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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

2015-16 Entsminger Fellows Excited About Their Entrepreneurial Mission

As the excited din of the first day of fall classes spilled throughout campus, six Old Dominion University faculty members met in a boardroom of the Engineering Systems Building. Their enthusiasm was obvious as well.

The six experienced Old Dominion faculty members - two each from the Strome College of Business and the Darden College of Education, along with faculty members from the College of Arts and Letters and Frank Batten College of Engineering and Technology - met to craft their plan to spread the gospel of entrepreneurship at the University.

"For me, I want to make sure that anything we do is fun for the students," said Karen Sanzo, associate professor of Educational Leadership in the College of Education. "Isn't that the point of being an entrepreneur?"

It's clear that this year's six Entsminger Fellows are having fun as well.

Selected as the second group of faculty members to participate in the program to grow an entrepreneurial spirit in Old Dominion's academic colleges, the Entsminger Fellows share a passion for the process.

In the spring, group members attended the week-long Price-Babson Symposium for Entrepreneurship Educators at Babson College in Massachusetts, and Monday's wide-ranging meeting was the next step in the challenging mission of making entrepreneurship a campus-wide mission.

Part of the appeal of the program is that it explodes the myth of an entrepreneur having to be someone in Silicon Valley with a tech start-up.

"Babson reinforced the idea that the entrepreneur's skills are the artist's skills. Observation, empathy, creativity and most of all - doing," said Jenifer Alonzo, associate professor of Communication and Theatre Arts. "I was happily surprised by how well my skill set and the skill sets we give to artists here at ODU are exactly the skills sets needed for entrepreneurial success."

Mark Lane, associate professor of finance, does fit the profile of a "typical" entrepreneur. In fact, he has been a serial entrepreneur his entire life.

"The training at Babson was very enlightening because it focused on teaching us how to teach other people to be entrepreneurial," he said. "This was a very rewarding experience."

Lane appreciates the opportunity to meet accomplished faculty from across campus. "With people as talented as the other Entsminger fellows that I have met on board, ODU is in good hands in this venture," he said.

That was Lee Entsminger's vision when he made a donation to the University to help create the program. A 1974 ODU geology graduate, Entsminger has participated in the University's development of an entrepreneurial curriculum.

"Entrepreneurship, at its root, is a matter of problem solving, critical thinking and the ability to communicate. Those are skills that can be taught," he said.

Sanzo is eager to apply what she learned about entrepreneurship in her teaching. "The Babson training was an opportunity to both reinforce concepts and instructional practices I use, as well as to learn new innovative strategies and processes related to entrepreneurship," she said.

Rafael Landaeta, associate professor of Engineering Management and Systems Engineering, said the University has all the ingredients it needs to create the next Mark Cuban or Steve Jobs.

"We have an awesome group of current and past Entsminger Fellows, an extremely supportive administration, centers, programs and courses, but most importantly we have the key ingredient - students seeking to make a difference," Landaeta said.

Sheri Colberg-Ochs, professor of Exercise Science, hopes that the cross-campus expertise helps spur an entrepreneurial spirit in her discipline; something she hadn't had much exposure to before this year.

"Being trained and working in a field that has very little to do with entrepreneurship, I found the Babson College experience to be very eye-opening," Colberg-Ochs said. "Many of our students in Exercise Science go on to become entrepreneurs, establishing their own businesses as personal trainers, physical therapists and more. It is now much easier for me to see how much we need to give our students real guidance in this area."

Since returning from Babson, Mike McShane, associate professor of Finance, has hit the ground running. Before Monday's meeting, he provided the other Entsminger Fellows with a thick packet of information about entrepreneurial initiatives at the University, and where new opportunities exist.

A big issue is that entrepreneurship is so scattered and siloed at ODU," McShane said. "Our goal is to bust down all the silos, so anyone can easily find out everything going on at ODU. And so people can find out who is doing what and get some real, multidisciplinary collaboration going."

That spirit of cooperation is a hallmark of the entrepreneurial ecosystem Mark and Tammy Strome envisioned when they donated $11 million to Old Dominion, to help create the University's Strome Entrepreneurial Center.

Mark Strome, a 1978 ODU graduate in civil engineering, is chief investment officer for the Strome Group and Strome Investment Management LP, as well as the Strome Family Foundation.

The multipronged program is aimed at nurturing Old Dominion business entrepreneurs at every stage of the start-up process, helping them create opportunity and grow the economy.

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