20th Annual NACCE Conference a Smash Hit.

Held at the beautiful Park Plaza Hotel in Boston on October 2nd-5th, this year was the 20th anniversary of this group of community college entrepreneurship educators, partners, and students coming together to share knowledge. Increasingly over the last few years, NACCE* has taken the lead innovating new programs, strategically partnering, and joining forces with other organizations. Among their accomplishments are venture funding for inner city, disadvantaged entrepreneurs, designing niche programs for veteran entrepreneurs adopted by IVMF Syracuse, and combing colleges with corporate America to produce things likes a Verizon STEM program for young girls, an Intuit education partnership bringing Quicken Books to members, a certificate badging of small businesses courses , and intellectual property and financial literacy. *National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship.

Much of this progress is owed to NACCE’s dynamic leader, Rebecca (Becky) Corbin whose background included foundation leadership, non-profit consulting, and successful fund raising. With a masters in public administration and a doctorate in organizational leadership, Becky has a “magic touch, which, as a long-time member, your editor can attest has revolutionized NACCE into the value entrepreneurship organization in the country. Her team produced wonderful expert panels of over the conference, among them “Unleash Every Student’s Talent”, “Infusing Entrepreneurship into the Skilled Trades”, and “The Power of Ideation in Colleges and Communities”.

Beside these panel discussions, there were workshop sessions, “The Impact of Invention Education”, “Multiple Dimensions of Diversity Exercise”, and Throwout the Textbook and Teach through Experience”. Motivation was part of the menu with author David Gaudet speaking “Be Better at Being Human: Pillar Competencies for Life and Work”, and my special colleague from Hillsborough Community College Tampa, Dr. Andy Gold, organizing and leading an early morning conga line.

One program close to my heart is the EEVF, Everyday Entrepreneurship Venture Fund, established by Chip and Stuart Weismiller and embraced by NACCE. Stuart is a former community college President married to a successful tech entrepreneur. Together they saw a vision of leveraging college resources to launch new businesses by provide training, mentoring, seed funding and loans to would-be entrepreneurs who are women, people of color, veterans and others who do not qualify for traditional financing. They reported the program is now in eleven states supporting local economies through entrepreneurship.

Much is focused on the entrepreneurial mindset, a set of skills that enable people to identify and make the most of opportunities, overcome and learn from setback, and succeed in a variety of settings. The conference had two excellent sessions about this core ingredient of entrepreneurship education. A pre- conference the first day present by ELI, the Entrepreneurial Learning Initiative, taught how to learn to think and act like an entrepreneur based on the Ice House Program, an experiential process through the entrepreneurial mindset. Additionally, Stephanie Couch and Leigh Estabrooks of Lemelson-MIT offered a breakout secession titled, “Invention Mindset: How to Infuse in Your Classroom through Making”

Above Becky Corbin leads one of the most valuable panels, the one on venture funding crucial to the startup activities across the U. S. The panel members were left to right Andy Still, the Kauffman Foundation, Landon Phillips, Singleton Foundation, Thom Ruhe, NC Idea, and Phil Weilerstein, VentureWell with Becky Corbin moderating. What stuck the audience was the enormity of funding from source like I-Corps (NSF), grants, SBA, subsidies, foundations, crowdfunding sites, business credit cards, and the EDA (Dept. of Commerce).

One is left with the feeling of family attending a NACCE conference first and every time. It is a collaborative group who want to work together for good, and this 20th conference showcased the value of NACCE from start to finish.

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