By Abigail Robbins, Innovation and Economic Prosperity and Governmental Affairs Associate
On Wednesday July 22nd, APLU and National Academy of Inventors (NAI) hosted a web panel titled, “fostering inclusive and equitable entrepreneurial ecosystems across APLU’s Innovation and Economic Prosperity Universities” as part of NAI’s virtual annual conference series.
The web panel was introduced by Jayde Stewart, Director of the National Academy of Inventors, and moderated by Shalin Jyotishi, Assistant Director, Economic Development & Community Engagement at APLU. In his opening remarks, Jyotishi explained the intention behind framing the conversation through an IEP lens noting, “innovation is part of a broader economic development perspective higher education institutions bring to the communities they serve.”
He added that, “‘talent, innovation, and place’ (the guiding tenets of APLU’s IEP Universities program) really serve to empower institutions to leverage their power to maximize its public value on society and regional economies.”
The web panelists included leaders from IEP designated institutions, institutions pursuing the IEP designation, and partners from philanthropy, including Julia Potter, Anthony Hood, Tonya Witherspoon, and Rachel Jagoda Burnette. Each panelist shared salient strategies and advice for growing inclusive and equitable entrepreneurial ecosystems at higher education institutions.
Julia Potter, Director, Educational Partnerships Development and Special University Projects at California State University, Northridge, a 2018 IEP designee, focused on the importance of leadership in fostering relationships and catalyzing opportunity in pursuit of becoming a more inclusive and innovative institution. Potter noted that the IEP Universities Designation self-study specifically helped CSUN foster linkages with Los Angeles and other regional economies.
Anthony Hood, Director of Civic Innovation in the Office of the President at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, also a 2018 IEP designee, emphasized the importance of cultural competency through faculty and curriculum. After giving a brief background of Birmingham’s demographic and industry, Hood depicted the initiatives and projects UAB has implemented to grow their ecosystem in an inclusive manner. Hood explained that now is the time to build pathways to access economic development and innovation through equity and inclusion.
Tonya Witherspoon, Associate Vice President for Industry Engagement and Applied Learning at Wichita State University described the importance physical place and lifelong learning have on developing ecosystems. In doing so, Witherspoon illustrated Wichita's rich entrepreneurial ecosystem driven by universities, certification programs, and industry with an eye towards serving both rural and urban budding entrepreneurs from across the greater Kansas region.
Rachel Jagoda Burnette, Program Officer at the Lemelson Foundation and a long-time partner for APLU’s IEP Universities program, addressed the importance of identifying stakeholders and trade-offs in pursuit of growing and catalyzing ecosystems. Jagoda Burnette emphasized that creating equitable access to opportunities that enable people and outputs to best create economic, social, and environmental benefits is integral.
While each panelist brought unique perspectives from their respective geographic areas, the need for public higher education institutions to grow inclusive and equitable entrepreneurial ecosystems through economic development and community engagement remains a high priority. Each of the panelists expressed access to opportunity and building relationships with community and industry partners as integral to a flourishing ecosystem.
Inspired by what you’ve read here? APLU is now seeking presidents and chancellors to submit their letters of intent to engage their institution in APLU’s IEP Universities designation program. Intent letters are due by October 30. Learn more about how to get engaged at www.APLU.org/SeekIEP. Learn more about how to engage in the National Academy of Inventors at http://www.academyofinventors.org.