How President Barron Is Bringing Entrepreneurship To Penn State

Dec 22, 2014

Penn State President Eric Barron at the September Board of Trustees Meeting.
Credit WPSU

Stanford has StubHub. Harvard has Facebook. Yale has FedEx.

So where’s Penn State’s startup breakthrough? After all, the university has received over $800 million in research funding every year since 2011. That amount of money places Penn State in the top 20 funded universities in the country.

But Penn State only ranked 62nd in licensing income in 2013. That disconnect between funding and income is what the new president of the university, Eric Barron, is trying to change.

“Our objective is to be transformative in this space of of economic development and student career success,” said Barron at the September Board of Trustees meeting.

There, President Barron announced a plan to create a culture of entrepreneurship at Penn State. Barron has created a multi-tiered plan for the university.

This plan includes things like giving every Penn State student the opportunity to receive an entrepreneurial minor from the College of Business, regardless of major. The minor, officially called the Intercollege Minor in Entrepreneurship and Innovation, is designed to teach students fundamental business skills.

“It’s a really great opportunity to translate something that you have a knack for, or are interested in, and turning that into not having to keep living on your mother’s couch in the basement,” said Brad Leve, assistant director of the program.

The minor has been in the works for eight years now. It’s the first of its kind at Penn State University Park. Before the intercollegiate minor, both the College of Business and the College of Engineering had minors of their own. But the Intercollege Minor in Entrepreneurship and Innovation opened up the field for all majors.

“There’s always been a lot of stuff going on here at the university, all of us individually building it entrepreneurially through the individual colleges. But to have the president come right out and say ‘hey, this is a major initiative’ was great,” said Dr. Robert Macy, director of the Farrell Center for Corporate Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Penn State.  

“We got the official approval to have a major in entrepreneurship in the business school. So it’s come a long ways,” said Macy.  

Although the entrepreneurship major isn’t offered quite yet, students are innovating on their own. Griffin Boustany created his own film company while being an undergrad at Penn State. Macy says he’s since finished his first film.

“He’s got distribution rights all lined up, he’s done multiple commercials, and promotional advertising. This is an undergraduate student, doing something very complicated,” said Macy

Barron’s plans to further the culture of entrepreneurship at Penn State aren’t limited to expanding academic programs. He’ll also hire entrepreneurs-in-residence to work with students at both the University Park and commonwealth campuses, Furthermore, he’s working on creating a way to reward faculty and staff for promising patents.