSF (National Science Foundation) Assistant Director and new TIP (technology, innovation and partnerships) chief Erwin Gianchandani. This insightful, gifted public servant outlined advancements in emerging tech. Among other TIP initiatives are new regional,” innovation engines” that will greatly expand the opportunity for grant projects. It invites proposals to develop coalitions of academic institutions, nonprofits, for-profits, government entities and others to create innovation ecosystems “galvanizing use-inspired research, technology translation and workforce development”. Here is the link more information the NSF Engines:
Written by Editor Clinton Day who attended virtually (a first year option)